Phone: (760) 728-2303
Hike: There are many different trails on this land Level: Easy
Dog-Friendly: Yes Kid-Friendly: Yes
Hours: 8am- half hour before sunset/daily
The Santa Margarita River Trail is located in the northernmost end of San Diego County in the rural community of Fallbrook. This is one of my favorite areas to explore because it is so lush year-round with a river running through it.
The Santa Margarita River is one of the only watering holes in San Diego Country that we are allowed to physically go inside. Although no swimming is allowed, it is great to walk through as you cut from one trail to the next.
The preserve is open seven days a week from 8:00 AM until a half hour before sunset. If there is heavy rain, the park will close due to the dangers of swift water and washed-out trails.
That possibility seems to be remote these days, but rain was once so plentiful here that it doomed a railroad line that ran from National City to Barstow. Access to the preserve is provided from Del Luz Road in Fallbrook.
This specific area was also once part of a massive Mexican ranchero that stretched as far west as Camp Pendleton. During our visit we encountered ruins that we speculated may have been part of the ranchero.
There are hiking trails that are shared with horses and mountain bikes and we took one which involved crossing the river on foot. If you do as we did, you will get wet so water shoes are recommended to avoid the unpleasant experience of stepping in fresh horse manure in your bare feet.
If you explore in springtime you will pass a stunning variety of flowers and other vegetation.
The Santa Margarita River Trail has a rich history. For centuries the river has helped sustain both the Pechanga and Luiseño tribes. The river became a source of great controversy between the state and these tribes over water rights.
Before European encroachment, the tribes had sufficient land and water for their people. After the land was taken from them and they were pushed onto reservations, water became in scarce supply for their people.
In recent years the Federal negotiation team has worked closely with the tribes to negotiate a settlement that secures a sufficient water supply to make the Pechanga Reservation sustainable as a permanent homeland for the Pechanga people.
Expect to come across a few horses on your hike as these is a very popular equestrian trail:
First obstacle of many:
Old ruins from the horse stable and railroad:
She was such a champ on this trip!
Then you get to a point where you have to cross the river by foot. No problem! Try to have some kind of water shoes as it’s a little painful on the soles of your feet AND there is horse poop scattered around! Bleh!
The coolness of the river is shocking for a second but then man does it feel nice! We went in winter too! I imagine it would feel amazing in the summer!
We found the smallest snail in the world!
We found the homestead ruins! There were agapanthas growing here which is unusual to see out in the wild. I wonder if they were originally planted there when this home was still thriving!