It’s not often you find a 46-acre freshwater marshland gem hidden between a busy highway and a suburban neighborhood. Thank the Fallbrook Conservancy for Los Jilgueros Preserve and its tranquil 2-mile perimeter loop that’s a boon for bird enthusiasts. Start exploring from the eastern trailhead. Sycamores, oaks, bird houses, and authentic 1920s farm equipment line the wide path, which is adjacent to green grassy fields that provide a contrast to the wetland dominating the area. This park is especially rewarding for birders, who will find their first treat after just over half a mile. Here at the northernmost point of the park lies a nifty little pond that is home to a surprisingly large variety of winged specimens, including wood ducks, mallards, coots, and snowy egrets. Continue along the north fence to the Firescape Demonstration Garden, showcasing native drought-resistant plants. Ahead, next to a red-tailed hawk sculpture, you’ll find a two-way junction. Take the westernmost path for a boardwalk over the marsh.
BONUS BRUNCH: Just up the road is the 30-acre Grand Tradition Estate and Gardens, where you can enjoy brunch, numerous waterfalls, a heart-shaped lake (yes, lots of weddings here!), and beautiful garden varieties. Gardens entry is $7.50, open 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every day—call ahead in case of a special event.
Los Jilgueros Preserve is off of Mission Rd., north Fallbrook High School (Stage Coach Lane). Look for a sign and turn-in for the park on the east side of Mission Rd. To get to the gardens, continue north on Mission for a block and turn right on Grand Tradition Way. The preserve is dog-friendly!