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Villages of La Costa Trails: Rancho La Costa Preserve

Rancho La Costa PreservePrintable map

Map of south city trails 

Surface: Mix of paved, stabilized decomposed granite and rocky native soils

Length: 4.0 miles (complete system)

Difficulty: Easy to difficult, depending on trail, with some of the city's most rugged and challenging trail hikes

The four trails located in the Villages of La Costa offer a variety of trail experiences from long, rugged difficult, dirt trails, such as the Ridgeline Trail, to easy, paved trails such as the Old Rancho Sante Fe Road Trail.  The Villages of La Costa is also home to the Rancho La Costa Preserve which is managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management.  The preserve includes Box Canyon, and nearly 500 acres of prime native coastal habitat to remain non-developed in perpetuity. 

There are a variety of trails to be explored and enjoyed, but greater enjoyment hiking these trails is in the seasons when temperatures are cooler, as the coastal sage of the hillsides and canyons do not offer any respite from heat.  The native habitat offers an abundance of spring wildflowers, and many birds such as hawks, roadrunners and kites, small mammals and even deer have been spotted in the preserve.  A highlight of these trails are the high ridges and hilltops that offer commanding views of the Batiquitos Lagoon, Box Canyon and the Pacific Ocean.

Trail Surface: Paved and unpaved.  The trail is paved north of Cadencia Street and unpaved south of Cadencia Street where the trail connects to public sidewalk near the intersection of new Rancho Santa Fe Road and La Costa Avenue.

Distance:  1 mile

Difficulty:  Easy

Just as the name implies, this trail is actually an old road that has been recycled for trail use when the new Rancho Santa Fe Road alignment was constructed and completed in 2003.  One of the least difficult trails in the Villages of La Costa, it affords linkages between the older neighborhoods of La Costa and the newly developed communities of the Village of La Costa’s The Oaks communities.  The north end of the trail ends at Fire Station 6 which also affords a great view out to Batiquitos Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean.  An interpretive sign at Fire Station 6 provides information on wild land fires and rests on the site of the Harmony Grove fires which swept thru the area in 1996.


To north trail head at Fire Station 6
I-5 to La Costa Avenue
La Costa Avenue east to Rancho Sante Fe Road (approximately 5.5 miles)
Left on Rancho Sante Fe Road to Fire Station 6 (approximately 2.5 miles)

Parking is also available at Cadencia Street, near Camino Junipero.  
Camino Junipero is located approximately 1 mile before the fire station.  
Turn left on Camino Junipero then left on Paseo Capuchina
Turn left again on Cadencia Street. 
Pipe gates are located at the trail access on either side along Cadencia Street.

Trail Surface:  Unpaved/rocky

Distance:  1 mile

Difficulty:  Easy

The trail was named after a citing of this rarely seen native animal in the coastal sage habitat just north of Cadencia Park.  This 0.5 mile trail is a series of meandering loops south of the Fires Station No. 6, but more easily accessed at Cadencia  Park. Walk thru the grassy field of the park to the trail head that is located at the left side of the park at the edge of the manicured turf area.


I-5 to La Costa Avenue
La Costa Avenue east to Cadencia Street (approximately 4.5 miles)
Left on Cadencia Street to Cadencia Park – nearly at the top of the big hill
Parking is also available along Cadencia Street

Trails on the east side of Rancho Sante Fe Road are some of the most rugged in the city, and for this reason they are also a favorite for mountain biking use.  These narrow, steep trails are managed and maintained by the Center for Natural Lands Management and are located within the Rancho La Costa Preserve. The top of the mountain is the highest point in Carlsbad—on a clear day, visitors enjoy aerial views of the entire city and the coastline from Camp Pendelton to La Jolla. This trail also affords some of the best native flower blooms in March, as hillsides of California poppies and lupins bloom.

Trail Surface:  Unpaved/rocky

Distance:  1.5 miles (3 miles round-trip up to ridgeline and back); 2 miles to Corintia Street access (4 miles round trip from El Fuerte to Corintia Street)           

Difficulty:  Difficult

The trail is aptly named after a long ridgeline that overlooks the Box Canyon area of La Costa.  Partially located on an SDG&E utility and access road, and partially on steep, rocky single-track trails, this is one of the city’s most difficult and longest trails, with rocky climbs and large expanses of native coastal sage scrub.   

Note: Due to the steep terrain and hazardous conditions of the canyon walls, the canyon itself is off limits to the general public.  Hikers and others using the trails who deviate from the designated trails may be cited with trespassing and faced with a heavy fine.


I-5 to Aviara Parkway/Poinsettia Lane exit
East on Poinsettia Lane to Aviara Parkway
Right on Aviara Parkway, continue east to El Camino Real
Aviara becomes Alga Road at El Camino Real
Continue on Alga Road to El Fuerte Street (top of hill)
Right on El Fuerte Steet to La Costa Meadows Elementary School
Trail head is on the left at the bottom of hill just past La Costa Meadows Elementary School at the SDG&E access gate on the east side of the street

Parking is available along El Fuerte Street near SDG&E access gate/trailhead. 

Contact Information

Parks & Recreation
Liz Ketabian, Park Planner

Report maintenance issues

799 Pine Avenue, Suite 200
Carlsbad, CA 92010