Olivenhain Dam loop trail is a moderately hiked reservoir in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. The reserve is located in Escondido, California and offers wildflower viewing, picnics, and great views of the Pacific Ocean, Lake Hodges, local  San Diego Mountains, and the Escondido Creek. The loop trail hits many of the main sights in Elfin Forest. 

Olivenhain Dam Loop via Way Up Trail In Elfin Forest

Olivenhain Dam is located in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido California in San Diego County. The dam forms a reservoir which holds over seven billion gallons of usable water for the San Diego area. Elfin Forest Reserve lies inside the Escondido Watershed. The Escondido Creek flows year round from Lake Wohlford through the reserve all the way to the San Elijo lagoon in Encinitas.

The Elfin Forest Reserve has about eleven miles of hiking trails available for public use. The smaller of the trails are about half a mile but there are many off shoots of the main trails. With these smaller offshoots you can extend the trails to several miles by connecting them together. For the purpose of this hike, I’ll be talking about the Olivenhain Dam Loop trail. The trail begins on the Way Up Trail at the parking lot. The Way Up Trail terminates at the top and to the right you can take the Ridgeline Maintenance Road to the Ray Brooks Olivenhain Dam overlook. You can then loop back and take the Ridgeline Maintenance Road back to the Way Up Trail around the dam to the Lake Hodges Overlook.

The Olivenhain Dam loop trail is great for bird watching, wildflower viewing, picnics, and offers views of the coast and local San Diego Mountains. There are multiple shaded benches that can be used for picnics near the top of the Way Up Trail or at the Olivenhain Dam Overlook. Rattlesnakes are common in this reserve and poison oak can be found along the canyon where the Escondido Creek runs.

Do you have any updates to the hiking trail or want to share your hike/pictures? Please leave a comment below.

  • Overall Difficulty: 45% 45%
  • Overall Views: 55% 55%
Olivenhain Loop via Way Up Trail:
  • Elevation: 1,384 feet.Olivenhain Dam Loop via Way Up Trail
  • Elevation Gain: 927 Feet.
  • Estimated Distance: 6-8 miles.
  • My Actual Distance: 7.3 miles.
  • Estimated Time: 3-4 hours.
  • My Time: 2:31.
Olivenhain Dam via Way Up Trail Directions:

Open in maps. The trailhead to Olivenhain Dam begins at the Way Up Trail within The Elfin Forest Reserve. Directions are very simple. The parking lot is off a windy Harmony Grove Road. This road goes through a residential neighborhood so please use common courtesy when going through this area. The parking lot is a dirt parking lot that is gated. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to about thirty minutes prior to sunset. On the gait, posted hours are until 7:30 p.m. The Elfin Forest Reserve is open every day except Christmas and during Red Flag Warnings. For other questions about the parks hours of operations, please check their website.

Olivenhain Dam via Way Up Trail Pictures:
Who Olivenhain Dam via Way Up Trail Is For:

Novice Hikers: The Elfin Forest Reserve is a great place to hike if you’re new to hiking. There are just over eleven miles of trails within the area. To do the entire loop from the Ray Brooks Picnic Area to the Lake Hodges Overlook is just over seven miles. The toughest part of the trail is on the Way Up Trail. The rest of the trail is mostly flat with a few inclines/declines. The full loop will be a good challenge.

Advanced Hikers: The full loop trail will be pretty easy. Most of the elevation gain is in the beginning of the trail. If you want to explore more of the area, you can piece together the trail offshoots. However, I think that the trail isn’t that challenging and some of the views are kind of monotonous.

Expert Hikers: You might get bored with the loop trail. The views are cool to do and it’s a nice hike to check off your list if you’re into it.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike Olivenhain Dam via Way Up Trail:

Mild fall and spring days, and winter days are the best. Hot summer days are the worst days to hike in this area. The Way Up Trail is closed off from the seasonal ocean breeze and can get quite hot. Once up to the top, the sea breeze can be felt and can add relief to the constant sun. Avoid this park during hot weather and Red Flag Warnings.

Olivenhain Dam via Way Up Trail Conditions:

The trail is moderately trafficked and maintained as a part of the Elfin Forest Reserve. As the trail gets up to the top, crowds tend to thin out. The trail starts in the canyon where the Escondido Creek runs through. This is the only portion of the trail that’s shaded. As son as the trail gets away from the creek it turns into dirt switchbacks until the top of the ridgeline utility road. The Escondido creek flows year round so keep an eye out for poison oak in the shaded areas near the water.

The ridgeline utility road is used to dam and utility maintenance and is mostly dirt and small rocks. Off the utility road are several offshoots of the trail that lead in different directions but all ultimately end up back to the maintenance road. Once at the top of the Way Up Trail take the road to the right until the Ray Brooks Picnic area for the western view of the dam and San Diego Coast. From there loop back around and go past the Way Up Trail. From there the maintenance road will turn into the Lake Hodges Overlook trail.

The Lake Hodges Overlook trail is a traditional trail that transitions from the dirt road. Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes throughout the trail. Depending on how long you’re on the trails for, keep in mind that you’ll be completely exposed to the sun. Wear adequate clothing that keeps you cool but protects you from the sun. For hot days, bring 1-2L of water depending on the length that you’re on the trail.