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Find Fallbrook's trails or take a historical walk downtown


Last updated 4/19/2007 at Noon

Find Fallbrook and discover a slower pace, where being outdoors is a way of life. What better way to escape big city noise and chaos than to investigate Fallbrook? Hike or ride a horse along the Santa Margarita Trail. Run the dogs at Los Jilgueros Preserve or observe birds in the Engle Family Preserve. Or, just hang out at the Yogurt Palace, once the site of the telephone company switchboard for Fallbrook’s growing community of farmers and merchants.

Find Fallbrook on its wildland trails

Find Fallbrook’s wildlands two miles from downtown in the Santa Margarita River trails system. First, stop by the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, 233 East Mission Road, or Fallbrook Fertilizer, 215 West Fallbrook Street, and pick up a Fallbrook Land Conservancy “Plants & Wildlife of Fallbrook and San Diego County” field guide with its map of the trails.

Then, from the intersection of Pico and East Mission Road, drive a mile east along De Luz Road to Sandia Creek Drive. Soon sycamore- and oak-shaded landscape replace homes as a grand vista opens to the verge of the Cleveland National Forest.

Bear right another mile to Sandia Creek Park and its trailhead, then strike out east along the 5.8-mile River Loop Trail, which follows the Santa Margarita River. Branching from this trail are the Upper River Trail, Hill Trail, Rainbow Creek Trail and 500 Foot Trail, each one mile, one way. More than 100 different species of wildlife live in this habitat. Watch for beavers, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, field mice, reptiles and birds.

For a shorter hike or a picnic from the same parking lot, cross the road and follow the one-mile trail to Santa Margarita Trail Park. Look for picnic tables and benches.

Most of the trails are moderate, some are strenuous and, depending on the season, water crossings along the trails may be impassable. Bring a hat and drinking water and wear shoes suitable for unpaved paths. Dogs on leashes are permitted. No motor vehicles are allowed. There is no fee.

The Santa Margarita River trails traverse private land owned by the Fallbrook Public Utility District. They are maintained by the all-volunteer Fallbrook Land Conservancy Trails Council, the Friends of the Santa Margarita River and the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, managed by San Diego State University’s Field Station Program.

Find Fallbrook peace and

quiet in a preserve

Protected wild habitat preserves in Fallbrook provide areas for getting exercise or relaxing in peace and quiet on a bench. Los Jilgueros Preserve is the largest such venue on 46 acres located on South Mission Road just north of Fallbrook High School between Sterling Bridge Road and Peppertree Lane. Throughout, signs display information about the preserve.

The main parking lot accessible from Mission Road has ample parking. From here, the main loop trail is 1.5 miles, and visitors can easily walk with children, push strollers or jog through the native landscaping. The northern portion of the trail traverses a large pond where waterfowl nest.

The northwest corner contains a Firesafe Garden that displays over 100 types of fire-retardant and drought-tolerant plants. The return loop, through a small forested area that is cool and shady all year, opens into sunshine and features a lower trail into a meadow abutting a wetland and a third pond which is not accessible.

Dogs in control are permitted off-leash in Los Jilgueros Preserve only. This preserve is fenced and gated. It opens at 6:30 a.m. and closes at dusk. There are no restrooms or drinking water on-site.

Other preserves include the 27-acre Heller’s Bend Preserve; the Bonsall Preserve, with its boardwalk under construction over 27 acres of wetlands; the Engel Family Preserve on 10 acres with panoramic views; 90-acre Rock Mountain Preserve off Sandia Creek Road; the Monserate Preserve; and the 14-acre Dinwiddie Preserve, with its half-mile loop trail. Get more information about the Fallbrook Land Conservancy preserves at

Find Fallbrook history downtown

Fallbrook’s roots go very deep. Originally part of the Monserate Rancho land grant owned by the Alvarado family, development began in 1858 when the Reche family farmsteaded the idyllic setting and named it Fall Brook after their Pennsylvania hometown.

Over the years, settlers bearing the names of Cornell, Ellis, Fox, Gird, Heald and Hindorf joined them, seeking opportunity. Members of their families are still here. Remnants of their early homes and business buildings in the heart of Fallbrook exist today. Stroll downtown and find them.

From Village Square at the intersection of Main and Alvarado (the site of Fallbrook Hardware, founded in the 1880s), walk east on Alvarado to the Wellness Spa. Portions of this building housed Watkins Bros. Livery Feed & General Jobbing in the 1800s.

Continue east to Vine and La Caseta Restaurant, situated in the Luther Maze home built in 1919. The stucco home adjacent was built in 1925 by James Potter, the first superintendent of the Fallbrook High School District.

Return along Alvarado to Main Avenue and turn right. From 1904 to 1927, the impressive Fallbrook Mercantile stood on this corner. It moved in 1928 to make way for Keller’s Pharmacy and, next door, the first Safeway Market to open in San Diego County. The two-colored brick building erected for those businesses is now occupied by retail shops.

Continue north to the Jackson Square building constructed in 1880, an important structure in Fallbrook’s commerce. It has housed a residence and post office, a boot maker, drugstore and notions and gifts. Cross Hawthorne, turn right, then look directly across the street at the Village Interiors building. Originally built as a movie theater in 1936, in 1953 it housed the Recreation Center Bowling Alley.

Return to Main and continue north to The Artery frame shop and remnants of the Masonic Temple, the oldest intact building remaining at its original location. It housed Fallbrook’s first public library.

Farther north, in the structure currently occupied by Village Vac & Sew, one of Fallbrook’s four early newspapers was found in 1919. Next door is the Mission Theater, built in 1949, where first-run films were shown into the 1970s.

Cross the street, then return south to Diva’s at the corner of Alvarado and Main. This pivotal location housed the Tomlin Hotel in the 1800s and later the Citizen’s Commercial Bank in 1913.

Continue south past the Art Center, formerly Harrison’s Pharmacy, to J.J. “Purty” Landers Irish Pub, located in the El Real Hotel building opened by the Ellis family in 1930, where at street level they operated a meat market. From that vantage point, look across the street to the Yogurt Palace and adjacent businesses located in a 1907 structure that housed Fallbrook’s telephone switchboard in the 1920s.

To discover more about other buildings that were part of Fallbrook’s early history, visit the Historical Society Museum at 260 Rockycrest Road.

Sources: “Fallbrook Historic Resources Inventory, 1991;” the Fallbrook Historical Society; the Fallbrook Land Conservancy; Elizabeth Yamaguchi.

Fallbrook wildland wisdom

• Use caution when hiking or walking Fallbrook trails.

• Watch for scorpions, rattlesnakes and mountain lions.

• Poison oak and stinging nettle abound off the trails in some areas.

• Pack out your trash and dog waste, and pick up after thoughtless people who don’t.

• Wear a hat, sturdy shoes and appropriate clothing. Carry water.

• It’s your job to preserve the beauty of the wilderness.


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