Love Valley sits in a tiny recess on the southern flank of Palomar Mountain. Less Palomar-ish and more like some of the broad valley/grasslands you would find at Santa Rosa or Daley Ranch, this tiny open space features three varieties of oak, views of Lake Henshaw, the Volcan Mountains, and Hot Springs Mountains. Oh, and cows. Lots of cows.
Elevation Gained: 300′
Time: 45 minutes
By itself, Love Valley probably wouldn’t make a worthy destination. That’s not to knock the place for its looks or its content. However, it offers about 2.5 miles worth of hiking, and it’s basically in the middle of nowhere. That said, it’s a great place to tack on to a trip up to Palomar, especially if you’re looking to make the side trip to Santa Ysabel or Julian for a slice of dutch apple pie with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. In which case, Love Valley is the perfect excuse.
In fact, what you should probably do is get two slices of Julian apple pie, a pint of ice cream, and some hot caramel sauce, put it in a picnic basket, bring your date here, pull up a blanket under an oak, plop down, and surprise her. What she will probably say in response is, “I love you.” And that, folks, is how Love Valley got its name.
One of the other boners. . . err, bonuses of this hike was the first evidence of black oak leaves beginning to sprout. For those who don’t know, newly sprouted black oak leaves come out red. They soon turn to green, but for a period of time, they appear to be a reddish pink. On this hike, I saw black oaks at their lowest elevation, and, yes, their leaves were pink.
Anyhow, you park at the trailhead off the side of East Grade Road. A small footpath promptly appears on your right. You can take this footpath through oak woodland down to a large, green field. You’ll know it as soon as you see the barn. At this point, you can wander off to the right for about .2 of a mile. Or, you can go left along the access road, which will take you through a pasture where a seasonal pond may (or may not) be waiting. From here, you can wind up along the same access road, where you will be treated to some pretty stunning views of Lake Henshaw and whatever this larger valley is called.
Not too shabby for 2.2 miles.