Pamo Valley is a beautiful, peaceful little valley that seems very isolated in spite of its closeness to nearby Ramona. Though you are within a few miles of town, you can no longer hear the sounds of the city, only an occasional car on Pamo Road.
The Pamo Valley section of the Coast to Crest Trail is slated to officially open on January 26, 2019. Contact the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority (www.SDRP.org) for details about this celebratory event. This organization was formed to conserve the natural habitat and to establish a trail in the San Dieguito River Valley that would extend 71 miles from Del Mar to Volcan Mountain. The multi-use trail is for hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders. About 50 miles of the trail have been completed with this latest addition.
This has been a much-awaited section of the trail that will connect the currently existing Lower and Upper Santa Ysabel Truck Trails, for a total continuous trail section of about 12 miles. Up until the time that this Pamo Valley section opened, all trail users had to use Pamo Road for approximately 3 miles. The trail option described here is 3.3 miles, and starts at the north end of the Pamo Valley section, where Upper Santa Ysabel Truck Trail and Pamo Road intersect. There is not extensive parking along the side of the road here, but parking and leaving a vehicle at the newly developed lot at the south end and carpooling minimizes the parking requirement at the north end. (Other option: you can do an out-and-back from the south end for 6.6 miles total.)
Starting at the north end then, walk up the Upper Santa Ysabel Truck Trail a short distance to the steel gate on the right side. From this gate, you can see the first of several bridges that have been constructed to make this trail easy to navigate. Note that there are several gates on this trail – please make sure the gates are closed behind you. As you proceed down the trail, you will be walking through grasslands that give a sense of openness. While the City of San Diego owns the majority of land in Pamo Valley, it is being leased for grazing, so look out for cow pies on the trail! Numerous ground squirrel dens dot the area, which means you should be on the lookout for the many raptors that hunt in this type of landscape. Also, you may see signs of coyotes, rabbits, and snakes, among other wildlife.
Most of the plants in the grasslands are native and non-native grasses, with an occasional Coast Live oak providing shade. You will see clumps of California buckwheat, California fuchsia, and other natives alongside the trail.
After about 1.5 miles, the trail crosses to the west side of Pamo Road. Here you will get the first close-up views of the riparian zone along Temescal Creek, and if you are lucky, you may see some deer. Take your time to view the large old live oaks and sycamores, along with the numerous birds (scrub jays, acorn woodpeckers, and raptors, among many other smaller species) that make the riparian zone home. After a short distance, the trail comes back to Pamo Road at a creek crossing. The trail crosses a side creek on the road surface, so look out for cars. Once across the creek, pick up the trail again on the left side of the road.
The southern end of the trail is a bit more hilly, although not particularly challenging, with several locations providing shade. There are numerous trail bridge crossings along this section. The habitats here are a mix of sage scrub, oak woodland, and grassland. Visit in the late winter and spring to get the best wildflower display. Also in this section, make sure to take in the view across the creek to the west. You will have a view of the Orosco Ridge, which is predominated by chaparral with a few monoliths pointing skyward.
Finally, the trail drops back down along another creek and comes back to Pamo Road. You will again use the road surface to cross Santa Ysabel Creek and come up on the right side of the road to arrive at the parking lot.
PAMO VALLEY (San Dieguito River Park)
Explore this newly completed link on the Coast to Crest Trail.
Driving directions: (Ramona) From CA-67, go north on 7th Street for 0.2 mile. Turn right on Elm Street. Go 1.4 miles. Turn right on West Haverford Road. Go 0.1 mile. Turn left on Pamo Road and go 2.4 miles. Parking lot/staging area is on the left. Hiking length: 3.3 miles one-way. Allow 2 hours. Difficulty: Easy. Elevation gain/loss less than 100 feet. Hikers/walkers, mountain bikes, and equestrians allowed.