Crestridge Ecological Reserve

rocky hills with shrubs in culvert
horned lizard


The Crestridge Ecological Reserve is approximately a 2,800 acre property that preserves the north-south linkage connecting the Lakeside Ecological Reserve to San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Vegetation types include Diegan coastal sage scrub, southern mixed chaparral, mixed coast live and Engelmann oak woodlands, grasslands, and riparian. Two rare plant species that are known from the Reserve are Lakeside ceanothus and San Diego thornmint. The Reserve includes breeding and feeding habitat for golden eagles, owls, white-tailed kites, Cooper’s hawks and numerous other raptors. In addition, species such as bats, deer, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, mountain lions, and rattlesnakes occur in the area. Insects include Hermes copper butterfly and Harbison's dun skipper. See species lists below.

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

Recreational Opportunities

Wildlife Viewing

Activities: wildlife viewing

Fires: In October/November of 2003, three of the worst fires in California history engulfed southern California. The majority of the Crestridge Ecological Reserve, about 80% of the Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, and a small portion of the Boden Canyon Ecological Reserve burned. The vegetation will resprout and the wildlife will return, and the ecosystems will be surprisingly rich over the next few years. However in the immediate and near future, the areas are more vulnerable in this post-fire condition so we ask that visitors to these areas pay special attention to staying on designated trails and staying out of designated closed areas to allow the natural regeneration to occur.

Trail Map (PDF)

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 Crestridge property was once part of a Mexican land grant granted to the Pedrorena family in 1845. The family built houses and corrals for their stock and harvested large crops from the land.

In the 1960s, the area that is now the annual grassland north of the oak grove on the reserve was cleared, fences were erected, and the area was used it to raise quarter horses.

In the 1990s, a plan was approved for Gatlin Development to build homes on about 450 acres and to designate about 1,500 acres as open space. The citizens of Crest advocated conservation of the property as open space and incorporation into the Multiple Species Conservation Program preserve system.

Gatlin established a conservation bank on approximately 1,000 acres, with the potential to double the acreage. At the urging of environmental groups and the Department, The Nature Conservancy purchased the entire property, which was then purchased by the Wildlife Conservation Board. The property was designated as an ecological reserve by the Fish and Game Commission in 2000.

Property acquisition continues to the present and has been accomplished through donation of a 260-acre portion by the County Water Authority; and outright acquisition with Habitat Conservation Funds (Proposition 117) by the Wildlife Conservation Board.

For a more thorough description of the property’s history, please see the Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan.


The reserve is a large island of habitat almost entirely surrounded by residential development. It is centrally located at the eastern edge of urban development between Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) lands to the north and south of Interstate 8 and thus may function as a habitat linkage. Despite its proximity to urbanization, much of Crestridge shows relatively few signs of disturbance.

Crestridge supports mature riparian woodlands and Engelmann oak woodlands, surrounded by coastal sage scrub and chaparral. These habitats provide nesting and foraging habitat for raptor species, including the white-tailed kite and Cooper's hawk. The reserve supports a wide diversity of native butterflies and native plant species, including bunch grasses and sensitive herbaceous species. Crestridge supports the largest known populations of Lakeside ceanothus and Hermes copper butterfly. The coastal sage scrub habitat on the west end of the reserve may function as one of the "stepping stones" for coastal sage scrub birds, including the California gnatcatcher, in the Lakeside archipelago of coastal sage scrub.

The reserve is valued as open space by the surrounding community of Crest. Crestridge was also valued in prehistoric times, as evidenced by the existence of archeological sites on the reserve, including an ancient village.

Approximately 2,400 acres of the reserve are enrolled as a Conservation Bank pursuant to Agreements with CDFW, USFWS, California Wildlife Foundation, and Endangered Habitats League. The management and monitoring of Crestridge will conform to MSCP guidelines as found in the Habitat Management and Monitoring Plan (PDF).

Map of Crestridge ER - click to enlarge in new window
Click to enlarge


South Coast Region (Region 5)

San Diego County

approximately 3 miles east of the City of El Cajon, and due north of the community of Crest

The reserve is bounded on the north by Interstate 8, on the east by Harbison Canyon, on the south by Mountain View and La Cresta Roads, and on the southwest by La Cresta Road.

Directions: To reach the primary entrance, off of Highway 8, exit at Greenfield Drive, head southeast. Turn left on La Cresta Road, turn left on Mountain View, turn left on Horsemill Road and enter the ER at the end of the cul-de-sac. A visitor kiosk will provide maps and pamphlets with information about the ER.

CDFW Lands Viewer