Spotlight: Inaja Trail

Inaja Trail

Elevation Gain



0.5 mile (one way) with connecting trails options

Pets Allowed




Hike Time

30 minutes



Best Seasons

All Seasons


On Hwy 8 East of Santa Ysabel

Ranger District

Palomar Ranger District - (760) 788-0250


The Inaja Trail is one of four trails in San Diego County showcased as a "National Recreation Trail" with a picnic site that memorializes the 11 firefighters who lost their lives battling the 60,000-acre Inaja Fire in 1956. Although a shorter trail at half a mile (each way), the 3440 elevation offers an excellent variety of scenery with clear views down to the San Diego River canyon and scenic vistas of the Palomar and Volcan Mountains. For the adventurous hiker, the Inaja connects to the San Diego River trail, which can add as much as 20 miles to the journey. Overnight camping options are a few short miles away at Horse Haven and Laguna Campgrounds. A trail leaflet, which is available at the trailhead, provides information about the plants and vegetation found along the trail, such as Jeffery pines, manzanitas, and oak trees.

Inaja Trail Vistas

Special Features:This trail is great for year round recreation and provides unique scenic options for each season. During the summer, abundant sunshine makes for great picnicking conditions and active forest activity, while fall provides cooler temperatures that boast crisp, mountain fresh air and gorgeous autumn colors, winter provides snow covered mountains that span great distances, and once the heavy rain has subsided and the snow has melted, spring arouses wildlife and fresh growth of plants in a variety of bright colors. What is perhaps most notable on this trail however, is the memorial site of the 11 firefighters who lost their lives battling a massive fire that overtook the area.

Inaja Memorial Site

Difficulty: At 3440 elevation, the trail is flat and easy. Although it remains one of the shorter trails, local residents, or those passing through Julian wont want to miss this hike. Conveniently located on Highway 78 makes it an ideal stop en-route from San Diego, L.A., and Orange County for hikers who are looking to explore the trail-rich Santa Ysabel/Julian area. For those seeking adventure and challenge, follow the picnic benches down to the San Diego River Trail junction, where over 20 miles of trails link up, creating a difficult, though scenic hike traversing past beaches and bays.


Fees: Currently, no fees are being assessed for parking or recreating. It should be noted that there are no amenities usually accompanied with Adventure Pass permit areas, such as a parking lot, bathrooms, trash cans, or running water.


Camping: The remote location of this trail places the closest Cleveland National Forest campground approximately 20 miles away at the Laguna and Horse Haven. Both locations provide a variety of amenities for tent and RV camping such as drinking water, grills, trash cans, showers, campfire rings, and a flush toilet, while hiking, biking, equestrian, and picnicking can be found nearby. Campsites cost $22 per night depending on size, and reservations are highly encouraged. For those seeking closer options, local and unaffiliated agencies can be found in surrounding areas of Julian and Santa Ysabel.


Points of Interest: The hike provides a couple of great vistas for sight seeing, such as open grasslands, mountains regions and bird watching. Halfway through the loop, a short spur leads to a summit, where sweeping view of Highway 78, the rolling terrain of Santa Ysabel, and a striking view of the San Diego River canyon can be seen. A trip further down to the San Diego River Canyon area also offers active wildlife, where the fish are always jumping, hawks can be seen flying with a live catch, and the sparkling bays and beautiful beaches are a sight to behold.


Inaja Trail

Views from the trail can be vast and full of birds and wildlife


Directions: Eastern San Diego County, a mile east of Santa Ysabel, during the stretch of overlap between Highway 78 and Highway 79. It’s located on the south side of the road, a mile southeast of where the two roads meet, and six miles west of Julian. From Ramona, follow Highway 78 east for 17 miles. From Escondido it’s 34, and from Oceanside, 55.


For a list of more trails to explore in your area, please see our Recreation Trail Guide. You can also visit the The Inaja Trail Recreation Page