De Luz & Sandia Creek Dr.
Fallbrook , CA. 92028

Phone: (760) 728-2303
33.401658, -117.251507

Hike: There are many different trails on this land    Level: Easy

Dog-Friendly: Yes    Kid-Friendly: Yes

Hours: 8am- half hour before sunset/daily


Beating the heat in San Diego usually means fighting for a parking spot at one of our overcrowded beaches unless you have the luxury of owning your own pool. Otherwise we generally stay indoors and run up air conditioning bills. Isolated bodies of water where you can cool off are far and few in between. Enter the 221 acre Santa Margarita Preserve. A river of the same name passes through the preserve which lies in the North County community of Fallbrook.

This preserve is home to many animal and bird species that rely on the river as a water source. The Santa Margarita River cuts through the preserve on its way from its Temecula source to the Pacific Ocean and is home to a number of species of fish including rainbow trout and striped mullet. Be advised that fishing is currently prohibited in the preserve.

The preserve has a rich history. For centuries the river sustained both the Pechanga and Luiseño tribes. In fact, it looks like there has been a huge dispute between the state and these tribes over water rights which can be read more here.

Before European encroachment, the tribes had sufficient land and water for their people. After the tribes being were pushed into reservations and the land receiving immense disrespect by settlers, water became in scarce supply for their people.

In recent years, at the request of the Band, the Federal negotiation team has worked closely with the Band to support its efforts to negotiate a settlement that secures a sufficient water supply to make the Pechanga Reservation sustainable as a permanent homeland for the Pechanga people.

This specific site was 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.

While you’re in the area, make sure to visit Los Jilgueros Preserve nearby!

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 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.

These two insisted on meeting:

Expect to come across a few horses on your hike as these is a very popular equestrian trail:

First obstacle of many:

Wild mint, which is part of our Wild & Edible section:

Old ruins from the horse stable:

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! Although I have to say, I really wish I had some kind of water shoes for this 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!


5 Reviews

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5 Reviews


  • Melissa
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    I love your website! I go hiking here a lot and have found little side trails (so beautiful a week after a good rain) but never saw any ruins, I’ll have to check it out again! Thanks!

    May 28, 2015

  • Hiker760
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    Remember there is a sign that says ticks are strong in that area. Another thing I was told by the locals is that there are many beavers in the area. Only problem I noticed is that many people go there to party and get wet. And I was disappointed in all the coolers and beer bottles/cans that were left behind. Other than that this place is great

    December 30, 2015

  • Zievo
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    the adress for the tunnel is 11049 Blythe road San diego california

    September 5, 2017

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    We have been to the river trail twice. Where are the fish? the birds? the squirrels? No wildlife at all…..hmmmm

    December 22, 2018

  • Cal McVay
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    The trail is separate from the Willow Glen Ponds? That area was closed over 20 years ago. We used to swim in the ponds, fish for bass, watch the beavers and dry off on the rocks that had prehistoric footprints embedded in them. My son and I hiked from the ponds all the way to Temecula when he was 9 years old. We had full packs and a small tent. Spent the night on a sand bar, thousands of stars, the sound of the creek (river). Not to mention the remains of the washed out railroad tracks and bridges!!

    March 11, 2020

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De Luz Rd & Sandia Creek Dr, Fallbrook, CA 92028, USA


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