Rancho La Costa Preserve


Although this conservation area allows public recreation on trails, we do not allow any motorized vehicles including pedal assist or electric mountain bikes (E-MTB).

Area: l,640 acres

Location: Carlsbad and San Marcos, San Diego County, California

Date Acquired: 2001-2011

Acquisition Type: CNLM owns the preserve.  We protect and manage imperiled species and habitats on the preserve in perpetuity.

Key Habitats: Coastal Scrub, Mixed Chaparral, Valley Foothill Riparian, Annual Grassland, Perennial Grassland and Coastal Oak Woodland.

Species of Special Interest to CNLM:

Del Mar manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa crassifolia),  Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), Thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia), San Diego thornmint (Acanthomintha ilicifolia),  Least Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus) and Orcutt’s hazardia (Hazardia orcuttii).


CNLM is pleased to announce the successful acquisition of additional preserve lands within Rancho La Costa Habitat Conservation Area!  Click here to learn more.


The Rancho La Costa Preserve parcels were deeded to the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) between 2001 and 2011. This site has been protected to mitigate  for impacts to coastal sage scrub and other vegetation communities as a result of development projects in the vicinity, including the La Costa Villages (Morrow Development), and University Commons residential developments (Brookfield Homes and Skandia). This Preserve acts as a regional corridor connecting the Batiquitos Lagoon and Lake Hodges. Although the site is broken into many parcels, the land owned by the CNLM is approximately 1,640 acres. The Preserve includes Box Canyon, a very steep, but unique feature of the area.

Conservation Significance

This Preserve is a biologically rich site and representative of the high diversity of coastal San Diego County’s natural habitats. More than 80% of this Preserve is covered in two native habitat types, coastal sage scrub and mixed chaparral as well as a few acres of cottonwood woodland located within Box Canyon. Several threatened or endangered species occur on this site, including Del Mar Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa crassifolia), coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica), San Diego thornmint (Acanthomintha ilicifolia), Orcutt’s hazardia (Hazardia orcuttii) and thread-leaved brodiaea (Brodiaea filifolia).

Our Work

Gilbert’s skink

Our prime goal for this Preserve is to protect the habitats and species that depend upon this protected area for survival. The focus of our work is to protect the Preserve from negative human abuses, remove non-native plant species, monitor plant and wildlife species, and conduct research projects. These research studies focus on whether or not the conserved natural communities and species can persist, for how long, as well as determining specific management methods required to reduce their risk of extirpation.

There are over 15 miles of trail at the Preserve. Hiking is allowed on all trails; mountain biking is also allowed on some trails.  Dogs-on-leash are allowed in all areas but Copper Creek.  Please stay on trail and note trail signage.  Hike to the viewpoint on Denk Mountain and enjoy the 3600 view!

Download KMZ file

To download, KMZ trail file to use with Google Map or Google Earth for Rancho La Costa Preserve click, here.


For upcoming volunteer event information sign up for the San Diego Volunteer Newsletter, here.

Public Access

Access into Box Canyon is prohibited. The Ridgeline Trail occurs along the canyon rim and on Denk Mountain. Motorized vehicles, shooting, camping or fires are prohibited. No dogs allowed on the Copper Creek trail.

Download Maps of Rancho La Costa:

Ridgeline Trails
Rancho La Costa Location Map
Denk Mountain and Copper Creek Trail Map


For information about Rancho La Costa or Center for Natural Lands Management, please contact Kathleen Balazs, Preserve Manager at kbalazs@cnlm.org or 760.731.7790 extension 230.