Daley Ranch & Burnt Mountain

Today I decided to go out to Daley Ranch and summit Burnt Mountain. Daley Ranch has been closed for some time due to Covid-19, so I was glad to take advantage of its open status. This area has always been a popular spot for hikers and mountain bikers, so doing this hike on a weekday seemed like a good idea. I pulled into the Cougar Pass Trailhead’s parking lot just after 7. There were already 5 cars parked. I grabbed my gear and headed down the trail. I had hiked most of the route I was planning to take back in 2016. I found my route in Runkeeper, but not a single photo. I guess I will have to make up for that oversight.

The first part of the hike would be along the Cougar Ridge Trail. It would work its way upward, crossing two flowing streams along the way. Oaks provided shade in spots. The wide trail appears to be recently graded. After a bit, the Engelmann trail connected from the east, but I wanted to take it from the other junction, so onward I hiked.

The next trail I encountered was the Bobcat Trail. This single track bisects the Engelmann Loop. I might take it upon my return.

Finally, I reached the other junction for the Engelmann Loop. I could see Burnt Mountain before me, and where my route probably was. Flowing water worked its way down the middle of the trail, but there was enough space on either side to keep from having issues. I soon came to a small pond. I spied a mother duck and her ducklings having breakfast on the water.

From my research, I knew I had to cross a small meadow to the base of the mountain, & from there a use trail should take me to the summit. Just past the pond, I saw the meadow and a faint path through it.

Once on the other side, I picked up the trail. It was a little overgrown, but manageable. It worked it way up the steep slope, with an occasional cairn to help guide the way. 

With the summit in view, some lovely wildflowers blocked my path. Rather than disturb them, I was able to move around them. Once on the summit, I found the benchmark and the two reference marks. The summit had three rather large cairns that I opted to leave alone. After a short rest, I headed back down.

Back on the Engelmann Loop Trail, I continued taking it counter-clockwise. I still had yet to encounter another person on the trail. 

The trail’s beauty continued to impress me. I could see why Scott Turner, author of Afoot and Afield in San Diego, loves the trail. As I came up to the junction with the Bobcat Trail, I had a decision to make—take it or stay on the Engelmann Loop. I opted to stay on the loop.

Soon, I passed my first pair of hikers. Thankfully the trail was wide as they did not have masks. By the time I finally reached my car I passed 5 other hikers and two mountain bikers, all without masks. Just glad the trail was wide. All told I covered 4.94 miles in 2:35, with over 1,033 feet of elevation gain.

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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