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Escondido Neighborhood Guide: Del Dios

Del Dios Trail

Beautiful views, open space and the tranquility of rural living define the Del Dios community. This southwestern Escondido neighborhood is home to part of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve and the Del Dios Highlands Preserve and is just minutes from Lake Hodges, which means plenty of hiking, biking, fishing and riding opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

For those who are more spiritually inclined, Del Dios is also home to the Escondido Center of Self-Realization Fellowship, which is located on Del Dios Highway and offers meditation groups, lectures, group energization and inspirational services.


The San Dieguito people are the earliest known inhabitants of this area. San Diego County’s oldest known Native American site is the Harris Site near the Lake Hodges dam, which shows that the San Dieguito people lived here at least 9,000 years ago. Around 1500 CE, the Kumayaay people inhabited this area as well.

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, part of which takes up much of the land in the Del Dios area, was first opened in 1992. The Del Dios Highlands Preserve was acquired and restored by the County of San Diego, the Escondido Creek Conservancy and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority between 2002 and 2004. It is now part of the County of San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program.

Elfin Forest Interpretive Center


The majority of the land within the Del Dios area is zoned as other residential, agricultural, open space or special zones. Most of this area is taken up by the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve and the rural area west of Lake Hodges. There is a strip between Lake Hodges and Del Dios Highway that has mostly older homes built before the 1970s (many before the 1950s). Both older and newer homes can be found towards the center of the Del Dios area where there are homes dating back to before 1949, as well as new construction completed after 2010.

Real estate prices can vary widely in rural areas like this where older homes can be found minutes from mansions. To give you an idea of the real estate market in the Del Dios area, at the time of this writing there is a 17-acre parcel with great views for sale for $499,000. There is also a three-bedroom, 2,299-square-foot, Cape Cod on .32 acre with a listing price of $699,900. For those in the market for higher-end properties, one example would be a beautifully remodeled, seven-bedroom, 4,222-square-foot home on 6.25 acres listed at $2,290,000.

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Del Dios is a semi-rural to rural community with few residential areas and plenty of open space for outdoor recreation. This means that there is not much in the way of dining or shopping in the neighborhood. There are a few stores and such scattered through the community, but residents and visitors need to drive to town in order to run errands, go to dinner or hit the movie theater.

Downtown Escondido is not that far away, but most of your daily errands can be accomplished in the neighboring community of Vineyard, which has grocery stores, Target, T.J. Maxx, World Market, Pier 1 and more in the Escondido Promenade and along Interstate 15.

Those who prefer to avoid downtown can also find restaurants like Stone Brewing Co., Mike’s BBQ, Eric’s Sandwich Shop and Diego’s Place in Vineyard.

Fountains at Del Dios Country Gardens

There is one shop in Del Dios that is a bit of an attraction on its own: Del Dios Country Gardens. Specializing in ornamental garden art, this shop located on Del Dios Highway is worth a stop to check the fountains, statuary and unique works of art.

Parks & Recreation

The Del Dios Highlands Preserve located at 9860 Del Dios Highway is a 774-acre preserve that is part of the County of San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing, hiking, biking and horseback riding. One of the main draws of the preserve is the Del Dios Highlands Trail. This trial connects the Del Dios neighborhood with the neighboring Elfin Forest – Harmony Grove community. It also connects to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve trail system.

This is the view of Lake Hodges from the Del Dios Highlands Trail…

View of Lake Hodges

The preserve is open every day from 8:00am to just before sunset. It is closed during and after heavy rains.

Part of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is also located in the Del Dios neighborhood, which provides residents and visitors with more than 10 miles of trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding. This 784-acre reserve offers picnic areas, wildlife viewing and beautiful views.

There are also trails around Lake Hodges, which might be particularly appealing for any amateur monster hunters hoping to catch a glimpse of Hodgee, the legendary lake monster of Lake Hodges.

If you are just looking for a beautiful place to picnic or enjoy an afternoon outside with some great views, the Del Dios Community Park is adjacent to the residential area that runs between Del Dios Highway and Lake Hodges.

A 1966 Photo of Hodgee in Lake Hodges

A 1966 Photo of Hodgee in Lake Hodges


Most public school students attend Bernardo Elementary School, Del Dios Middle School or Oak Valley Middle School, and Del Norte High School.


The Del Dios community is located in southwest Escondido. It is east of Elfin Forest – Harmony Grove and Rancho Sante Fe, south of the Vineyard neighborhood, and west of Rancho Bernardo and the Lake Hodges neighborhood of Escondido. Black Mountain Ranch is to the south.

Statues at Del Dios Country Gardens

Additional Information

If rural living, weekend hikes, afternoons spent by the lake and beautiful views are what you seek, the Del Dios neighborhood is a great place to start the search for your next dream home. There are not many homes on the market in this area at any given time, so if you are interested in buying a Del Dios home, be sure to start your search early.


Photo Credits (in order of appearance): County of San Diego website,, Del Dios Country Gardens website, County of San Diego website,, Del Dios Country Gardens website Real estate data gathered from

AJ Davis-Varela: AJ is a freelance writer and blogger at Articles by AJ specializing in travel, real estate, natural wellness and green living. She is a magazine columnist, a former San Diego newspaper columnist, has been published in a variety of print and online publications, and regularly contributes to several websites and blogs. You can connect with AJ on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+