And San Diego has no shortage of great hiking trails and the fabulous year-round weather to make hiking a great family activity any time of the year.
Our family tried out a new-to-us hiking location over the Christmas break. It’s called Elfin Forest and is just a little ways off I-15, west of Escondido. We loved the name first of all – it reminded us of something out of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. Right? Elfin Forest. So fun.
Beyond the name, this is a great hiking location. It has everything from easy trails for young kids to walk along to more strenuous trails for those looking for a more challenging hike. We first enjoyed the creek viewing area, which is beautiful.
We then took the WayUp Trail, which is about 1.4 miles mostly uphill. My boys were troopers making the hike up the trail and had a great time. They are ages almost six up to age twelve. We made it up to the overlook and a little past it onto the Me-Xal Trail which has a picnic bench with shade and a gorgeous view out to the ocean. We stopped there for snacks and water.
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The way back down was pretty easy going and we opted to take the Botanical Trail that was close to the bottom and finish our hike out that way. The Botanical Trail is a great trail for kids, especially young ones, as it is pretty flat and easy walking. The Botanical Garden has its own guide giving interesting facts and information about the native plants at each numbered marker.
Our family also enjoys geocaching when we are out exploring new places. Elfin Forest is a hot spot for geocaching with quite a few caches hidden along the trails. We found six of the seven we passed today, they are pretty easily hidden which is great for our kids to be able to find them too.
After our hike, we visited the Interpretive Center. It’s a small center, but packed with great info and activities. We looked under a microscope at specimens from the creek as well as different insects from the area. They also had owl pellets the kids could pull apart and find bones from the owl’s meal. Using a sand bin, the kids could use premade stamps of different animal tracks to help them identify tracks along the trail. The docents at the center are great for answering questions and taught us more about the area.
We had a great day in Elfin Forest and will be back again. The Reserve has docent-led walks the first Sunday of each month. You can also enjoy an interpretive nature walk with a writer and artist on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Sundays of the month. The Forest is open from 8 am to about half hour before sunset daily. Hiking and activities are all free.