Everyone needs a peak in their backyard, and 1,975′ Stanley Peak in Escondido’s Daley Ranch makes a great go-to hike that you can finish before lunch. This loop route gives you a fine overview of historic Daley Ranch, with sweeping views over much of north San Diego County.
Getting to the Trailhead
Daley Ranch can be reached at 3024 La Honda Drive, Escondido, CA 92027. The unpaved parking lot for Daley Ranch gets crowded on the weekends and people end up parking down the hill. It’s best to get there early to avoid the head of mid-day and the worst of the crowds.
The park is open from dawn to dusk. Dogs are allowed on leash, though the trails can get hot in the afternoon. The historic Daley Ranch House (which is on this loop) is open the second Sunday of the month from 11am to 2pm. For the latest park info, call 760-839-4680.
Hiking to Stanley Peak
There are 20 miles of trails in Daley Ranch, and a number of routes that you could take to get to the summit. We stitched together this loop with a short out-and-back segment to Stanley Peak, and passing by Mallard Lake and the old Daley Ranch House.
This counter-clockwise loop begins at the entrance to Daley Ranch, and follows the Creek Crossing Trail east for about 0.7 miles. This is a broad, dusty double-track that is shared by mountain bikes, horses and hikers. Creek Crossing ends at the East Ridge Trail. Turn right here (southeast) and hike roughly 300 yards to where it ends at the Sage Trail. Turn left (northeast).
You’ll stay on the dusty Sage Trail as it winds its way through the rolling, rocky hills. Continue past the junction with the Caballo Trail, Quail Run, Coyote Run and the Old Tank spur.
As the Sage Trail climbs, the views begin to open up.
Finally, when you reach the spur trail to Stanley Peak, turn right and follow it to the summit — roughly 0.7 miles each way. The trail starts with a fairly flat section.
Soon you climb higher, with a great view of the rusted Old Water Tank and the valley below.
At the summit, there are boulders to scramble on. If you’re lucky, you might find a scrap of shade to protect you from the sun. And there are the views. Looking east you can see Palomar Mountain, and south the city of Escondido.
After soaking in the views, refueling with snacks and water, head back down the spur trail.
When you rejoin the Sage Trail, bear to the right (west). This will take you past idyllic Mallard Lake.
Continue on Sage toward the old Ranch House, joining the Ranch House Trail – a smooth dirt road that sees occasional use from park vehicles. You’ll pass right through many of the historic buildings from the Daley Ranch.
In the ranch complex, there are restrooms, picnic tables and perhaps best of all on a hot, sunny day, ample shade trees.
From the ranch house, it’s under a mile of easy hiking back to the trailhead to finish the loop.
Stanley Peak Trail Map & Elevation Profile
- Did I mention that there’s a lot of sun exposure on this hike? Bring a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. Start hiking before the worst heat of the day, and avoid altogether on really hot days.
- After the hike, head to Burger Bench in quaint downtown Escondido. Awesome burgers and local craft beers on tap, and the owner also happens to be a hiking blogger. Tell Derek that SoCalHiker sent you!
- Official Daley Ranch website
- Printable map of the Daley Ranch trail system (PDF)
- Afoot and Afield: San Diego County – A classic guidebook updated by Scott Turner
- Stanley Peak – 100peaks.com
- Daley Ranch’s Stanley Peak Hike – Campfire Kam