Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
1,050.00 ft (320.04 m)
Trail type
4.10 mi (6.60 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Despite its name, Hellhole Canyon County Preserve is a great getaway in San Diego County. The Horse Thief Loop Trailhead is by far the easiest and shortest hike in the park, although some sections are quite steep. To get there, follow the Historic Flume Trail for 1.3 miles then follow the signs for the Horse Thief Loop.

The first stretch of the hike is a rapid descent into Hellhole Canyon. There are many educational signs that point out local flora along the way. This region is also home to many endangered species, including the coast horned lizard, burrowing owl, Coopers hawk, and western bluebird. In the spring, Hellhole Canyon boasts colorful wildflower blooms of black sage, chamise, and many other species. At the bottom of the canyon is Hell Creek, which flows seasonally. This area is much cooler and has ample shade. As the trail gently ascends through the chaparral, a view of the Escondido flume emerges. Completed in 1895, the flume carried water from the San Luis Rey River to Lake Wohlford. It consisted of 14,142 feet of wooden flume, 67,287 feet of ditch canal, and 806 feet of tunnel.

Hellhole Canyon County Preserve is closed each August due to extreme temperatures.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Scenic. Wildflowers. Historic Flume.


Extreme temperatures in summer.

Trailhead Elevation

300.00 ft (91.44 m)


Historically significant
Big vistas

Suitable for



Nearby Adventures


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