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Lower Doane Valley And French Valley Hike
Hiking San Diego

Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike

  • 4.2 miles - Easy Effort
  • 2 Hours (Total)
  • 630 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 4,670 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

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.

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

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

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.

Gear 2022 8

I waste my time with lousy hiking gear so you don't have to. Only the winners get onto my gear page. There's no fluff, sponsorships, or promotions. It's just gear I personally use, have tested, and recommend. Right now I'm liking my inReach Mini 2, Garmin Epix, and Lone Peak 6 shoes.
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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

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Guides to Help You Navigate

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Here's what it looks like underneath.
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Hike straight as the Lower Doane Trail enters from the right.
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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!

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).

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