Fallbrook is the self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world, with an annual April festival celebrating the fruit. But that’s not its only unique distinction. It’s also home to the very last un-dammed, un-diverted, un-channeled river (in other words, nearly untouched by man) in Southern California! This rare natural SoCal gem lies in the Santa Margarita Preserve, where a 6.5-mile hike follows and crosses the river. Start with a traverse through a shady riparian environment full of live oaks, cottonwoods, and willows (there’s poison oak, too; keep an eye out). Numerous river crossings keep things interesting, and at one point you’ll encounter an option to loop back to the lot, which would trim your hike in half. But if you continue on, you’ll enjoy countless sandy banks that make for a beach kind of day. Sunbathe and splash around! Spring is an especially wonderful time to visit, as dragonflies and giant swallowtail butterflies dance around purple fiesta flowers and prickly pear cactus blossoms. At just past the 3-mile mark, flood effects in this El Niño year will cause you to essentially run out of trail, your cue to turn around and head back the way you came.
Santa Margarita Preserve is on De Luz Rd. just north of Fallbrook. Dog-friendly!