DISTANCE4.61 miles STEPS: 9877  Elevation GAIN: 690ftTIME: 2:21 WATER: 2 L SNACKS:  Orange, Hard-Boiled egg TEMP:  80

Trailhead Start:  I entered the preserve at the Sky Haven West Trail head, which is actually in Oceanside on the northern edge of the preserve.From state Route 78, exit at College Boulevard, heading south. Turn left onto Lake Boulevard, then right onto Sky Haven Lane. Sky Haven dead-ends at Azure Ladd Drive; park here on the preserve’s side of the road.

The Volcanic Plug Lake Calavera Preserve Calavera means “The Skull”    Hiker Therapy

Lake Calavera Preserve in the Tri-City North County area of Oceanside, Carlsbad and Vista is an ecological preserve and home to Calavera Mountain.  The word “Calavera” means skull, which probably comes from the unusual shape of the area’s centerpiece, Mount Calavera. The 513-ft. Mount Calavera is not really a mountain at all but rather a 22 million-year-old volcanic plug. 

The trail system here is vast and much of it would be classified as easy to moderate.  The trail composition for the most part is hard pcked sand and clay, however their are sections of the trail that get very rocky, washed out and unstable  Any way you go you will have hard time getting lost in the 10 miles of trails in the Preserve.  I mixed up the route this time but for the most part I head west towards the dam, cross the dam and head up towards the Volcano branching left, then going straight right or climbing left.  Both will take you past Volcano.  Climbing left will take you to the base, branching right and then heading straight will take you along side the Volcano. I usually branch off to the right and circle around the back of the Volcano, head east, hike around out in the “Field” make a left at the trail intersect, then head north until I hit the trail along the fence.  At this point I head west again until I hit the trail intersection with the Volcano right in front of me.  

Here I head south, turn left meet up with the trail I was on to get out into the “field”, turn right at that trail intersect, than lookout for the small trail on the right side that will lead you up to the Volcano.  You will hike along side a concrete wall here, the same one you paralleled earlier.  As I mentioned there are numerous ways to Summit Calavera Mountain all easy to find, all offering a new adventure.  Once you are up on top,  admire the view

Calavera Peak in distance Hiker Therapy

 of the Pacific to the West, Oceanside to the North, Carlsbad to the South and Vista to the East.  Great views of the bowl of the Volcano too!  As you meander around the Summit you will come to the “Trinket Garden’ a nice memorial and keepsake place for the many who have hiked these trails.   Looking down into the bowl you will see a Labyrinth, which is a maze offering yet more diversity to this Hike.  Once you descend down back to the base, visit the Volcano and walk all around in the area of the Labyrinth to get a sense of the Volcano and the spiritual feel of the area.  This is a fun local trail offering a lot for such a “sububanized” parcel of land area.  


This hike offers you: a Volcano, miles of hiking trails, a labyrinth, if you can find it a small cave, numerous ways to summit the Volcano, an ecological preserve, wetlands, and great views of the surrounding Tri-City area. 

I call this one of my go to “Sunday” hikes in San Diego County and one I highly suggest for families and those looking for a good way to get a lot of miles in without burning yourself out and having to drive far if you are in the North County Area.