San Diego: Santa Margarita River Trail

This 5.7-mile loop visits SoCal's last wild river in Santa Margarita Canyon, a refuge hosting numerous species of endangered birds and plants.
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This 5.7-mile loop visits SoCal's last wild river in Santa Margarita Canyon, a refuge hosting numerous species of endangered birds and plants.

--Mapped by Rajeev Jain

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 7.1

Waypoints

Scrub-lined Path

Location: 33.4049949645996, -117.226234436035

©Rajeev Jain

Stacked Rocks

Location: 33.4066390991211, -117.228897094727

©Rajeev Jain

Santa Margarita River

Location: 33.4127388000488, -117.241897583008

©Rajeev Jain

Dry Drainage

Location: 33.408821105957, -117.232521057129

©Rajeev Jain

Hillside

Location: 33.4085159301758, -117.21866607666

©Rajeev Jain

Lone Palm

Location: 33.4083404541016, -117.218841552734

©Rajeev Jain

Mortero

Location: 33.4112854003906, -117.214218139648

Marks left long ago by natives of the area. Used for grinding grain. ©Rajeev Jain

Along the River

Location: 33.4125633239746, -117.213737487793

©Rajeev Jain

Crossing

Location: 33.417667388916, -117.212417602539

©Rajeev Jain

SMT001

Location: 33.413330078125, -117.24169921875

Head S on boulder-strewn trail upstream along the meandering Santa Margarita River

SMT002

Location: 33.4107704162598, -117.239700317383

Skirt ridgeline above river through oaks and sycamores

SMT003

Location: 33.4090309143066, -117.232299804688

Path flattens on silty grade while river on L gurgles and twists through trees

SMT004

Location: 33.4062728881836, -117.228294372559

River curves around bend, and trail climbs above with breathtaking views of Red Mtn.

SMT005

Location: 33.4087104797363, -117.219200134277

Trail ascends slightly over moss-covered rocks set among feathery ferns; green-clad hillside rises to S where a lone palm sits atop the bare ridgeline

SMT006

Location: 33.4116401672363, -117.214897155762

Look on boulders for footprint-sized bowl depressions, called morteros, carved by native tribes to grind grain

SMT007

Location: 33.4123611450195, -117.214401245117

Head L off sandy dirt road bearing N

SMT008

Location: 33.4169883728027, -117.21199798584

Carefully ford Santa Margarita River and start veering SW on trail lined with tall yellowish-brown rock faces

SMT009

Location: 33.4073181152344, -117.222900390625

Trail narrows in lush riverside corridor

SMT010

Location: 33.4068908691406, -117.225799560547

Second river crossing near stacked boulder field; continue to WPT 4 and retrace route back to car