Barker Valley Spur Trail

MODERATE 44 reviews
#30 of 131 trails in

Barker Valley Spur Trail is a 7.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Warner Springs, California that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

7.1 miles
1,059 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash






nature trips






wild flowers



over grown



Trail is accessible by the Palomar Divide Truck Trail. Enter from the HWY 79 near Blue Canyon. NOTE: Do not attempt this hike if the gate to Palomar Divide Truck Trail is closed. This will add 8 miles to your hike.

30 days ago

the road was closed

3 months ago

Good and easy hike in, all uphill on the way out. Loose rocks. There was no water source when I went with my buddy. Very secluded and peaceful.

4 months ago

Easy 3.5 mile trek down to the valley where the camping areas are. A lot of loose rocks on the way down. Very limited shade on the way down and back up, but lots of shade in the valley. Perfect for a beginner backpacking trip, which it was for us!!

5 months ago

Don’t count on any water at the bottom of the hike in.

6 months ago

This review is more about car accessibility, dogs, water availability, and insects (especially bees).

Went on a little backpacking trip from 6/23-6/25/18. It was 80-85 degrees during the day and full sun. I brought my two very fluffy dogs with me and went 3 miles down the hill to the creek. I left the main trail and followed the trail to the left (south, downstream) one mile. One mile downstream there is a large oak perfect for climbing and very shady to set up multiple tents. And alright yes a campfire ring, but please DO NOT start a fire! Also there is a stone dam and tower and small sandy beaches to enjoy. To get there go just beyond the campsite, up and over the rocks. At the top is a lone cactus, at that point head down and walk along the creek to avoid the very steep hill down directly to the dam and tower. I saw 3 hikers total on my entire trip so a very secluded trail!!

There is minimal shade along the first 3 miles till you hit the creek. It is best to complete this portion of the hike before 930-10a. The shade is optimal then as the hill is basically west facing. The first mile or so has partial shade at least every 0.1 miles, then no shade for 1 mile, then spotty shade till the creek. It is gently sloping downhill, but nothing strenuous at all even on the way up. Took me two hours to do the 4 miles to the campsite and just under 2.5 hours back to the car. I did stop whenever the dogs wanted to and for however long they wanted. Walked at a very average pace.

Water- No water until one mile downstream (4 miles total). Currently there are several pools of water varying from 20 feet in length to only a few; they are up to 4 feet deep and are not flowing. Please be conservative and conscientious when using water to avoid washing any sunscreen, bug spray, and dish water into the pools. It is also very easy to mistakenly scoop up tadpoles, frog eggs, and fish! Critters of every size and class are trying to make it in and around there!

Car accessibility- I have a 2005 Hyundai Accent so low clearance and very compact. I did not find the road leading to the trail head to be very bad at all! Took me 50 minutes to go up and down since due to my vehicle I have to be very careful and thoughtful about how I drive up there. Definitely having a narrow car that allows me to use the whole road to avoid bad areas was very helpful and a wider car with similar clearance may have more problems.

Dogs (previous ER/ICU vet nurse here)- Do not attempt this hike if it is above 85 degrees with your dog especially between 10a-2p!! Bring bare minimum 1 liter of water just for each dog (just for this 3 mile portion) and let them have a good rest in every bit of shade and free choice water at all times. After heat, your next biggest enemy is foxtails!! Right now it is peak season and the meadow the oak tree campsite is in is filled with them! Check frequently especially deep in the toes. Dogs have died from going septic from them embedding themselves. They will creep up into the eyes, ears, nose, prepubis, everywhere!! I spent at least 6 hours removing them total. Did pick off a few mostly dog ticks (not a large prevalence of tick borne dz in SoCal), they have 2 month (out of 3 month) old Scalibor collars but they go in the water a lot.

Insects- Yes expect a constant buzz. Once a swarm finds you walking along the creek, you've got new friends. They were tolerable, but certainly disrupt mediation. The mosquitoes are not too bad just annoying flies. Far from ruined the trip for me! I found Honest brand bug spray (mostly essential oils) worked fairly well but needed frequent application. If you care about bees as I do, due to a severe allergy, then its not perfect but it could be worse. I attract bees like crazy! So I still had a few stalkers, but no stings. Wildflowers are currently in bloom the first 0.5 miles and then along the creek where there is water. The ones along the creek seemed basically too pre-occupied to pay me attention. A few got a little interested, but not for long. I felt comfortable knocking into the flowers that crossed the path even if bees were busy working on the bush. The ones to be worried about are the swarms on the little white poms in the first 0.5 mile of the trail. There are just so many bees and I believe close to a hive that they are more protective and I had quite the stalker for a while that made me nervous (...and forget my hiking poles in the car!).

Things I was glad I brought or wished I had:
- Bug spray
- Visor > sunglasses
- Sunscreen
- Chapstick
- Hiking poles- lots of loose gravel and small rocks on the trail that poles help balance and stabilize you
- Comb to help remove foxtails from dogs
- Way to clean water

Things you don't need:
- sleeping pad- quite comfy on the bed of oak leaves, not worth the weight

7 months ago

I just returned from my first backpacking trip and Barker Valley was the perfect choice. I received the recommendation from a friend and it did not disappoint.

Some notes: There was still a couple of feet of water left in the stream. It was hot during the day (95 degrees on the hike back up the 1,000 ft incline) and surprisingly cold at night. The bugs were pretty bad; make sure you bring a citronella candle for camp.

I did this overnight trip alone and the most striking thing about Barker Valley was how away-from-it-all it was. I didn't realize there were places so secluded left in San Diego County; no cell reception and there was no one else out there. It was exactly what I wanted in a backpacking trip.

The best part was seeing the Milky Way in all its glory; I haven't seen it in years.

7 months ago

The road is open as of writing this, we spent two nights on this trail over Memorial Day Weekend. Wonderful trail with incredible views. Some key notes:

Water: The stream has plenty of water to filter.

Fire: Camping stoves only at this point.

Bugs: Experience a few no-see-ums in the shade, but nothing drastic or unbearable, and we didn't have spray.

Fishing: Not sure why All Trails says you can fish it, there are no fish in this stream.

Make sure to get a pass from the Forest Service, it's free and very very easy.

Full review is here and directions on how to plan:

9 months ago

The road was open on 4/7/18. Lovely hike down. Plenty of water in the creek. Great camping with no bug issues. The last steep descent to get to the first pool below the little dam seemed too scary at first, but after getting to the little beach by crossing above the dam and fighting through the brush, I found I could climb up the steep section, and so we went back that way. Then we spent a wonderful afternoon down among the cascades. We swam across the big pool next to the little beach down there (not the beach by the dam), and then waded to the drop off and looked down! Cool. I had climbed up the ridge to the right of the dropoff to see if there was a way down and around, but didn't see anything likely. Took us 4 hours to hike out after an active day. My girlfriend's first backpack trip. A success!

Monday, January 15, 2018

This review is about leading up to Barker Valley Spur.

Google Maps took me through Half Way Rd, but DO NOT go through there, go down HWY 79 a bit further and turn into Palomar Divide Truck Trail.

There will be a gate. I got there on Jan 13, 2018 and the gate was closed. Unless if you're desperate or crazy, DO NOT hike from the gate, to the Barker Valley Spur trail head. Try to find another way (I believe there is another way since I saw a vehicle at the top of the hill). I made the mistake of hiking from the gate...

If you decide to hike from the gate, it's 8 miles of pure uphill. It starts off with some dirt terrain, then turns in concrete and back to dirt. This was brutal as it was literally all uphill for 8 miles (remember you have to hike 8 miles back). I'm relatively in shape but this took me about 4.5 hours to complete with a 30-40lb pack on. Google Maps estimates 4 hours by walking to get to the trail head but I don't think they incorporated breaks from the steep hill.

Once I got to the Barker Valley Spur trail head, the sun was setting so I hiked about 0.5 miles and found a camp spot. The next morning, my legs were pretty sore since I'm not use to hiking 8 miles of strictly uphill. I decided not to go down the trail since I would have to hike back up, and complete the additional 8 miles back to my car.

The 8 miles back was a lot faster since it was downhill, however, my feet took a toll since I was going downhill on mostly concrete.

I would recommend calling the district to find out whether or not the gate will be closed so you do not have to hike that additional unplanned 16 miles (round trip) like me.

Otherwise, the views along the Barker Valley Spur trail was beautiful and plenty of awesome spots to camp. I camped towards the beginning of the trail and woke up to beautiful view.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Pretty dry but nice views... relatively easy trail ... nice grade.. the trail gets a bit rocky toward the bottom but otherwise it was in great shape ... very little water but we wondered through the meadows and did some exploring . Nice camping spot ! SUV, truck, or vehicle with clearance needed for palomar truck trail portion .

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

We took our scout troop backpacking here last weekend. They boys read Stephanie Bradshaw's trail description and we found each marker (dry creek bed, meadow, large rock, cactus, weir) precisely as she described it. The boys thought it was a treasure hunt. There was no water in the creek but some incredible views. Of course it warmed up on the hike up and out which gave me plenty of opportunities to stop and admire the vistas. The observatory peaking above the ridgeline was an awesome sight! Will definitely come back in the spring to enjoy the water. Watch out for poison oak which was grown over the trail near the creek. Can someone please explain what the tower next to the river is for?

Friday, July 14, 2017

The road to the TH is now open (July 2017). The road to the TH does close sporadically during prescribed fire burns on Palomar Mountain, generally in the spring. Please call the Palomar Ranger District for up to date road closures and conditions at 760-788-0250. Additionally, this is a strenuous trail during the summer months and hiking is not advised.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

This was a fun but hot hike- not that this is unexpected in Mid June. The trail to the bottom of the dry stream bed is easy to follow. The trail changes from packed dirt, to sandy, to rock-filled, and back again many times down the path. Views are fantastic.

If you are looking to stay the night there are several great spots. The easiest spots to find are right after you cross the dry stream bed at the bottom of the hill. Within 1/2 a mile there are several great spots under trees where people have obviously camped many times before hand.

If you are feeling a little more adventurous and want to be close the water then I suggest another option. Stephanie Bradshaw's post gives a good description of another smaller foot path that goes left right before crossing the stream bed. Follow her advice and you will get to the water. The only thing I would add is that this is roughly another mile away and at times you might think you are almost lost. Yet keep following the path. Finally, you will come to a large meadow (400 yards+ long). At the end of the meadow is a large old oak tree that provides a great place to camp. I suggest dropping your bags at this spot and continuing on without your packs to the water.

Follow the path to the end of the meadow. You will be scrambling up some rocks and often it looks like it would be easier to go to the right. Based on some advice I received don't go right. Instead go left and as Stephanie suggested there will be one point where you simply climb over the rock. Once you get over the top keep going for another 100 feet and you will see the stream and dam down the hill. Its a little bit of a scramble down to the stream but a small little beach and a pool deep enough to swim in 3-4 feet will greet you.

I heard there are deeper pools further down the trail but I didn't explore them this trip

Monday, June 12, 2017

We had a great day on this trail -- once we finally got to the trailhead. First our GPS took us up a different dirt road where we eventually came to a locked gate. But then we got on the right road (take the 79 to Palomar Divide Road and that will get you to the trailhead). The road is partially paved and partially dirt, and our minivan has made it on much rougher roads than this without any problem, but when we were 2 miles short of the trailhead we happened to hit a rock in just the right way to cause a flat tire. We're grateful to Kyle the mountain biker who stopped and helped put on our spare tire! Since the trailhead was only 2 miles away, we drove very carefully up the rest of the road with our spare tire and still did the hike.

The road was open all the way to the trailhead as of 13 June 2017. Because of our difficulties on the road, we got there late and started in about 11:30am. It wasn't too hot out (high of about 75 degrees that day). The long descent downhill at midday without too much shade was a little hot for the dogs, but we kept giving them plenty of water to drink, and just pushed it and got down to the stream as soon as we could, and they were fine as soon as they could take a swim. The trail was easy to follow.

Once we got to the bottom of the hill at the dry stream bed we made sure to follow the little foot path to the left, rather than following the main trail crossing the stream bed to the right. There were so many comments from other hikers about this trail being really difficult to find and follow, but we didn't really have a problem. It is a narrow, winding foot path with grassy weeds growing along it -- but just keep an eye on the path and if you're in doubt take a moment to look around you'll see where the path continues. We took much longer on this portion of our hike than we had to, because after we stopped for lunch the kids insisted on putting on their water shoes and making their way downstream through the water. It was slow going, but the kids enjoyed it. Some of the rocks in the water were slippery, even with water shoes. On our return hike we stuck to the foot path the whole way back, and found it easy to follow.

Once you come to a meadow and then come to some rocks at the end of the meadow, climb up and over the top of the rocks (not around to the right side of the rocks closer to the stream). When you see a cactus at the top of the rocks (the only cactus we saw on the whole trail) you know you're going to right way. Just keep going straight and you will see a little path beyond the rocks, which will then lead down the little hill to the water at the small dam and the weir. The kids had fun climbing inside the weir, until they saw that there was a small beehive inside and they left it alone. There were a few spots here where it would be deep enough to swim, maybe even deep enough to jump from the rocks into the water.

We continued downstream and found gradually larger cascades over rocks and little waterfalls and pools, until we ended up at the top of a tall cascading waterfall with the rectangular pool in the rock just beside where the waterfall dropped down steeply. If we had gotten out there a lot earlier in the day we may have tried to find a way to carefully climb down to the pools below this falls -- I climbed the rocks to the top of the ridge to get a good view of the surrounding area, and could see some more pools further down stream around the bend. It looked very tempting to continue exploring more, but I didn't want to risk staying too late and having to drive down the mountain on the rocky road with our little spare tire in the dark, so we decided to leave that for another trip. (Maybe backpacking in and camping in the meadow before the weir, then having a whole day to explore around the water?)

We hiked back out, and stuck to the trails the whole way out. It took us 3 hours to get from the falls to our car. It's a long ascent at the end of the day when you're already worn out from a day of hiking & exploring, but it ended up being perfect timing as we hiked uphill in the late afternoon/early evening, arriving back at the trailhead at 7:30pm -- it would have been a lot less comfortable doing that in the heat of the day. (Our kids, age 8 to 13, are all very experienced hikers for their ages, but it was still pretty slow going for them as they were tired, and the trail just kept gradually going up and up and up). I personally thought it wasn't too bad hiking out up the hill, especially that time of day. But we did take occasional short rest breaks for the kids, so I defiantly wasn't straining myself at that pace.

Fortunately for us, the bugs were not a problem like some previous hikers had experienced. We carried bug spray, but never had to take it out of our packs and use it. We only saw a couple of bikers and a motorcyclist on the dirt road the whole way to the trailhead, and passed no one on the road the whole way out. We spent 8 hours out

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

1) the road was open on 5-28-17
2) nothing is well marked; not roads, not trail... so pay attention
3) you can only get there from 79, not the 76
4) insects - abundant and unrelenting

I read that "bugs" were a problem so armed With a bottle of deet and some all natural pet spray for our dogs we headed out. As soon as we exited our vehicle at the trail head we were swarmed by bees and flies, we scrambled to get our gear together and make our way down thinking they would let up but it wasn't until we made it almost to bottom some 2 1/2 miles down that they finally abated... horrible!!!

Unfortunately we didn't read enough reviews regarding the waterfall location and we turned right heading towards the meadows - needless to say we never did find the pools or falls. The trail was a bit difficult to follow at times but we did see two main campsites. Since we kept pushing farther along the trail passing through dry riverbed after riverbed trying to find the waterfall we ended up just camping at the second one since it was the first one as we made our way back from the stream... (in hindsight I would have opted for the first one, much more flat and lush - not just hard dirt).

Setting up camp was quick with the exception of the never ending supply of annoying insects... the mosquitoes were plentiful but I think our deet did the trick to keep us bite free, then there were the ticks - flicked one off my clothes, watched a few climbing on outside of our tent... but the real nuisance were the FLIES, they were RELENTLESS!!! Covered in deet, with a shirt wrapped around my head (to block my ears) we were done "experiencing nature" and by 5pm we zipped ourselves into the safety of our tent going out only when absolutely necessary.

We started packing up the next day just after 5am, we hoped to beat the bugs and the heat. For the most part our plan worked but it was a slow moving hike back up for my out of shape rump and the older of our two dogs. We were bug free until about the last mile and then it was right back to swarming proportions... we just couldn't escape them. Finally at the trail head we threw our gear in as quickly as possible and heading down the road a couple miles before we situated ourselves!! In all of my hiking and camping I have NEVER experienced ANYTHING LIKE THAT!!! Never again, at least not at this time of year!!!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

This is some misleading trail info. It's not as easy to get to as everyone says. At least not right now. The gate to get to Palomar truck divide road is closed to vehicles. So. That means to get to the trail head you have to go 8 miles on a steady incline to close to 5000 feet to get to the actual Barker Spur Trail, which with a pack filled with overnight camp gear takes forever and is a bit strenuous. Especially for dogs. It took me close to 8 hours to get to the trail head. It was quickly becoming dark as I made my decent into the valley and I ended up camping on the ridge in the middle of the trail. Lame. So. Unless you want to repeat my mistakes, don't attempt if the road isn't open. And it won't be till they are done with all the controlled burns they are doing out here.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

one of my favorite hikes going down to the valley is different I would love to back pack and camp down there .

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Road to the trailhead closed 2-8-17

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trail is pretty well maintained and an easy descent and ascent. Scenery was okay, nothing super inspiring. There was no water innthe riverbed on 11.12.16.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

We did an overnight in October during a drought. There was some water in spots. Definitely going back after the rains. The waterfalls would be beautiful when the river is flowing.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Enjoy this trail. Have been here a few times camping (don't forget to get your visitors permit for overnight) and have been the only person in the valley. Doesn't seem like a heavily traveled trail. Make sure to bring plenty of water or a good filter, and watch the weight you bring in.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Great two day trip with our Boy Scout trip. The climb out was a bit steep but it was not that bad to handle. There was very little water in the river and it has turned into somewhat of a marsh now. Camp sites aren't clearly marked except for sticks with bike reflectors on them. Great hike though, stunning views of the surrounding Palomar Mountain area.

Friday, February 13, 2015

trying to find out more info on this place. Can't seen to find info on barker valley spur. Does it cost anything? If we are backpacking and camp out can we make camp anywhere? Any information would be great thank

Monday, July 21, 2014

No water flowing in the River. There is a small water hole to filter water out of a few yards from the eastern fork.

Although there is no water or swimming holes to enjoy, the valley is still a great place to do a quick and fun overnighter. It's beautiful and serene with not to many bugs (since there is no water)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My wife and I hiked in and camped overnight. I was looking for a short backpacking trip that wouldn't be too challenging for her. This fit the bill nicely. We packed in eight liters of water, not knowing if the stream in the valley would be running, but I also brought an MSR water filter. Turns out that there is plenty of clear running water in the stream in April even during a low-rainfall year like this one, so we had plenty of water. The hike in and out is completely dry, so you'll want to bring plenty of water for the hike. In the summer, I imagine it can be a very hot hike, but there are many shady camp sites up and down the valley.

Once you get down to the valley, you can go to the right upstream to a large meadow, where there are a number of nice places to camp. Turning left and heading downstream, you follow a well-worn but sketchy trail that involves some steep scrambling that would be a challenge with a heavy backpack. If you are up to the challenge, you'll end up in a nice meadow with several excellent camp sites about a mile downstream. At the end of the meadow, the stream enters a granite gorge with several large pools suitable for swimming and some waterfalls. There were quite a few people at the waterfall when we were there.

We ran into a group of young backpackers who camped in the meadow just above the waterfalls, a Boy Scout troop that was camped above us in the trees at the edge of the big meadow upstream and about eight hunters who were trying to bag wild turkeys. Even so, our campsite felt completely isolated.

Barker Valley faces southeast towards Lake Henshaw. There are no city lights to pollute the night sky, so you can see an amazing number of stars on a moonless night. I woke up at around 2 a.m. to see the Milky Way stretching across the sky. It's a stunning sight that most city dwellers never experience.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I gave 3 stars b/c I didn't see the springs as being as useful as I'd have liked. Maybe I just got my hopes up for a swim... Definitely a peaceful place for camping though! Only one road up is still open and that's road. 9S07 and is 2 miles passed the town of Sunshine Summit on the right. Don't be dumb like me and underestimate how much water you need to bring. The way there is all downhill, so bring a ton! You can always pour out what you don't need before heading back. I'll tell you the uphill hike is painful with drymouth!

Monday, June 25, 2012

All in all, a great trail!

Off the 79, the entrance to this trail takes some work to get to. You have to drive on a rugged road (some paved and unpaved areas) to get to the trail head. It was about 8 miles off 79.

Once on the trail, it descends into the valley. When you reach the dry river bed, take the trail to your left (east) instead of crossing the river bed to the meadow. As you follow the river east, it'll open up onto another meadow. There are a few camp sites on the way and also a nice one in the meadow. We stayed here over night and it was very enjoyable. We did see a snake in the field but it stayed away from us.

If you want to see the falls, continue following the trail east out of the meadow and the last camp site. The trail seperates shortly thereafter; look for the trail that goes UP over the rocks. If you follow the trail along the river, it's rough and hard to navigate. If you find the trail over the rocks, it takes you to the first part of the falls. Continue following the water and you'll find several pools you can swim in.

Beware! The pool I swam in had leeches! Swim at your own risk.

Some parts of the path are rocky and covered in brush.

Monday, June 04, 2012

This hike is awesome! Really mellow graded trail with a few rough patches. When you finish the trail you end up in an enormous meadow. I'm sure this trail would be even better to do in the spring. If you do plan to do this hike in the summer, be prepared for some heat. For the majority of the hike there is little to no shade. Bring plenty of water, however there is a small stream at the end of the trail when i went in June. But the water would definitely need some filtration. Also if you plan to go during the summer take some sort of bug repellent.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Be sure to find the correct road for this trail: 9S07 - its a much faster an easier drive than what Google Maps might try to send you up.

The trailhead wasn't marked by anything other than a blank 'information'board. We parked opposite that and hiked down from there. It was Easter Sunday and we did not see a single other person or car from the moment we turned onto the dirt road from Rt. 79.

The trail is rocky is some places and narrow in others, which made me especially careful to watch for rattlers. Didn't see any, but i'm sure they're out there.

When we got to the stream, we did NOT cross - instead we continued on the trail and followed the water down to where the two streams connect.

There are two campsites located in a field near the stream about 3/4 of a mile down from the first stream.

When you get to the rocky area near the larger stream - there is a PATH that is slightly hidden in the rocks, that goes up and around the rocky areas - we missed this and instead tried climbing along the rocks along the stream to reach the pools. NOT a good idea - full of prickery bushes and vicious ants.

All in all this was a good trail, but we ran out of daylight and didn't get to see what we were hoping to see - we were hoping for bigger falls and bigger pools but i don't think we made it far enough. Will definitely be back - with camping gear!

If anyone has camped in this area, i'd like to hear from you about tips and experiences

2 months ago

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