Doane Valley Nature Trail (Palomar Mountain State Park)

The Doane Valley Nature Trail in Palomar Mountain State Park is a beautiful little interpretive trail in the heart of Palomar. This short little hike takes you along Doane Creek (and across it several times), through towering cedars and pines, and along the edge of a meadow. This is a great choice if you have young children or non-hikers in your group and you want an easy stroll through some spectacular scenery. You can download an interpretive guide with information about various numbered exhibits you will find along the trail.

We started at the Doane Pond Day Use Parking area, the starting point for several great hikes in Palomar, as well as an excellent picnic spot. We found the trailhead on the western edge of the parking lot. The trail led downhill and crossed the shallow Doane Creek.

We followed the path a short way to another creek crossing. It was just a short hop across the flowing water, then up some wooden steps to the road.

We picked up the trail on the far side of the road, but not before snapping some pictures of a squirrel who was posing very nicely for us.

The trail led downhill to another creek crossing.

Tall cedars and pines surrounded us.

We enjoyed the cool, quiet of the shady woods and the sound of the creek burbling alongside us. Numbered posts dotted the trail, indicating items of interest that corresponded to the interpretive guide.

At .17 miles we came to a “Y” junction. The left fork leads to a longer loop that visits the Weir. We stayed right, following signs for the Nature Trail.

Another creek crossing awaited us just beyond the junction.

Soon, we emerged from the shady woods and found ourselves on the outskirts of a meadow.

We quickly re-entered the woods, and began a gentle ascent.

Cedars and oaks once again shaded the trail.

At a little over .5 mile, we crossed a wooden bridge.

A few more minutes brought us back to the meadow’s edge.

We found a large alligator lizard lying on the side of the trail. He didn’t move at all, we weren’t sure if he was naturally docile, torpid, or dead. We took our pictures and left him alone.

A little past .75 miles we came to a “Y” junction where our trail converged with the French Creek Trail. We stayed to the right, heading towards the campground.

A short way later we came to the end of the Nature Trail. From here, we turned right onto the paved road and followed it through the campground and back to the Day Use parking area.

Take I-15 north to the Via Rancho Parkway exit. Turn right onto E Via Rancho Parkway, continue as it turns into Bear Valley Parkway. Turn right onto E Valley Parkway, continue as it turns into Valley Center Road. Turn right onto CA-76 East. After approximately 6 miles, make a slight left onto S Grade Rd/Palomar Mountain Rd. Turn left onto S Grade Road, then turn left again onto State Park Road. Follow the road to the Park entrance where you will stop and pay your entry fee. Then follow the road down to the Doane Pond parking area. map

Total Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 150 feet
Dog Friendly?: Dogs not allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes not allowed
Facilities: Restrooms and water at trailhead
Fees/Permits: $10 per vehicle day use fee

For more information, visit:
California Department of Parks and Recreation – Palomar Mountain State Park
Friends of Palomar Mountain State Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo
Interpretive Trail Guide

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