Have you been out to Barnett Ranch lately? Maybe you haven’t gone at all because you’ve heard it is small or not worth the drive.
I really enjoy the ride and always recommend this preserve to riders, especially new riders or green horses or those of us who want to get a quick ride in after work on a weekday.
At 728 acres it is on the smaller side, but it is well worth the short drive. Centrally located between Ramona proper and San Diego Country Estates, Barnett Ranch is a multi-use, non-motorized open-space county preserve. Located off San Vicente Road on Deviney Lane, the staging area is smaller than most others, so you will probably have to back up your horse trailer to fit in at a decent angle but this is not a difficult thing to do with a smaller trailer.
I would not recommend taking a trailer holding more than three horses into the staging area due to its small size. If there are cars and other horse trailers there, you simply won’t fit or be able to turn around.
There are no amenities at the staging area, with the exception of a water trough for your horse that is filled and cleaned by the ranger from time to time. The scenery is beautiful and the oak trees majestic.
This quiet preserve has approximately four miles of trail. Two out-and-back trails and one loop trail provide a rock-free ride for the most part. The fairly flat trails are easy to navigate and nice and wide. There are typically few other visitors so it’s a good place to take a young or inexperienced horse or rider.
The step-over gate at the entrance is the perfect height, but with the fencing moved over it doesn’t really serve a purpose anymore. Do watch your head around the information kiosk as it is rather close to the entrance.
Snakes, lizards, and arachnids abound in this preserve, and birds are plenty. I haven’t seen many birds of prey, but songbirds are always present.
There is also a pair of coyotes that make the preserve their home and they are visible from time to time. These curious creatures will most likely pose for you to take photographs. They seem not to fear folks on horseback, so they’ll stand up on the rock outcroppings and watch you ride by.
Remember to stay away from and never collect wildlife or vegetation during your visit.
There are several vistas that provide wonderful views. From the viewpoints throughout Barnett Ranch you can see much of Ramona Valley. It is quite a sight to see.
My favorite view is that of the Monte Vista Ranch, which is currently owned by California Fish and Game Department and not open or accessible to the public, but the panoramic view of the 4,000-plus acres is majestic.
Picnic tables and tie rails are situated in a couple of areas under oak trees, so a picnic is a relaxing and fun thing to do. These picnic areas provide the only shade, but this is a fairly easy ride and there is typically a breeze, so ride here anytime unless it’s been raining, when it and other county preserves close.
Two words of warning: First, San Vicente Road is very busy and the speed limit is 50 mph, so getting out of the preserve parking lot can be tricky. Please be extremely cautious and take your time. Be aware that the after-work commute is particularly busy, so if you go at that time keep an eye on the cross traffic. Until the road is straightened out a bit, caution is a must.
Second, if it has rained recently there can be boggy areas your equine will sink into, as I have experienced, and the bogs can be deeper than the hocks of your horse. Keep an eye out for the wet areas.
The preserve may be closed during inclement weather and often for a few days after a good rain, but the bogs remain for some time.
Be aware that with the time change this week all county preserves in Ramona now close at 5 p.m.
I enjoy the great outdoors at Barnett Ranch often and always meet the nicest people out there. I am thrilled to have such a wonderful place to ride so close to home.
Maybe a picnic supper will be in order while the weather is still nice. I hope to see you out there sometime soon!
Karen Carlson is a Ramona resident.