I headed out early for a hike up the Santa Margarita River near Fallbrook, California. The river is a short intermittent river on the Pacific coast of southern California, which is approximately 30.9 miles long. The Santa Margarita is one of the last free-flowing rivers in southern California and is even said to be home to the California Golden Beaver. Plenty of natural & native flora and fauna that make this place stand out and thrive, despite the arid desert & chaparral woodlands surroundings.
Santa Margarita Preserve parking entrance.
The Santa Margarita County Preserve is located at the corner of De Luz Road & Sandia Creek Road on the outskirts of Fallbrook, California.
I decided to embark with a good friend of mine — my dog, Luke. We headed out on the south end of the trail and as soon as we hit a section of the river we got off the burning hot sand trail (which felt very much like walking on the ocean beaches) and forged our way up river.
The boulders that formed the borders of the river canyon were perfect for climbing and clamoring around on, the trees provided excellent shelter from the scorching SoCal sun, and it turned out to be a much more interesting outing than I expected.
The cold river was a soothing contrast to the rising heat of the early summer morning.
I was able to identify very few edible plants due to my novice knowledge and the fruitless season we’re in right now, though I saw plenty of fish and birds enjoying the oasis of the Santa Margarita. This river is at the foothills of the northern end of Cleveland National Forest.
I managed to see some California wild grapes (Vitis Californica) starting to form, though I suspect they won’t be ready to eat until the fall (I’ll be back to update).
Earlier in the season, immediately after a rain, I hiked to one of the the northern most sections of the river and also stumbled upon a local swimming hole where over 100 people gathered to frolic in the river, which seemed to have been polluted by the visitors. I would recommend bringing a garbage bag along with you to pack out your own items, but if you’ve got the bag, why not fill it up along the way? I know that’s what I’ll be doing next visit; lets keep these gems polished!
This was a great hike that really hit the spot for this water-starved, aqua-lover and my furry friend. I felt so isolated in the serene environment that it was quite shocking to realize I was in such close proximity to a swimming hole with 100+ people. I didn’t hear any noise from the large crowd of people until I was right next to them thanks to the powerful white noise of the river. The north entrance, very close to the city of Temecula, has a great waterfall overlook, especially right after a rain, despite not being a very great place to swim.
This oasis gives a real feel for what the region must’ve looked like prior to development and is a real treasure among the sea of San Diego industrial and residential developments and boring, dry chaparral hikes. It is definitely an excellent way to spend a morning off!
-Park at the county park if you want to hike up river (*directions in post above*)
-Park at the following address if you want to just go straight to the swimming hole:
4251 River Edge Rd
Fallbrook, CA 92028
The swimming hole area is known as Temecula Canyon, connecting just north of Sandia Canyon where my hike began and can be accessed off Sandia Creek Drive, which intersects from De Luz Road — the road that takes you from Fallbrook, California out to the Santa Margarita County Preserve Trailhead.
-Bring water (it might be everywhere along the river, but this is not the quality “spring water” that you’d want to drink). This river passes through a golf course development and likely along the watershed of a lot of agricultural properties before reaching the swimming hole.
-Avoid areas where water has become stagnant; bacterial and pollution will accumulate and it’s likely mosquitoes will be breeding in these areas.
-Be prepared for hot sand as scorching as coals (no exaggeration. Be mindful of your furry friends, too; if you can’t walk barefoot on the sand, you should not make your dog walk barefoot on the sand. Bring amphibious footware that you can either wear in and out of the river or can easily put on and remove. I wore sandles twice with little issue, though something more secure than flipflops would be ideal for the average hiker. I stepped on a piece of glass from the bottom of a broken beer bottle just south of the swimming hole, so please watch your step and help carry dangerous waste out of the river watershed if you have the opportunity.
-The park is open to dogs & dogs are very open to wading in the water here. (be mindful of the hot sand on their paws)
-The park is open to equestrian/horseback riding and is perfect for it.
-The park is open from 8AM – 6:30PM.
Here’s a map showing the route from the I-15, through Fallbrook, out to De Luz Road & the Santa Margarita County Preserve parking lot.