Santa Margarita River

The Santa Margarita River is a rare and relatively undisturbed watercourse that drains the Santa Ana Mountains. Large sections of this river are protected habitats, and it flows roughly the same way that it has for the last few thousands of years before Southern California was developed. It features a rich riparian environment, as well as numerous beaches where one can enjoy splashing around in the water.

Distance: 3.7 Miles
Elevation Gained: 200′
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 2:30
Critters: Dragonflies, butterflies, lizards, a gopher snake, a mallard duck, a coyote

Get there like this.

Kelly and I finally got what seemed like our first Saturday together in a really long time. We kicked it off with a yoga class in the morning before enjoying a nice little lunch. Afterward, we headed out to Fallbrook to enjoy a short hike along the Santa Margarita River, which is one of the lovelier spots in all of San Diego County.

This strip of land, which is managed by all sorts of agencies I cannot keep straight, encompasses a lush riparian wilderness complete with a trickling river. Now, this river probably wouldn’t qualify as such if it were anywhere but Southern California. It’s shallow, narrow, and it doesn’t carry a particularly high volume of water. However, one can splash around in it all day, and in parched San Diego County, this is significant.

Kelly and I hit the trail and wandered beneath a canopy of live oaks and sycamores. It’s already very dry in April, and most of the grasses have already died off. However, beneath the oaks and sycamores, much of the grass is still green, and there are spots where a few flowers, such as monkeyflower, are blooming with some consistency. They probably won’t stay in bloom for long though; it’s been a poor rainy season.

Rain or no rain, the river still flows nicely. This is a nice place to come on a hot afternoon, which today was. There are a number of places to access the river and splash around. The river isn’t really deep enough for proper swimming, but, with some ingenuity, one can dunk oneself almost completely. I highly recommend a good, solid dunk before the return trip. It makes a warm hike much more enjoyable.

Kelly and I loved this place, and we’ll probably come back numerous times, particularly once we have children. This is an ideal place for children, provided you keep your eyes out for the usual assortment of snakes and poison oak. Kids can fool around in the water without real danger of being swept off, and adults can enjoy the serenity that comes from undeveloped watercourse ecosystems. Birds will sing. Butterflies will meander. Dragonflies will buzz you. The place is alive with all kinds of natural activity.

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