The property where Daley Ranch sits has been in use for thousands of years, once providing food and refuge for Kumeyaay tribes. There are plenty of remnants left behind of their existence such as metates and motars and soot-stained caves which were most likely once used as shelter from poor weather conditions.
Robert Daley was the first settler/colonizer on this land, arriving in 1869. He built a small log cabin which still remains to this day near the bottom of one of the ranch's ponds.
In 1875, Daley was granted to official claims of 1,600 acres each. A few years later he moved into a small pine house which still stands on a knoll across from the existing Daley Ranch home. The Daley family farmed, raised horses, and continued to acquire land.
When Daley passed away in 1916, his family moved to Jamul. The Daley land continued of use though as a dairy. It was during this time that the ranch house was built, using single-board heart redwood. This ranch house was mainly used as a retreat for entertainment and to just get away from the grind of life.
In 1996, plans to develop this land were halted when the Escondido City Council voted to purchase and forever protect the 3,058-acre ranch as habitat preserve.
Personal Experience: I am usually not big on these types of hikes at all unless there is a very specific destination that I'm heading to. In this case, it was the Daley historical ranch houses. Don't go in the summer, instead opt for autumn thru early spring. It gets HOT out there otherwise! There is a secret pond with a fish graveyard. There are fish skeletons everywhere which was pretty cool and also huge bullfrogs (alive) and pretty white birds. There are hiking trails everywhere which I did not take but I'm sure there must be more interesting things to explore out here.
The ranch houses are about 1 mile northeast from the entrance. At one point you'll see the pond to your right. Make sure to check out Dixon Lake while you're here!
Fish skeletons everywhere. The lake must have dried up quickly during the heat wave. Too quick for them to realize they needed to swim inward I'm guessing: