Girls Trip: Santa Ysabel Preserve & Lake Cuyamaca, CA

Day 2 of our girls trip consisted of a morning hike at the Santa Ysabel East Preserve followed by lunch at The Pub at Lake Cuyamaca. Then, the day concluded with an wolf tour at the California Wolf Center where we learned about Grey Wolves, how they’re a keystone species in Yellowstone National Park, and how wolf packs are assembled at wolf centers across the nation. Overall, the day was filled with activity, good food, and learning experiences. Here are some travel tips if you're planning on hiking the Santa Ysabel East Preserve. 

Travel Tips for Santa Ysabel East Preserve

Plan Your Visit: 

Research Santa Ysabel East Preserve's trails, facilities, and regulations before your visit to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Check Trail Conditions: 

Verify trail conditions and closures, especially after inclement weather, to choose the most suitable route for your hike.

Dress Appropriately: 

Wear sturdy hiking shoes, comfortable clothing, and layers appropriate for the weather conditions, as temperatures can vary throughout the day.

Bring Essentials: 

Pack water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, a map or GPS device, a first aid kit, and insect repellent to stay hydrated, nourished, and prepared for emergencies.

Stay on Designated Trails: 

Follow trail markers and stay on designated paths to protect sensitive habitats and prevent erosion.

Wildlife Viewing: 

Keep an eye out for native wildlife such as birds, deer, and rabbits, but maintain a safe distance and avoid disturbing animals in their natural habitat.

Practice Leave No Trace: 

Pack out all trash, including food wrappers and pet waste, and leave natural objects and wildlife undisturbed for others to enjoy.

Respect Private Property: 

Be aware of private property boundaries and avoid trespassing on adjacent land while exploring Santa Ysabel East Preserve.

Check for Permits: 

Verify if permits are required for activities such as camping, mountain biking, or horseback riding in the preserve and obtain them in advance if necessary.

Enjoy Nature: 

Take time to appreciate the natural beauty and tranquility of Santa Ysabel East Preserve, immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of the surrounding wilderness.


Sign Transcribed:

"Nearly half of California is prime mountain lion country, a fact that is a surprise to many residents and visitors. These large, powerful predators have always lived here and they play an important role in the ecosystem. 

Mountain lions live in many types of habitat in California, ranging from deserts to humid coast range forests, from sea level to 10,000-foot elevations. They are also known as catamounts, cougars, panthers or pumas. 

The potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is low compared to other natural hazards. Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet and elusive. They are most commonly found in areas with plentiful pray and adequate cover. As with all wildlife, mountain lions can be dangerous. We can coexist with these magnificent animals with a better understanding. 

In 1920, a rough estimate put the California mountain lion population at 600. By the 1970s, more accurate estimates, based on field studies, revealed a population of more than 2,000. Today's population estimate ranges between 4,000 and 6,000."

Sign Transcribed: 

Santa Ysabel Nature Center
"Santa Ysabel County Preserve offers more than 12 miles of multi-use trails that wind through various habitats. Please stay on designated trails at all times and obey posted signs. Follow trail etiquette and yield to other trail users. 

The Santa Ysabel Nature Center is a 6,000 square-foot LEED Gold and Zero Net energy facility. It features educational exhibits, displays and event spaces
For more information call 760-765-4098"

The hike at the Santa Ysabel East Preserve started off as a flat easy hike. Melissa took my photo while I sat on a chair made from a tree stump. 

We saw crazy looking trees and wild turkey. 

We also saw free range cows living their best lives under the sun. They roamed free eating all the grass that was available.  

Then, we followed the trail to the Kanaka Loop, which was a brutal uphill steep climb but with great views of the valley below. 

After getting to the sign at the loop, we decided to turn around as it was nearing lunch time and we had plans around Lake Cuyamaca.

Melissa and I both had Impossible burgers, which tasted delish. She had a side of tater tots, enough for a family along with a glass of white wine. I had a cup of vegan chili, which was mistakenly topped with real sour cream and cheddar. I still ate it because I didn’t want to be a “Karen” sending food back to the kitchen. (Again, my Lactose Intolerant stomach punished me all night). It was a delicious mistake. 

After The Pub at Lake Cuyamaca, we made our way 8 minutes up the winding road to the California Wolf Center. Tickets were $30 per person for a 1-hr tour. 

The tour was enjoyable and informative. We saw wolves up close. 

Then, we explored the gift shop after the tour and then, headed back to Julian to visit the bigger Wolf Center store. Proceeds go back to the center to help care for the wolves since the Federal Govt. isn’t pitching in. With the Wolf Center Store closing, we headed back to our Airbnb where we enjoyed the hot tub at night while stargazing.


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  1. The entire Julian and Cuyamaca State Park area is beautiful but very dry. Let's tell Fish and Wildlife to put some beavers into the headwaters of the San Diego and Sweetwater Rivers, let them build their dams, and turn these dry river valleys into lush oases for other animals, plants, and trees.


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