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Explore the Easy-Going Trails of Wilderness Gardens Preserve near Pala in North San Diego County

Wilderness Gardens Preserve, a 676-acre jewel of county parkland near Pala in north inland San Diego County, encompasses the grounds of an old ranch -- the former retreat of Manchester Boddy, owner of a Los Angeles newspaper and developer of the renowned Descanso Gardens in Pasadena. As the years go by, the property looks less like a botanical showplace and more like the wilderness that its name suggests. Intermixed with live-oak woodland and sycamores lining the San Luis Rey River floodplain are surviving exotics such as eucalyptus, camellias, roses, holly, bottlebrush, pyracantha, and oleander.

You'll find the entrance to Wilderness Gardens on the south side of Highway 76, approximately ten miles east of Interstate 15. The park is currently open only on weekends, and there's a small charge for parking your vehicle there.

Picnic tables and benches abound in the park, both near the parking area and at several other shady locales. No more than three miles of walking suffices for a satisfying reconnaissance of the whole place. By following a gravel road past the ranger station (old ranch buildings), you'll reach a string of five shallow depressions, the first and largest of which stays filled through the dry summer season. Over 140 species of birds have been logged in the area.

From the main pond, you can head west along a looping path, less than one mile around, through a canopy of live oaks festooned with wild grapevines. Then, from the south shore of the pond, you can walk uphill on the Meadows Trail. This rock-lined path ascends along a shady ravine, swings across a sunny slope to skirt a hillside meadow, and finally descends toward your starting point, the parking area. You can look forward to witnessing a reawakening of the native and nonnative vegetation during the next four months, as the expected near-normal winter rainfall and early spring sunshine brings forth a profusion of new growth and flowering in the preserve.

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Wilderness Gardens Preserve, a 676-acre jewel of county parkland near Pala in north inland San Diego County, encompasses the grounds of an old ranch -- the former retreat of Manchester Boddy, owner of a Los Angeles newspaper and developer of the renowned Descanso Gardens in Pasadena. As the years go by, the property looks less like a botanical showplace and more like the wilderness that its name suggests. Intermixed with live-oak woodland and sycamores lining the San Luis Rey River floodplain are surviving exotics such as eucalyptus, camellias, roses, holly, bottlebrush, pyracantha, and oleander.

You'll find the entrance to Wilderness Gardens on the south side of Highway 76, approximately ten miles east of Interstate 15. The park is currently open only on weekends, and there's a small charge for parking your vehicle there.

Picnic tables and benches abound in the park, both near the parking area and at several other shady locales. No more than three miles of walking suffices for a satisfying reconnaissance of the whole place. By following a gravel road past the ranger station (old ranch buildings), you'll reach a string of five shallow depressions, the first and largest of which stays filled through the dry summer season. Over 140 species of birds have been logged in the area.

From the main pond, you can head west along a looping path, less than one mile around, through a canopy of live oaks festooned with wild grapevines. Then, from the south shore of the pond, you can walk uphill on the Meadows Trail. This rock-lined path ascends along a shady ravine, swings across a sunny slope to skirt a hillside meadow, and finally descends toward your starting point, the parking area. You can look forward to witnessing a reawakening of the native and nonnative vegetation during the next four months, as the expected near-normal winter rainfall and early spring sunshine brings forth a profusion of new growth and flowering in the preserve.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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