Short, somewhat steep, semi-sweet: Monserate “Mountain” Hike, Fallbrook, CA

Monserate Mountain is more of a steepish molehill than a mountain. You can hike, bike or run up the trail for a short, steep, incline workout and the reward of expansive views of the mountains (Agua Tibia, Red Mountain, Santa Ana Mountains), farmland in the valley below, and a sliver of Pacific Ocean way out to the west.  I have mixed feeling about this one for reasons detailed below…


Monserate Mountain was part of an 13,323-acre Rancho Monserate Mexican Land Grant from 1853 that originally extended south and east of the present day Fallbrook down to the San Luis Rey River.


If you’re in or near the area, you can get a quick workout here with sweet 360 degree views at the top. Also, I think that it might be the right balance of tough and short for hardy hiker kids who get a feeling of accomplishment from doing something challenging.

There are a couple offshoot trails on the way up: Canoninta Trail and Red Diamond. I didn’t take those, but once at the top, headed south along a Ridge Trail to the water tank. This was the best part of the hike for me – it faced away from the freeway on a little stretch of single track with views into the valleys below and east across the mountain ridges. The Ridge Trail descends gradually with the help of a short wooden staircase and then drops you out on a paved road. (In the pic below,  I turned around and ran up the staircase for the pure joy of a little more incline.)

Glutton for the incline.
Mountains to the east from the Ridge Trail.


The barren, dirt trail going up has little to no aesthetic appeal. This trail gets lots of traffic, human and dog (too much I’d say). And I’m afraid it smells like it too. (I have a sensitive schnozz and the trail smelt like dog poop most of the way up.) Also read a review that someone got bitten by a dog twice on this trail.  The roar of the 15 freeway below is also a bit off putting as are the weekend crowds that you have to hike around. (I was so uninspired and turned off by the dog poop smell, I didn’t take any pictures on the way up.) Yes, that bad – but then again, I’m a hiking snob. You’ll see why if you visit some of my other posts.
If you’re in the area, do it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go too far out of your way for this one.
Distance: 3.2 miles up and back without add ons, or 4.4 mile loop adding on the Ridge Trail loop to the water tank.
Elevation gain /loss: ~1150 feet, moderately strenuous, depending on what shape you’re in. If you’re a trail runner, you’ll like it and you’ll want to add on the Ridge Trail water tank loop.
Terrain: Mostly wide dirt path with rocks and some erosion, some single track, paved road & fire road if you do the 4.4 mile loop.

Free Flowing in Fallbrook: Santa Margarita River Trail

The Santa Margarita River, aka Temecula Creek / Temecula River, is one of the last free-flowing rivers in Southern California.

The park is said to contain 1400 acres with 14 miles of trails that loop and crisscross the river. Not sure about that, but I do know that the main trail is about 5.5 total out and back. There are a number of offshoot trails, but it’s hard to imagine that they add up to 3x as much distance…

The main trail is a pleasant meander along the river under a canopy of trees.

There are a couple of swimming holes within the first mile or so if you care to take a dip. Before too long you’ll encounter your first of a half dozen creek crossings. Since the terrain is mostly smooth path or sandy, you might consider Tevas, instead of running shoes or hikers as you’ll be taking them on & off frequently. (That being said, if you don’t mind getting your running shoes wet, it’s not a bad spot for a little trail trot.) There are also a couple of lovely little oases along the way.

Apparently, this river corridor is known for raptor sightings and home to deer and other large mammals. We saw one shy turtle basking on rocks and a little fishey who seemed to be guarding her eggs – see video below.

Certainly a great spot to spend an afternoon, have a picnic or take a dip. (I wouldn’t drive too far for it, but if you’re in the area by all means.)

Note: It gets super hot in Fallbrook in the summer, be prepared and bring water.

BEWARE: Abundant poison oak &  quick sand???


Distance: ~5.5 out & back

Difficulty: Easy – family friendly

Location: Fallbrook near De Luz Road & Sandia Creek Dr intersection, right on Sandia Creek Dr. then the parking area and trailhead are 1.2 miles ahead on the right.

Happy trails!

Footloose and Fancy Free: Off Trail in Fallbrook, CA

Spring fever anyone? The air is so crisp, clean and fragrant with the pungent fertile earth and the scent of jasmine and citrus blossoms. And the hills are abloom with wildflowers already. The plan was to take a lazy Sunday afternoon stroll / trail run at nearby  Santa Margarita River Trail.  When we got there, we discovered that the area was closed due to recent heavy rains. As we drove along De Luz road the lush hillsides beckoned to me. “Let’s just run up this first hill”, I suggested. And we were rewarded with a mini-meadow sprinkled with California poppies and wildflowers. And then we climbed the next hill and so on. There weren’t any “Private property” or “No trespassing signs so we just kept going. Scrambling up through the bramble and brush until our car was a distant spec below. So on we went, bouldering up to the highest point on the ridge. It was exhilarating fun though my legs did sustain a few scratches…Once we reached the top, we looked for another route down. That’s when we came upon a hidden estate. We tried to traverse down another section, but the scratchy overgrowth was taller than we were. We ended up following a country road back down to De Luz and the car. A fun impromptu adventure that no doubt was more thrilling (and a better workout) than what we had planned. And my boyfriend, Ken,  knows me by now, if there’s a hill around, I’m likely to find it and want to “check out the view from there”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was on this hike that I found that spontaneous stream for my nature mediation section.

Here are a couple more pictures Ken took and the cactus bloom I almost forgot to add earlier.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Across the road from where we were is pristine fenced-off Camp Pendelton land. Oh, if only…


Nature Meditation: Spontaneous Spring, Fallbrook CA

My new Nature Meditation section is inspired by the CBS program Sunday Morning. It’s a homage to how they close the show with the sights and sounds of nature. Today, I leave you with a video of the spontaneous spring (a bonus from our recent rains) that I came across in a rocky alcove on my footless and fancy free, off-trail hike in Fallbrook last weekend.


Let me know if you’d like to see more of these.