Monserate Mountain

Monserate Mountain is one of a number of beautiful Preserves managed by the Fallbrook Land Conservancy. The trail takes a no-nonsense approach up the west side of the mountain through the typical mix of chaparral and coastal sage scrub, leading to panoramic vistas of Fallbrook’s avocado orchards, the Pacific Ocean, and surrounding mountains. Because the trail is steep and exposed, it is best enjoyed in the cooler temperatures of fall, winter, and spring.

We arrived mid-morning and found the parking area about 2/3 full. The trail was busy, but not overly crowded. It was clear this was a popular spot for a those seeking an enjoyable outdoor workout. Across the road from the parking area was a wide dirt path blocked by a chain – our trailhead. From the road, the rocky trail began to ascend almost immediately.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7031

After .1 mile we passed through an open gate (which is locked at night.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7033

From here the trail wound along the steep mountainside. The trail was wide and easy to follow, but was very rocky and heavily eroded in sections.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7037

It didn’t take long before we had some great views of our starting point.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7038

We continued to ascend the steep rocky trail, cautiously watching our footing.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7047

The trail soon leveled out a bit and we found even more awesome views facing south.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7054

Around .9 miles we met a roughly paved road. A wooden trail marker pointed us left to the summit.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7060

Heading uphill, the pavement soon disappeared and once again we found ourselves on a rocky dirt road. The mountain side was covered in green chaparral.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7068

A bit beyond the 1 mile mark we found another wooden post marking a side trail named “Red Diamond.” There looked to be a reasonable sized network of trails in the area the might merit future exploration, however today we continued straight along the road to reach the summit.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7069

We continued uphill for another tenth of a mile or so before the road leveled out, offering a brief reprieve to our calves.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7073

We found another side trail, this one marked “Canoninta Trail,” and once again we maintained our course for the summit.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7075

The trail began climbing uphill again, and we noticed a handful of wildflowers blooming on the edge of the trail.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7085


At the top of the rise, around the 1.5 mile point, we found an unmarked side trail leading off to the left up the mountainside to the summit.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7091

Turning up this trail, we made one final steep ascent to the top where we found an elaborate pile of rocks marking the summit. There was also a metal box containing a peak register and assorted goodies.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7104

As we stood, catching our breath and taking in the view, we saw a pair of turkey vultures glide in from the southeast and begin circling overhead. Sure, we were breathing a little hard, but I really didn’t think we were in bad enough shape for the carrion eaters to be interested.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7132

Gradually, the vultures gracefully drifted to the north, and we turned our attention to the expansive 360 degree panoramic view that was our reward for the steep climb.20150216MonserateMtnDSC_7101





 After a rest, we headed back down the way we had come.

From I-15 north, take the CA-76 exit toward Pala/Oceanside/Bonsall. Turn left onto CA-76 west, and after approximately .4 mile turn right onto Old Highway 395. Follow Old 395 for 2.6 miles and turn right onto Stewart Canyon Drive. Pass under the freeway and turn right onto Pankey Road, where you will find a dirt parking area immediately on your right. The trailhead will be on the left (east) side of Pankey Road. map

Total Distance: 3.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Total Ascent: 1150 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Fallbrook Land Conservancy – Monserate Mountain Preserve

Map of our route:
Monserate Mountain map

One thought on “Monserate Mountain

  1. Come out and hike with us on Sept. 12, 2015 for our 5th Annual 9/11 Memorial Hill Climb.