Trail rating: EASY. At nearly 1700 acres, this park has a massive 22.5 miles of trails that link the many habitats of the fertile river valley. You’ll find everything from dense riparian forests to coastal maritime sage scrub. The trails are some of the best bird watching spots in the county. The park is hosting a Bird and Butterfly Garden Nature Walk on Sunday, March 8 at 11 a.m. Open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk. 2721 Monument Road, San Diego. (619) 428-294.
Trail rating: EASY. San Elijo is one of the largest remaining coastal wetlands in the county. There are seven miles of trails where you could encounter around 300 types of plants, 16 species of reptiles and amphibians and 26 species of mammals. San Elijo is also part of the Track Trails Program where kids can go on self-guided tours and earn prizes for their adventures. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 2710 Manchester Ave., Cardiff-by-the-Sea. (760) 634-3026.
Trail rating: EASY. Guajome is located in Oceanside and has a little bit of everything for the hiker. Two ponds attract migratory birds and are home to a variety of fish. The 4.5 miles of trails meander through a diverse representation of habitats including woodlands, chaparral, wetlands and mixed grasslands. The second Saturday of every month features Nature Walk with a Ranger, open to all ages. Open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk. 3000 Guajome Lake Road, Oceanside. (760) 724-4489.
Trail rating: EASY-MODERATE. The preserve is just over 3,500 acres and a 480-acre portion on the western side has a four-mile loop trail. Hikers can see several habitats including native and non-native grasslands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, swales and alkali playas. Open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in fall/winter and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. spring/summer. Located near Ramona: west of Star Route 67, north of Highland Road, west of Rangeland Road. (760) 788-3326.
Trail rating: EASY-MODERATE. The preserve is located in a lush river corridor that provides wildlife a place to naturally forage and make their homes. Raptors and deer are common sights. There are 1.5 miles of trails and it connects to the Fallbrook Public Utility Districts trails to the north. Open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to one-half hour before sunset. 37385 De Luz Rd., Fallbrook. (760) 728-2303.
Trail rating: EASY TO DIFFICULT. Sycamore Canyon is 2,272 acres of coastal sage scrub and chaparral-covered hills. Goodan Ranch is a mix of grassland, riparian, coastal sage, oak woodland and mixed chaparral. There are more than 10 miles of trails that will take you to grand vistas and allow you to potentially see abundant wildlife that includes mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, acorn woodpeckers and more. Open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. through March and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. April through Sept. 16281 Sycamore Canyon Rd., Poway. (858) 513-4737.
Trail rating: MODERATE. The preserve is 3,700 acres and there are more than 10 miles of trails. Hikers will encounter everything from steep slopes to flat mesa tops to grassy hillsides. There is a waterfall through volcanic rock if there has been sufficient rainfall. The fresh water marsh hosts a variety of birds including great blue herons, egrets and mallard ducks. Open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to sunset. The preserve is south of Highway 56 and north of Mira Mesa Blvd. between the 5/805 merge and the 15 in San Diego. (858) 484-7504.
Trail rating: MODERATE-DIFFICULT. There are 13.5 miles of moderate to advanced trails in the 1,907 acre preserve. The main trail descends from the staging area to the riparian zone astride Hell Creek, lined by mature Sycamore and oak trees. The trail continues into the interior of the preserve to Rodriguez Mountain. From that point, the trails become more advanced but lead to beautiful views. On a clear day, you can see the Pacific Ocean from atop the mountain. The preserve is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. Open 7 days a week 8 a.m. to sunset. 19324 Santee Lane, Valley Center. (760) 742-1631.
Trail rating: MODERATE –DIFFICULT. There are 18.5 miles of trails including two loop trails inside the 3,800 acre preserves. They are surrounded by oak woodlands, native grasslands and fields of wildflowers. The trails wind through various habitats. Hiking programs include an East Side hike, the History of the Cuyamacs and What’s Happening to the Oaks, Hike All the Way Across! and a Back Trails Hike. Details on those hikes can be found under the preserve’s listing in the activity guide. Open 7 days a week 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. fall and winter, 8 a.m. to 7 pm. spring and summer. 2300 Highway 79, Santa Ysabel. Trailhead is 1.5 miles north of Santa Ysabel or just south of the Santa Ysabel Mission. Parking is available along Hwy 79. (760) 765-4098 or (760) 814-0208.
Trail rating: DIFFICULT. The hike at El Capitan is considered strenuous and is for experienced hikers only. The hike out and back can take as long as six hours to complete. There are 8.2 miles of trails on a rugged route along a granite-ribbed ridgeline with stunning views of both ocean and mountains. There is just over 2,600 acres with woodland, coastal sage scrub and mixed chaparral. Try the El Cajon Mountain Extreme Hiking Challenge on Saturdays. Meet the ranger at the El Capitan Preserve parking lot at 8 a.m. for a 7-hour, 12 mile round-trip hike. Open 7 a.m. to sunset daily except in August when the preserve is closed because of extreme summer heat. 13775 Blue Sky Ranch Road, Lakeside. (619) 561-0580.