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At 5,000 feet elevation on the flanks of Palomar Mountain, you'll find an environment that is very different than the rest of San Diego County.
The montane forests and meadows of Palomar receive 40 inches of precipitation a year, some of which falls as snow.
Moisture and cool temperatures, combined with abundant sunshine of Southern California, nourish an especially diverse community of plants and animals.
You’ll find an artist’s palette of colors in spring wildflowers and fall foliage, greenery that stays lush throughout the summer, snow-dusted slopes in winter, plus healthy mule deer and wild turkeys that browse year-round on the forage. One of the best spots to experience Palomar State Park’s nature is Doane Valley.
It’s a pocket of subalpine forest, meadows, and riparian ecosystems rarely found in Southern California.
The trails in Doane Valley wander through impressive old-growth forest and along spring-fed creeks.
You’ll enjoy cool shade among towering ponderosa pines, sprawling live oaks, shady alders, dark cedar groves, and lush understory. Lower Doane Valley has a small network of trails, and this loop uses sections of them all to make a nice tour of the area.
You can shorten the loop by cutting out French Valley Trail, or shorten even more by only hiking Doane Valley Nature Trail.
Begin on the Nature Trail from the parking lot at Doane Pond.
For the full loop, continue on Weir Trail and follow it to the Weir Historic Site, then backtrack to Lower Doane Trail.
Follow it a short way to the junction with French Valley Trail. French Valley is the adjacent valley of French Creek, which joins with Doane Creek to form Pauma Creek, on which the weir is located.
This valley is an excellent example of ponderosa savannah, an un-altered forest type characterized by broadly spaced, mature pines and open grassland.
A spur trail (not mapped) leads higher into the valley and into denser forest, which you can explore if you have time.
French Valley Trail eventually reconnects with Lower Doane Trail, then Doane Nature Trail to complete the loop.
If you are particularly interested in plant species along the trails, be sure to bring the Doane Valley Nature Trail self-guided brochure, freely available inside the park or as a digital copy online. Sources: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=637 http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/637/files/palomarmountain.pdf https://modernhiker.com/hike/hiking-lower-doane-valley-and-french-valley/ https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/637/files/DoaneValleyforWeb.pdf