Mount Israel

Mount Israel was the one remaining “local” peak that I had not hiked yet. The peak lies near the Olivenhain reservoir and can be approached either from the north (via Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve) or from the south (via Del Dios Highlands Preserve). This is peak #45 on the Sierra Club’s list.

When I hiked it with fellow photographer Ben Horne, I chose the approach from the north. The south approach is fairly steep on an old dirt maintenance road and the traffic on Del Dios Highway (S6) remains fairly audible for quite a while. The north approach from Elfin Forest (San Elijo Gorge/Harmony Grove Road) is more quiet, and I already knew the chaparral slopes through which the “Way Up Trail” zig-zags uphill towards the reservoir from previous hikes.

These chaparral slopes were the “star” of the hike: right now, a lot of Ceanothus verrucosus is in bloom there, and its white flower clusters glow in the sun and look like an icing of frost or snow in the shade.

The views from the summit of Mount Israel (not an official name as far as I can tell, even on older maps it is not labelled as such) were quite nice – we could see as far as Catalina Island to the west, and also got a good view of the snow-covered Mount Baldy (San Antonio) to the north. At the summit is a “lookout tube” with an indicator panel that names the sights near and far:

Mount Israel Summit Lookout, Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, Escondido, California. February 2019.
Mount Israel Summit Lookout, Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, Escondido, California. February 2019.

Unsurprisingly, for a hike embedded into urban areas, all around are houses and communities, which makes the “nearby” views less attractive.

Distance: 4.1 miles
Ascent: 800 feet
Moving time: 2 hours (stopped time 20 minutes, for photos of flowers and plants that will appear on my photography website;-)

Overall impression: once is enough. I will certainly hike Elfin Forest and the “Way Up Trail” again for its beautiful chaparral, but to extend it further to include this summit doesn’t seem necessary. 😉


This is the first in a series of articles that I’m going to publish here on my personal blog about hiking the peaks on the Sierra Club San Diego’s 100 Peaks list. I will also (slowly) transfer older articles over, from my photography website, in an attempt to de-clutter the site and reduce the amount of documentary photos on that site.


This is my personal blog, and I am a professional photographer. Please respect my copyright. If you would like to use any of these photos, for whatever purpose (commercial or personal), you MUST obtain a license and/or written permission from me. More information on my page about image usage. Thanks.

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