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Lower Doane Valley And French Valley Hike

Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike
  • How to Get to the Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations
Total Distance (?)4.2 miles (6.8 km)
Hike Time2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)630 feet (192m)
Highest Elevation4,670 feet (1423m)
Fees & PermitsEntry Fee
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)Palomar Mountain State Park
Park Phone760-742-3462
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The hike through Lower Doane Valley and French Valley at Palomar Mountain State Park is a gem; every twist and turn offers something natural and beautiful. You’ll follow the lush Doane Creek, hike through groves of giant trees, across mountain meadows, visit a historic weir, and find a hidden pool of French Creek. There are ups and downs, but no big mountain climbs on this short 4 mile hike.

Doane is pronounced doe-n.

Where is the Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike?

The hike is located in Palomar Mountain SP. Drive into the park and follow the signs for Doane Pond. There’s also a (private) retreat by the pond that might be more GPS-friendly. Use this trailhead address:
Camp Palomar, 34798 Doane Valley Rd, Palomar Mountain, CA 92060

There is an entry fee to enter Palomar Mountain State Park.

Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 40
Look for the Doane Pond Day Use Area turnoff.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 41
The parking lot is massive.

Gear For the Hike

While not long, this is a hike through the backcountry. The trail is overgrown in places; having long pants will protect your legs. In the summer, insects can be intense, bring repellant. And in the winter, this can all be covered with snow. Check the weather before you go.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Latest Price
REI | Amazon

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.

My October 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Trail Maps

Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 37
There are unofficial trails in the meadow area of the hike. Stay on the official trail (as described here) and respect the restoration.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 38
The very beginning and end of the hike are on the Doane Valley Nature Trail, which has interpretive displays along the way. You can download the PDF to follow along here.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 39
On the second half of the hike you’ll see evidence of the massive 2007 Poomacha Fire, which destroyed 65% of the park. It was started when a vehicle fire spread into the surrounding vegetation.

The trails on this hike are relatively easy to follow, and there are trail markers and signs along the way. That said, some maps include trails that are no longer there or that are closed for restoration. Following the maps from this guide will keep you on the official trails. There’s also a handy map that the park gives out that’s worth saving on your phone.

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

3D Map

Lower Doane Valley And French Valley Hike 3d Map
We’ll do the loop in a clockwise direction around Lower Doane Valley, with the first stop being the historic weir. Then we’ll head into French Valley and see the hidden pool. On the way back, we’ll skirt the other side of the meadow to the start.

Who’s Doane?

George Edwin Doane 2
Here’s George Edwin Doane (1851-1929) in his namesake valley, around 1904.

Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 42
There are two trailheads at the parking lot. Take the smaller one on the right.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 43
Here’s what the trailhead looks like up close.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 44
Our first stop will be the weir in 1.2 miles.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 45
Right at the beginning the trail crosses the road that you came in on.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 46
There’s a short downhill.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 47
And then you are plunged onto a lush trail following Doane Creek. It doesn’t feel like you are anywhere near San Diego.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 48
You’ll hike under huge pines, cedars, and oaks as the trail follows the creek.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 49
At the junction with the Weir Trail, make the left and climb the stairs.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 50
Here’s the sign from the last junction. 0.9 miles to the weir.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 51
The trail has the same feel as it did before, continuing along the creek.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 52
I love this primitive bench along the trail.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 53
Right after the bench, the Baptist Trail joins from the left. Keep straight.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 54
And then you’ll get glimpses of the meadow in Lower Doane Valley.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 55
The trail crosses the creek and then splits. Take the left to visit the weir. We’ll come back here after visiting the weir to continue on the loop.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 56
There’s a trail marker for the Weir Trail.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 57
And then it gets very overgrown. This trail doesn’t see a ton of traffic.

Keep your eyes open for banana slugs along the water and rocks. They are found widely in the Pacific Northwest down to the Sierras, but not in SoCal, except in this isolated pocket of Palomar State Park. This moist area is a good spot to catch a glimpse of one.

Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 58
After a short while you reach the weir, where Pauma Creek joins Doan Creek.

The weir (a low or small dam) and the building, which is called a gauging station, were built in the early 1900 hundreds. They were built by Pacific Light and Power Company to determine if there was enough water flow to support a hydroelectric generator and reservoir in Doane Valley. The power station would provide electric power for trains in the lowlands. It never happened.

Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 59
Head back to the last junction and make the left to continue the hike.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 60
The trail is grassy but easy to follow, and there are periodic trail markers.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 61
When you get to the junction, make the left onto the French Valley Trail.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 62
Now you’ll be hiking through the middle of the meadow.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 63
At the junction, go straight.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 64
And shortly after that a trail will join from the right. We’ll be going back on that trail.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 65
Keep hiking into Lower French Valley.

French Valley is named after Hubert and Jean Baptiste Foussat, homesteaders and sheep farmers who lived here in the 1880s.

Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 66
Hike through the gully.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 67
Then head up French Valley as it narrows. To your left is French Creek.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 68
When the valley narrows, look for a small turnoff to the left.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 69
Right after the turnoff, make the left at the boulder.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 70
And here you are at the hidden pool. In the winter and spring, there will be water flowing down French Creek is small cascading waterfalls. On the day that I created this guide, I could see decent sized fish in the pool.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 71
From the pool, return to the trail. You can keep going straight, but the trail peters out and officially ends when the state park ends at the border of Cleveland National Forest (as seen here). Otherwise just turn around and head back to Lower Doane Valley.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 72
When you get to the v-shaped split, make the left. We came up on the righthand trail.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 73
The trail moves away from the meadow into the forest.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 74
Hike through the oaks and pines in this shaded section.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 75
And then there is an incredible tree laying on its side. I don’t know if it grew like this or fell, but it’s incredible. Hike underneath it.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 76
Here’s what it looks like underneath.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 77
Hike straight as the Lower Doane Trail enters from the right.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 78
There’s some more beautiful shaded sections.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 79
And then make the hard right onto the Doane Valley Nature Trail.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 80
Follow this down and back towards Doane Creek.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 81
There’s a bit of a downhill.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 82
Enjoy all the beautiful (and huge) cedars here.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 83
And then after crossing Doane Creek you reach the junction where we turned off for the weir. Hike back the way we came in from here.
Doane Valley French Valley Hike Directions 84
And after a short climb you’ll be back at the parking lot. That’s the hike!

This guide last updated on September 28, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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