Wilderness Gardens Preserve


14209 Hwy 76
Pala, CA  92059
ThomBros: 409-E6

Hours:  8 a.m. - 4 p.m., Friday - Monday (closed Tuesday - Thursday) 
Pedestrian access available sunrise to sunset* daily, no public vehicle access or restroom availability on December 25.
*Closed in August due to extreme heat.

Park Phone: (760) 742-1631

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Note: Potable water is not available at the preserve; please bring plenty of drinking water.

Directions: From Interstate 15 take Highway 76 east for 9.5 miles. Wilderness Gardens Preserve will be on the right hand side of the highway.

Location Map

In the event of significant rain fall or an ongoing storm, Wilderness Gardens Preserve will not open due to swift water in the San Luis Rey River and inaccessible trails.  


  • Staging Area
  •  Portable Restrooms
  • Pond
  • Historic Grist Mill Foundation
  •  737 Acres

Acquired in 1973, Wilderness Gardens Preserve is the oldest County Parks and Recreation open space preserve. Located in the picturesque San Luis Rey River watershed, the preserve offers over 4 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails and is known as a birdwatcher's paradise. The preserve staging area provides picnic tables, portable restrooms and quick access to the trail system. The main trail is the most popular trail and provides access into the preserve interior. The Alice Fries trail is a .5 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 site. Listed on the County Historic Resource Board’s list of historic places, the Sickler Grist Mill foundation is a remnant of North San Diego County’s rich agricultural history and testifies to the resilience of those who pioneered the valley. Additional historic accounts and photos of the mill are on display in the park ranger station.

Bring potable water, sturdy shoes and sunscreen as temperatures rise quickly. 


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