Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||4.2 miles (6.8 km)|
|Hike Time||2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||630 feet (192m)|
|Highest Elevation||4,670 feet (1423m)|
|Fees & Permits||Entry Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Palomar Mountain State Park|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
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.
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 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
Altra Lone Peak 6
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 Terraventure 3 or 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. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
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.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.
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
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.
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.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. 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 7 or Epix. 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.
- Doane’s forefathers were one among the first English settlers, arriving in Plymouth in 1630, just 10 years after the Mayflower first landed.
- Originally from the San Jose area, George Edwin Doane lived several years around San Diego before getting a homestead for the valley in 1885.
- In 1894 Doane started advertising for campers on his property. The fee was $0.15 a night.
- Known to be social and humorous, Doane became as much as an attraction as the beautiful surroundings. He would host bonfires, tell stories of mountain life, and bake cakes and treats.
- And now the not so charming part. In 1904, at the age of 53, he married a 16 year old from Texas that he met through a matrimonial magazine (yes, a mail order bride). The marriage lasted ten years before divorce. Shortly after that, Doane was arrested on charges of raping a 12 year old girl. The charges were dropped after Doane paid the girl $1500 cash.
- With his reputation tarnished, Doane moved to a town by the Mexican border, then traveled to South America, where he planned on staying. He lasted a few months before sailing back the USA, this time to New York City.
- Doane became the celebrity mountain man in New York, with his long beard and wilderness pedigree. He was interviewed in several newspapers and well-known.
- From there, it’s a bit anti-climatic. Doane lived in New Mexico, and then passed away at the age of 78 in the area where he was born, San Jose, of pneumonia.
Lower Doane Valley and French Valley Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.
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.
French Valley is named after Hubert and Jean Baptiste Foussat, homesteaders and sheep farmers who lived here in the 1880s.
This guide last updated on May 18, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.