Explore Leo Carrillo's Ranch of the Spanish Daggers

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Leo Carrillo OverlookLeo Carrillo was a famous actor during the golden era of Hollywood. He starred in plays and was in over 90 films, but may be most famous for his role as “Pancho” on the Cisco Kid television series that was hugely popular in the 1950’s.

In 1937, he purchased land in Carlsbad, and began to build a ranch that was inspired by the historic ranchos of the early Californio era. The result was a rambling adobe hacienda, rustic outbuildings, and beautiful grounds. The Carrillo family used the ranch as a vacation retreat and a beloved gathering place for family and friends.

Today, the buildings and 27 acres surrounding the ranch are a City of Carlsbad park open to the public for touring, as well as a location for educational classes and camps and the site of large community and private events.

Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park Then & Now – Travel back in time to view the Ranch as it looked in the past through historic photos.

Virtual Self-Guided Tour – Take a tour of some of the Ranch’s most beautiful structures and gardens with this virtual tour. Use this Scavenger Hunt and see if you can spot some Ranch treasures!

For information about Leo and the Ranch of the Spanish Daggers, click on:

An Introduction to Carrillo Ranch


To enjoy Leo in the role he is most famous for, Pancho on the Cisco Kid, click on the links below:

*The Cisco Kid: “Spanish Dagger”

*Please be aware, these are provided by YouTube, which will pull up ads based on your computer’s search history and/or your projected interests.

Background and History of the Los Quiotes, the Ranch of the Spanish Daggers

Archaeological evidence indicates that for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Spanish explorers, this region was home to Native Americans. Luiseño was a name given by the Spanish explorers to describe the Native Americans associated with the Mission San Luis Rey. There is archaeological evidence that Luiseño people lived on the land that is now part of the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park. Today, the Luiseño continue to be an active and vital part of the community – living in cities and reservations, working and contributing to society in all levels and professions. 


In 1869, Matthew Kelly moved to Carlsbad to homestead property south of a ranch his brother, Robert Kelly, owned. They chose the property because it had an abundant supply of water including productive springs and several streams. Just like today, water was a valuable resource in this dry land. The Mission Indians called the valley “the Quiotes” the name of the spiky yucca plants which grew on the hills in the area. The Kelly’s built a two-story adobe home on the land, and continued to refer to the Ranch as “the Kiotes.” 

In 1937, actor Leo Carrillo purchased a portion of the ranch from Kelly descendants, in part because of the good springs and pre-existing adobe structure. He used a more accurate Spanish spelling for the yucca and called it the “Rancho de los Quiotes” or “Ranch of the Spanish Daggers.” 

Dedicated and opened to the public on August 16, 2003, Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park preserves 27-acres of a once magnificent rancho that belonged to the Hollywood actor, philanthropist, author, and poet, Leopoldo Antonio Carrillo and his family from 1937 to 1978.

Leopoldo Antonio Carrillo 

Edited___Leo_with_hayAs a child, Carrillo traveled frequently from his parent’s home in Santa Monica, California, to visit the nearby rancho that belonged to his Tío (Uncle) Machado. These early visits made a profound impression on the young Carrillo; the warm and inviting feeling of the thick, sun-dried adobe brick walls, the handmade red tile roofs, the aroma of wood smoke emanating from the fireplaces, and the sights and sounds of the brightly colored peafowl that freely roamed the property fueled his dreams. Carrillo’s fond recollections persisted into adulthood and eventually inspired him to create a rancho of his own, a special retreat from the hectic pace of life on a Hollywood movie set. 


For Carrillo, Rancho de los Quiotes was not simply just a reconstruction of an authentic Spanish rancho; moreover, it was a continuation of the proud California traditions that embodied and perpetuated the spirit of his ancestors. Through the construction of the ranch, Carrillo could surround himself with the memories of flagstone patios and towering California pepper trees and share the hospitality and warmth of early California with his family, friends, and the many hundreds of visitors that descended upon the ranch for his legendary fiestas (parties). 

Much of the park’s historic landscaping has been preserved, and species consistent with Carrillo’s original plantings were added during Phase Three improvements. Major landscape features include; Queen Palms, a Canary Island Palm, Yucca, Aloe Vera, a variety of citrus, Dragon Trees, Eucalyptus, Olive, Sycamore, Coast Live Oak, Willow, and the California Pepper. 

In 1978 the City of Carlsbad acquired Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, fulfilling a long-time dream of many area residents—and even Carrillo himself. Early efforts to preserve the ranch were sporadic, and for many years, little, if any preservation work was accomplished. As outstanding examples of vernacular adobe architecture continued to vanish throughout the county, City staff renewed and dedicated themselves to identifying the funds for preservation. In the 1980's the city was awarded $90,000 in State grant funding—a farsighted effort dedicated primarily to the seismic stabilization of a majority of the ranch’s structures. A massive, three phase effort was undertaken in the 1990s to restore the ranch and finally open it to the public. 

Surrounded by development, it was important to preserve and protect Carrillo’s ranch not only as an outstanding example of adobe architecture and local history, but also as a tribute to a man that contributed to society through his good deeds and good works. Carrillo served on the California State Beaches and Parks Commission for 18 years. Actively involved in both conservation and preservation, he worked tirelessly with the Hearst Family to assist in the acquisition of Hearst Castle on behalf of the State of California. 

It seems exceptionally fitting, especially in this context, that Rancho de los Quiotes has been preserved as a park and educational resource for thousands of visitors to enjoy. Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park remains significant today in large part due to the efforts of early preservationists. It survives as a tribute to early California History, Carrillo’s Spanish heritage, and the Golden Era of Hollywood. The southwestern-style adobe architecture represents a unique style of craftsmanship that is simply irreplaceable.

Additional Resources