San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area

grassy hills of San Felipe Valley WA
grassy hills of San Felipe Valley WA with mountains in the distance


The approximately 17,800-acre San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area supports a unique blend of diverse habitat types including desert riparian woodland, chaparral, oak woodland, native grassland, alluvial fan sage scrub, acacia scrub, and midex hardwood/conifer forest.

This variety of habitat types supports a tremendous diversity of species including the federally endangered Least Bell's vireo. Mountain lion, bobcat, gray fox, Southern mule deer, golden eagle, San Diego mountain king snake, migratory birds, and upland game birds such as dove and quail also inhabit the property.

The San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area is a critical link in a large network of open space and wildlife habitat that stretches from the Pacific Ocean through the coastal range and inland forests to California's resource-rich desert. The wildlife area is surrounded by other open space lands including the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Cuyamaca State Park, the San Dieguito River Park's Volcan Mountain Preserve, Cleveland National Forest, the Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation, and BLM lands. The area provides important foraging and fawning habitat for resident mule deer and preserves riparian, oak woodland, and upland habitats used by a variety of game and non-game species.

For more information, call the South Coast Region San Diego office at (858) 467-4201.

Recreational Opportunities

Wildlife Viewing Quail Hunting Deer Hunting

Activities: wildlife viewing and hunting

Please see current informational flyer and maps posted in the kiosk.



Type C: San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area does not require the purchase of a hunting pass for entry. Entry permits and/or passes or special drawing may be required for hunting on some Type C wildlife areas.

NOTE: Visitors are responsible for knowing and complying with all regulations pertaining to the use of Department lands.

Refer to the Public Uses on State and Federal Lands section of the Waterfowl, Upland Game, and Public Use Regulations (PDF) booklet for both statewide and property-specific regulations.

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You may not operate a drone on CDFW Lands without a Special Use Permit.

Area History

The lands currently in the San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area were part of two large, contiguous, private holdings: Rutherford Ranch and Rancho San Felipe. The earliest known cabins at Rutherford Ranch were built in the mid-1860s. Although the ranch supported vineyards, orchards, and agricultural crops, it was primarily used for grazing cattle and sheep. Human activity has been limited, leaving the ranch relatively undisturbed. Likewise, Rancho San Felipe was a family-owned operation for nearly a century. Historically, it was used for cattle grazing, limited agriculture, and private recreational uses.

The property was designated as a wildlife area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1999. The land was acquired in three phases to protect critical deer migration corridor and deer fawning habitat, and oak woodland and riparian habitat. Funding sources were Proposition 70 (Wildlife and Natural Areas Conservation Program of 1988), Proposition 117 (Habitat Conservation Fund/ Mountain Lion Initiative) and Proposition 12 (Parks Bond Act of 2000).

Large acquisitions adjacent to the existing wildlife area in 2003-04 increased the area by over 5,000 acres to the northwest and 7,500 acres to the southeast. Management activities are on-going throughout the wildlife area to ensure public safety, compatible wildlife-dependent public recreation, and adequate resource conservation.

Map of San Felipe Valley WA location - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


South Coast Region (Region 5)

San Diego County

approximately 10 miles northeast of the town of Julian between State Highways 78 and 79

Access: County Highway S-2 bisects the length of the wildlife area and provides public access. Current boundaries are displayed at the information kiosk located on the southwest side of S-2, approximately 11.4 miles east of the junction of Highways S-2 and 79.

CDFW Lands Viewer