Felicita Park provides a nice mix of easy-walking loop trails with negligible elevation conducive for young children in strollers and any fitness level. The ancient towering oaks provide shade, making this 53-acre fenced county park a restful, safe hike any time of year.
The Kumeyaay people lived and raised their families here. As you walk the trails, stop a moment or rest on a bench and imagine your role in this oldest Indian Felicita Prehistoric Village. You could be savoring a meal of rabbits, deer, or woodrat stew along with acorn mush and a refreshing drink from
crushed berries gathered by the children from a nearby lemonadeberry bush.
The park was named after a Kumeyaay woman, Felicita La Chappa, who lived in the San Pasqual Valley until she died in 1916. Her Kumeyaay name was Hal-ah-wee, and she was the daughter of a clan leader named Pontho. Benjamin Sherman wrote a romanticized story that was performed as the Felicita Pageant in the park from 1928 to 1931.The Felicita Prehistoric Village Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.
The loop trail along the stream near Picnic Area 7 leads you to a rocky area with metate, grinding holes where women with manos, a smooth-held stone, would grind acorns as part of food preparation. Only in California were acorns the staple food that fed three-fourths of the native population. The nearby stream provided the water source used in leaching the tannic acid from the ground acorns. Watch for western fence lizards and chipmunks scurrying across the rocks.
Near the waterfall, look to see if a great egret is standing motionless looking to spear a lunch of fish or frogs. Great egrets have all white feathers, yellowish-orange bills, plus long black legs and feet. They feed in both freshwater and saltwater habitats and place their stick nests high in trees in colonies often close to water. During the summer breeding season, look for a green patch of skin from the top of the great egrets’ beak to just around their eye that helps attract a mate.
Along the the Upper Knoll Trail near the wedding pavilion, cup your ears to hear calls and songs of phoebes, woodpeckers, and mockingbirds. Observe the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds flitting among buckwheat, sage, and laurel sumac bushes.
Note that the museum by the stage is only open to groups with reservations. On several weekends in the spring and fall, the park hosts the Renaissance Faire. Go to sdparks.org for activities and programs at all San Diego County Parks.
742 Clarence Lane, Escondido
Felicita County Park
Distance from downtown San Diego: 28 miles (Escondido). Allow about 30 minutes driving time. From northbound I-15, take the Via Rancho Parkway off-ramp (Exit # 27). Make a left-hand turn onto Via Rancho Parkway and drive 2 miles. At Felicita Road go right. The park entrance is in 1 mile on the left side of the road. From southbound I-15, take Felicita Road off-ramp. Make left turn on Citracado Avenue and then make a quick right onto Felicita Road. Take Felicita Road south for 1 mile. The park entrance will be on your right.
Hiking length: 2.5 miles of multi-use trails, wheelchair accessible. Good for beginners.
Difficulty: Easy, little elevation gain/loss. Restrooms, playgrounds, picnic tables, and barbeques, horseshoe pits, volleyball court, and a wedding pavilion. Leashed dogs, mountain bikes, and horses allowed on the trails.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to half-hour before sunset. Park closed on Christmas Day. Parking fee: $3 per vehicle collected at the entry gate. If over 62 years old, obtain free park pass at on-site ranger station (Phone: 760-745-4379).