These pages contain answers to frequently asked questions and general information related to the Reserve.

Please feel free to contact our rangers at 760-632-4212 or via email if you have additional questions or concerns.

Please do not visit the Reserve if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19.  Please stay tuned to this webpage for the latest news or call 760-632-4212. We look forward to seeing you at the Reserve.

Weather permitting, the Reserve is open every day of the year except December 25. The Reserve opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes approximately 30 minutes prior to sunset. Actual hours are posted at the trailhead.

Utilizing trails after hours is prohibited and considered trespassing. Please enjoy the Reserve only during operating hours. The Reserve is located in known mountain lion territory and can be a dangerous place after sunset.

The Reserve is subject to closure due to moderate/heavy rain which can cause unsafe trail conditions and flooding of the Escondido Creek. The Reserve is also closed during Red Flag Warnings (increased danger of wildfires) at the request of local fire departments.

The Reserve is a popular facility and parking is limited. On weekends and holidays, please consider carpooling or taking a ridesharing service, or visiting our neighboring recreational facilities. Vehicles left in the lot after-hours will be locked in or towed at the owner’s expense.

There are no fees for parking or visiting the Reserve, although donations are appreciated at the trailhead “Iron Ranger.” Your donation will help Escondido Creek Conservancy nurture the next generation of conservationists and protect the lands that make Escondido Creek Watershed special for people, native plants, and animals.

Electric bicycles, as well as other motorized vehicles and equipment, are prohibited beyond the designated parking areas.

Personal vehicles are prohibited from driving on Reserve trails.

Commercial photography photo shoots require a Special Event Permit.

Operation of drones or unmanned aircraft systems in the Reserve requires advance written permission.

The Reserve is home to Red Diamond and Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes which can be encountered year-round depending on weather conditions.

Dogs are welcome at the Reserve.

Dogs are required to remain on a hand-held leash, no longer than six feet, at all times throughout the Reserve.

Please pick up after your dog.

Per the terms of our Recreation Master Plan, the Reserve is specifically designated for day use only. Camping and any other after-hours activities are prohibited.

California Fish and Wildlife and San Diego County Water Authority prohibit fishing within the Reserve.

Olivenhain Reservoir is designated as a non-contact body of water and San Diego County Water Authority prohibits the use of boats or other watercraft on the reservoir.

Swimming or any contact with reservoir water is prohibited at all times per San Diego County Water Authority.

No regulations prohibit swimming in Escondido Creek. However, it is not recommended due to water quality issues. All water within Escondido Creek originates as urban/agricultural runoff from rainfall and over irrigation in the City of Escondido.

For wildfire safety reasons, smoking is prohibited at the Reserve.

For wildfire safety reasons, there is no fire of any kind allowed at the Reserve.

The Reserve trail system connects with trails from Del Dios Highlands County Preserve, which is northeast and contiguous with the Reserve. The Preserve is managed by County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation.

The Reserve strives to have the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. However, it is staffed entirely by volunteer docents and hours are subject to their availability. You can contact us prior to your visit by calling 760-632-4212 or by visiting our home page.

Docent-guided nature walks are available the second and third Sundays of the month starting at 9:00 a.m. and ending at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Created through a partnership with Escondido Creek Conservancy, the center’s mission statement is:

Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty gives a voice to Escondido Creek watershed, inspiring visitors to feel connected to nature, value open space and the creek, and join in conserving this precious North County resource through personal and community stewardship.

The center is staffed entirely by volunteer docents.

A free Special Use Permit is required for groups of eight or more and can be obtained by calling 760-632-4212.

The Reserve is operated and maintained by Olivenhain Municipal Water District in cooperation with Reserve owner, San Diego County Water Authority.

The Reserve’s Recreation Master Plan allows for multi-use trails throughout the Reserve including hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian use. Motorized vehicles and equipment are prohibited beyond designated parking areas (this includes e-bikes).

Park Ranger positions (when available) are posted at www.olivenhain.com. Volunteering at the Reserve as a docent is a good way to gain park experience for jobs in the recreation field and can be applied at any park.

The education program at the Reserve conducted through a partnership with Escondido Creek Conservancy. Find out more information by contacting TECC at 760-471-9354 or via email.

Olivenhain Reservoir is a part of San Diego County Emergency Water Storage Project, which will provide all of San Diego County with up to six months of emergency water supply in the event our imported water infrastructure is damaged due to natural disaster.

Water in Olivenhain Reservoir is pumped in via a pipeline fed from Northern California and the Colorado River. Local rainfall does not have an impact on water level.

All of the water in Escondido Creek that flows through the Reserve enters the creek through the stormwater collection system in the City of Escondido. In times of low precipitation, the creek flows with urban runoff from Escondido.

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

8833 Harmony Grove Road
Escondido, CA 92029

Mailing Address
1966 Olivenhain Road
Encinitas, CA 92024


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