Santa Margarita River trail through sycamores and oaks  

Santa Margarita River Trail - Hike 2
Trailhead to santa margarita trail loop and back
Distance: Complete loop - under 6 miles
This trail has 3 river/creek crossings

The Santa Margarita River trail begins at Sandia Creek Road, off De Luz road in Fallbrook. The first 1.5 miles of the trail is mostly under a shady woodland canopy. Photos of the area are shown on the markers on the map.

Tip: Terrain view is the default and doesn't zoom as close as Satellite or Hybrid views.

Blue: Trailhead to return path intersection - 1.141 miles
Green: Santa Margarita trail loop - 3+ miles

Santa Margarita River trail loop hike
  • A. Trailhead parking lot
    • From the trailhead to the Santa Margarita River crossing the trail is an easy, flat hike except for some boulders at the beginning.
  • B. 1.14 miles from the trailhead to fork in the trail
    • Continue east toward the river toward the horse crossing.
  • C. River crossing
    • Either ford the shallow river or make your way across the boulders
  • D. Bee hive in rock crevice
    • There's a huge bee hive in a rock crevice around here. Just go by quickly and they won't bother you.
  • E. Willow Creek Road river crossing
    • Ford the shallow river
  • F. Mortreros
    • You can't miss the depressions in the boulders in the trail. Native americans used to grind acorns for grain here.
  • G. Rainbow Creek crossing
    • Ford the shallow creek
  • H. Intersection
    • Head uphill to get to the higher, more open trail. The trail right next to the river is nice, but very narrow. Also can be quite muddy in winter/spring.
  • I. Old Ford
    • Make your way downhill and go past the picturesque wreck of a 1950's Ford 2-door station wagon on the river bank.
  • J. Head up the trail
    • Uphill, past the roadrunner ranch and back down to the river trail toward the trailhead.

Plants along Santa Margarita River Trail - June 2011
  • Mexican Elderberry is in bloom
  • Lots of Bushmallow (malacothamnus fasciculatus) with pink blossoms along all the stems.
  • Caterpillar phacelia thickets have a few blossoms left
  • The Sacapellote is in full bloom, filling in lots of open spaces in the chaparral
  • Flat-topped buckwheat is everywhere
  • Heart-leaf penstemon is having a good bloom year
  • Some golden yarrow
  • Winecup clarkia
  • California Rose thickets
  • A thicket of Basketbush a bit after the California Rose
Interesting plants along the trail - early June 2010
  • Shrub or small tree with flat-topped clusters of small pale yellow blooms - Mexican Elderberry
  • Leggy shrub with pale pink blossoms budding from stems - bushmallow (malacothamnus fasciculatus)
  • Rambling bushy plant with pale pink blooms - caterpillar phacelia
  • Tall and leggy plant with buds in clusters on the tips, not blooming yet - Sacapellote
  • Small and bushy plant with flat-topped clusters of off-white blooms - Buckwheat
  • Tubular orange flowers on arching branches - heart-leaf penstemon
  • Tall plants with many yellow blooms on ends of straight bluish stems - Golden ear-drops
  • Erect plant less than 3' high with blue flowers attached to stem - Nuttall snapdragon
  • Lots of invasive weeds like black mustard, bull thistle, and grasses
Other stuff to see along the trail
  • Red-tail hawks
  • Great blue heron
  • California crows
  • Mallard ducks
  • Various birds depending on season
  • Squirrels
  • Lizards
  • Snakes - watch out for rattlesnakes in  the rocky areas
SM River Trail loop
view of santa margarita river crossing
Santa Margarita River trail Hike 2 photos

GPS Markers - Be safe on the trail! Know your location!

There are emergency trail markers approximately 1/4 mile apart on the trails in the Santa Margarita Open Space Reserve and on the Santa Margarita Trails.

Fallbrook's North County Fire and the San Diego County Sheriff respond to emergencies in this area and have been provided the GPS location for each of the markers. When you provide the location number you are telling the Emergency Responders both your location and the street location from which they can reach you.

When you have a 911 emergency tell the California HIghway Patrol Operator that answers you cell phone call that you:
  • Medical -- need to speak to the North County Fire dispatch. Provide the information requested - Your location is the letter and number of the nearest emergency location marker.
  • Law Enforcement - need to speak to the S.D. County Sheriff dispatch. Provide the information requested - Your location is the letter and number of the nearest emergency location marker.

Marker Information

Markers on the Santa Margarita River Trail are prefixed with an "A". Number 1 is at the Santa Margarita Open Space Reserve Trailhead with the number getting larger as you travel East on the Fallbrook side until you cross the Santa Margarita River and head West on the De Luz side.

Markers on the 500 Foot Trail are prefixed with a "C". Marker number 1 is at west end of the trail and get larger as you travel east.

Markers on the High/Hill Trail are prefixed with a "B". Marker Number 1 is at west end of the trail and get larger as you travel east.

Some of the plants along the trail in June:

caterpillar phacelia
Caterpillar phacelia
Chalk Lettuce
winecup clarkia
Winecup Clarkia