The Coast News Group
The live oaks on this stretch of trail in the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway provide a leafy respite from the sun. This 5.5-mile trail leads up to Lake Poway, Lake Poway Park and the dam. Another 5-mile trail in the reserve leads to Lake Ramona. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
Columns Hit the Road

Hit the Road: Shake things up by visiting Blue Sky Ecological Reserve

My husband and I arrived at the fork in the road and didn’t know which way to go. The choices didn’t seem to match up with the map we had photographed at the trailhead, and we also hadn’t counted on the route heading straight up.

We decided to turn around to search for what we thought was the right turn we had missed.

This was our first foray into the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway, 700 acres that encompass four different habitats: chaparral, coastal/inland sage scrub, oak woodland and riparian. I guess we can blame or credit the pandemic for forcing us to search for new hiking trails beyond our immediate area.

We decided that it’s too easy to become too comfortable with the usual trails, and we needed to shake it up a bit, so we headed southeast to Poway.

The COVID-19 virus certainly has limited travel and activity for the better part of the last 12 months, but now most of San Diego County’s trails are open and hiking is one activity that we can easily do while maintaining the rules of social distancing.

A 4-mile network of wide trails, which begins in Pico Park in south San Clemente, provides expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, Pacific Coast Highway and the surrounding hills. Photo by E’Louise Ondash


Blue Sky offers five hikes of varying lengths, including a short, flat one with signage for kids. We chose the 5.5-mile hike up to Lake Poway, around it and back down. The rather steep climb begins after a stretch of trail that provides a lovely, leafy interlude that winds through stands of live oak. The trees also create a cool canopy for a spacious picnic area with nearby, well-camouflaged restrooms.

This verdant tunnel will be especially welcome in the warmer months, but summer hikes should be done early in the morning.

The energy expended on the way up this trail is worth the view from the top, where you’ll find Lake Poway, Lake Poway Park and a demonstrative look at the dam. It’s hard to believe that this oasis exists (thankfully) amid a metro area of 3.1 million residents.

Visitors and hikers also can drive to the park and from there, circumnavigate the trail around the lake, a 2.75-mile hike.  Note: This won’t eliminate the need to cover a section of challenging uphill trail.

If you head northwest, in the opposite direction from Poway, you’ll find a different climate zone at Pico Park in southern San Clemente. This small park is adjacent to two other mini-parks, all connected by the Sea Summit Trail.

Walking these trails that are just below the expansive Outlets at San Clemente shopping center and near a subdivision, makes me thankful that someone had the foresight to save this slice of coastal open space. The trail winds up and down the cliffs just east of Pacific Coast Highway, where hikers can see panoramic views of the ocean and watch cyclists along the well landscaped, dedicated bike lane parallel to PCH.

These wide, clean trails, bordered by open fencing protecting restored habitat, and the playgrounds at these parks make this location an ideal destination for families. Hiking the area on a clear February day with the ocean breeze in your face and the sun at your back – well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Have an adventure to share? Email [email protected].

Leave a Comment