Manchester Preserve Hiking Trails

Manchester Preserve Hiking Trails are enjoyed by hikers and nature lovers, a series of trails and open space in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Encinitas.
Manchester Preserve Hiking Trails
Discover the Trails
History of the Preserve
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Enjoy Nature
Hike the Trails
How to Get There
Insider Tips!
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Discover the Manchester Preserve Hiking Trails

Manchester Preserve is an open space and nature oasis right in the middle of the busy city of Encinitas. This preserve is 123 acres offering multiple trails with lots of elevation for hikers and wildlife for nature lovers.

The trails run within a gently sloping sandstone canyon and ascends up the canyon walls, providing stunning views of the Encinitas hills and Rancho Santa Fe. There are three trails, covering about 3-4 miles total. The main trail, which runs along power lines, is approximately 2 miles round trip.

For some of our favorite hikes in the area, check out our article on the Best Hikes in San Diego!

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History of the Preserve

Manchester Preserve was established in the late 1990's by Techbilt, a prominent development firm in Southern California. Techbilt then chose a nonprofit conservation organization to own and manage the preserve. Since then, The Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) has owned and managed the Preserve.

The mission of the CNLM is to preserve native species and their habitats, to manage lands in an ecologically beneficial manner and to promote conservation through education. Although this organization owns and manages the preserve, the city of Encinitas maintains the trails on a regular basis.

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Enjoy Nature at Manchester Preserve

While hiking Manchester Preserve, visitors can expect to encounter wildlife, both common and threatened. Look closely and you might see the endangered California Gnatcatcher bird or multiple other species of birds. The trails are popular among bird watchers!

The wildflowers at Manchester Preserve are stunning, especially in spring. Visitors come from far and wide to see the towering flowering stalks of the chaparral yucca. The ground is often covered in multicolored wildflowers, and hikers will also encounter prickly pear cacti, sunflowers, colorful hyacinths, forget-me-nots, purple phacelia, and fire red monkeyflowers, among others species.

Hike the Trails at Manchester Preserve

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.

Local Tips
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.

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Where to Find Manchester Preserve

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Manchester Preserve is located in the City of Encinitas, surrounded by residential developments on three sides, and the lagoon on the fourth. The preserve is ideally located for those who need a quick nature break from their busy lives.

Traveling from Interstate 5, take the exit for Manchester Avenue. Then head east for one mile and turn right to continue on Manchester Avenue when it crosses El Camino Real. After about a mile, you'll see a small dirt parking lot on the left, just before Trabert Ranch Road.

After parking at the trailhead, you'll see a trail marker and an opening in the wooden fence to mark the entrance to the trails. There is also an alternate entrance off Landquist Drive, at the northern entrance of the preserve.

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Insider Tips!

Plan Ahead!

Trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset. There are no restrooms or water fountains for public use. Plan to carry your own water. If you are bringing your dog with you, be prepared to clean up their waste. All dogs must be leashed, 6ft or less, while visiting the preserve. Always plan to be courteous to other trail users and observe rules of trail etiquette.

What to Wear

The trails at Manchester Preserve are steep and rocky at points. Hikes poles and sturdy hiking shoes with a strong grip are needed. There is minimal shade on the trails, and therefore protection from the sun is necessary. Don't forget to bring your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen!

Prohibited Activities

Motorized vehicles of any kind are prohibited on the reserve. Horses and mountain bikes are also prohibited.

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Stay Nearby

Cardiff by the Sea Lodge
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