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Ride through La Costa Preserve from the south.

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1,026' 313 m


391' 119 m


1,216' 371 m


1,216' 370 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (10°)

Dogs Leashed

E-Bikes Not Allowed

La Costa Habitat Preserve is protected land. Please stay on the designated trails.


Access La Costa Preserve from Avenida Diestro to the southwest side of the hill. Climb Whiptail Loop Trail, descend Switchbacks on the northwest, and then climb Horned Lizard on the west side. Continue to the final descent on Whiptail Loop Trail before bombing down the Diestro Connector.

Need to Know

The surrounding land is all a habitat preserve. If you want this little gem of a trail network to survive, stay on designated trails and respect the property.

There is a bike repair station at the top.

The heavy rains of 2016/17 damaged parts of the trail and made other sections much tougher by exposing more rocks and carving ruts.

Avoid riding around obstacles more difficult sections and widening the trails.

If you do not like sharp rocks, ruts, and rattlesnakes, these trails are not for you. Don't ride around the technical sections. It only makes the trail wider.


Here's a great way to ride pretty much all of La Costa Preserve starting from the south side. It is an alternative to entering at Camino Junipero.

Park at the Diestro Connector trailhead at the top of Avenida Diestro. Stay to the left and follow this easy warm-up trail around the backside of the Circulo Sequoia neighborhood until it drops down into a clearing. Then follow the split rail fence up 0.3 miles of steady climb to the Powerline Access Road.

Turn right on Powerline Access Road for only a couple hundred feet to the trailhead on the left. Stay to the right and head south on Whiptail Loop Trail. After about 0.25 miles, the trail splits. Stay to the left and begin climbing. (The trail to the right is Copper Canyon which descends down to Copper Creek and leads back toward the San Marcos side of the hill. Riders from SM could access the west side hill from here instead of riding up Denning Road).

Whiptail used to be the easiest way up on singletrack from the Carlsbad side of the hill. But it got really rutted and lots more rocks were exposed from the heavy 2016-2017 rains, making the middle section of this trail more technical.

Stay on Whiptail and climb about 1.5 miles to the top. This is a good spot to take a break and enjoy the views.

Start your first descent heading north on Denning Road to the Switchbacks trailhead. Pass the Connector trail to Camino Junipero and continue all the way to the bottom of Switchbacks - Power Line Access Rd Connector, about two miles of total descent.

From Switchbacks - Power Line Access Rd Connector, go south on the Powerline Access Road a hundred steep feet and enter Horned Lizard on the left. Climb Horned Lizard all the way back to the top. Then descend on Whiptail Loop Trail.

Take the Diestro Connector back to the trailhead.

History & Background

There used to be copper mines on this hill. If you ride over grey shale, that's where a mine was.


Shared By:

Kurt Davey with improvements by Susie Murphy

Trail Ratings

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  4.0 from 10 votes
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My new 20 year old bike worked great
Mar 21, 2021 near Lake Sa…, CA
To the right is the start/end of Switchbacks.  To the left is the start of Nascar (aka Drop Down Trail as indicated by signage).
Apr 13, 2022 near Lake Sa…, CA
By far the most technical section that I encountered.
Feb 23, 2019 near Lake Sa…, CA
Sitting at the top of Nascar
Jan 11, 2015 near Lake Sa…, CA
Copper Creek Falls at end of Whiptail Loop
Oct 17, 2017 near Lake Sa…, CA
The view from the top is worth the climb.
May 27, 2017 near Lake Sa…, CA


Current Trail Conditions

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