Throughout the preserve, there is a network of trails, totaling between 3-4 miles. The main trail off Manchester Avenue follows the power lines that span the preserve, about 2 miles long. Walking the perimeter of the preserve is about an hour hike, without exploring any of the internal trails.
Many hikers and bird watchers who enjoy exploring in solitude will choose Manchester Preserve over more popular local hikes which are less peaceful due to larger crowds. There is also no mountain biking permitted, so there is no worry of speeding bikers approaching in your blind spot.
There are many different paths and intersections, so it's possible to take a different route each time you visit! Have fun exploring the preserve, and don't worry about getting lost. All the internal trails lead back to the main trail and hikers often use the power lines as a marker.
The trails pass through willow woodland, coastal sage scrub and chaparral and are considered easy to moderate, but don't underestimate them! There are some elevation gains, up to 350 feet. They can be quite rugged at points, and hiking poles or a walking stick are recommended.
The Best Trails
Don't miss Sage Trail, Powerline Trail and Gnatcatcher Trail Loop when visiting the preserve. This trails are perfect for all with nice views filled with cactus and flowers.
A solid walking stick will also help you alert any rattlesnakes that you may encounter along the way. They typically hibernate in the fall and winter, but watch out for them in March and April, when they awaken to enjoy the warm spring weather.
Many hikers enjoy hiking alongside their canine friends, and leashed dogs are welcome. Dog owners should not only be aware of the rattlesnakes mentioned above, but also of the many foxtails that grow throughout the preserve. Foxtails can be dangerous to dogs, so take care to keep your dog on the trail if you choose to bring them along.
Of course, all visitors should remember to stay on the trail to help preserve the protected habitats. Situated sporadically throughout the preserve are wooden benches for visitors to rest. Please utilize these benches which are strategically placed to keep the natural habitats safe.
The views of the hills and Rancho Santa Fe are truly spectacular, although you may need to crop out the power lines from your photos. As you ascend and descend the canyons, there are wooden steps to assist you. The expansive views are truly a reward.