Difficulty G Distance 0 to 2 miles Rating: 7-8 San Diego County - Mountains & Eastern county Season: All year

Doane Nature Trail (Palomar Mountain State Park)


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Ponderosa Pines on the Doane Nature Trail
Ponderosa Pines on the Doane Nature Trail
Incense Cedar tree on the Doane Nature Trail
Incense Cedar tree on the Doane Nature Trail

Doane Nature Trail (Palomar Mountain State Park)

  • Location:  Palomar Mountains in northeastern San Diego County.  From I-15 at Fallbrook, take highway 76 east for 21 miles, and take a left on county road S6.  Follow it for 6 1/2 miles and take a left on S7 (signed for the park).  Drive 3 miles and enter the park, where a $8 per day fee is charged.  At the first intersection, turn right and drive 1.8 miles to the Doane Pond day use area, making a right turn at the only intersection along the way.  The road is narrow and drops off sharply, so be careful.
  • Agency: Palomar Mountain State Park
  • Distance: 1.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 150 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes
  • Best season: All year
  • USGS topo map:  “Boucher Hill”
  • Recommended gear: insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Description here; video of the trail here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Doane Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
0:00 – Doane Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This trail packs more scenery in a mile than can be found in many longer trails. Highlights include Ponderosa pines, oaks, a huge incense cedar, a trickling stream and green meadows.

0:03 - Footbridge and paved road crossing (times are approximate)
0:03 – Footbridge and paved road crossing (times are approximate)

From the parking area, look for the signed Doane Nature Trail, leaving from the southwest corner of the lot. Pick up an informative brochure which will describe some of the sights along the way, indicated by numbered sign posts.

0:05 - Stream crossing
0:05 – Stream crossing

You follow the trail into the woods, crossing a sketchy-looking but secure footbridge and picking up the path on the opposite side of the paved road. The trail crosses the stream and continues into a thick forest of pines, oaks, fir and cedar.

0:11 - Stay right at the junction with the Weir Trail
0:10 – Stay right at the junction with the Weir Trail

At 0.3 miles, stay right as the Weir Trail branches off. You cross the stream again, and shortly after passing by a giant incense cedar, the trail enters an open meadow. You follow a staircase past some Ponderosa pines (unfortunately, damage from bark beetles is evident) and a black oak that was burned in a 1987 wildfire.

0:21 - Meadow view on the Doane Trail
0:21 – Meadow view on the Doane Trail

Continuing through another meadow, you meet up with the French Valley Trail. Turn right and cross a bridge to reach the end of the loop, at the Doane Valley Campground. Here, you’ll turn right and follow the paved road back to the day use area.

0:25 - Fire damaged black oak on the Doane Trail
0:25 – Fire damaged black oak on the Doane Trail

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

0:35 - Bridge to the campground at the end of the Doane Trail
0:35 – Bridge to the campground at the end of the Doane Trail
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