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Photo Summary Overview Description Underlying Trails

Rancho La Costa Preserve

 18 votes

4.2 Miles 6.7 Kilometers



595' 181 m


-598' -182 m


1,031' 314 m


437' 133 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (11°)


This Featured Ride content is still in development or in editorial review.

A short, sweet, and steep compact loop that makes for a good sample and quick lap of what the preserve has to offer.

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Dogs-on-leash are allowed in all areas but Copper Creek and Whiptail Loop Trail. The signage is clear.
This loop features many steep climbs with some good fast straightaways. It's not shy on technical, rocky sections to challenge your skills during this short loop. There's a very little warm up, you start climbing almost immediately. The half-way point reward is a vista viewpoint with a 360-degree view, which on a clear day you can see the ocean to the west and twin peaks to the east. Mostly sun exposed with an ocean breeze.
Dogs: Leashed

Need to Know

This is Sandy Eggo, be prepared for sandy trails and soft corners as well as rain ruts. Erosion can be heavy depending on the rains in previous seasons. Be careful with your front tire placement. Most of the rocks in the rocky sections are secure to the earth, yet in some sections there are baby heads waiting for you. Most of the first half of the trail is overgrown with dry weeds and sage at least as high as the handlebars if not higher, gloves would be prudent.


For quick trail access, on-street parking is available off of Camino Junipero along the corner at Corte Romero, just before the homes, to be polite. From here, the trailhead is a short distance by continuing to ride up the street Camino Junipero to a right on Sitio Salvia, can't miss the trailhead on the right.

This loop starts with a good long climb on Switchbacks trail that progresses and becomes very steep at times. Expect a lot of erosion and a few rock gardens that makes the sections even trickier. You'll intersect with a few other trails, Denning Road and you'll notice a few trails that have been closed for restoration. There are a few nice-n-fast straightaways on the way up and just before the water tower. The signage is clear, just pay attention.

Once at the top, you'll have great views of the ocean and downtown on clear days. There are a few benches and two awnings that provide little shade. For your descent, head right from the viewpoint on the fire road and look for the start of Horned Lizard heading south and down, stay left at the Y, then a right onto the trail. There are some great double jumps along the lower sections of this fun descent. Just be careful as erosion has gotten the better of the quality of these jumps.

Once at the bottom, link up with the Powerline Access Road heading right (west), which takes you to the paved path along Camino Junipero where you'll ride a short distance back to the parking area.

Additional parking is available on the other side of the mountain off of San Elijo just before the Chevron station on the right is a cul-de-sac with plenty of parking.

History & Background

This trail is the starting point trail for SDMBA's annual Archipelago Ride which occurs in April.


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3.9 from 18 votes

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Nov 6, 2017
Ken Sullivan
Fun downhill after a not too bad switchback uphill. Whole thing took an hour. Will ride again
Sep 28, 2017
Sep 8, 2017
Michael Linden
Switchbacks to Horned Lizard 5mi — 1h 00m
Aug 10, 2017
Adam Dm
Jul 26, 2017
Holly Ha
Jun 14, 2017
Michael Bishop
Jun 10, 2017
Mike Wat
Jun 9, 2017
Oscar Araiza

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Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 18 votes


  3.9 from 18 votes
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in California


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Great practice on rocky switchbacks! Jun 17, 2016
This is a great place to work on riding up technical, rocky switchbacks, and great ride if you don't have a lot of time.The only downside is that you start the ride climbing switchbacks immediately, but the descent is fun and has three nice singletrack options to get you back to your car. I prefer going down the Horned Lizard trail because there is some good flow going even in the rocky sections. Jun 17, 2017

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