14209 Hwy 76, Pala, CA 92059
Hours: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Thursday – Tuesday*
Pedestrian access is available from sunrise to sunset, daily. No public vehicle access or restroom availability on December 25.
*Closed Wednesdays and in August due to extreme heat
Acquired in 1973, Wilderness Gardens Preserve is the oldest Parks and Recreation open space preserve in San Diego County. Located in the picturesque San Luis Rey River watershed, the vast 737-acre preserve offers more than 4 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails, and is known as a birdwatcher's paradise.
Equestrians will appreciate the preserve’s staging area with picnic tables, portable restrooms and quick access to the trail system. The main trail is the most popular, and provides access to the preserve’s interior. The Alice Fries Trail is a half mile single-track trail that meanders near the San Luis Rey River. The Upper Meadow Trail provides a wonderful overview of the Preserve and San Luis Rey River corridor.
Wilderness Gardens is also home to the historic Sickler’s Grist Mill. Listed on the County Historic Resource Board’s list of historic places, the foundation of the Sickler’s Grist Mill is a remnant of North San Diego County’s rich agricultural history and testifies to the resilience of those who pioneered this valley. Additional historic accounts and photos of the mill are on display in the park ranger station.
Visitors are advised to bring plenty of drinking water, sturdy shoes and sunscreen as temperatures rise quickly.