The low rolling hills of Pauma Valley, located in North County off Interstate 15, have been home to Native Americans for centuries. Pauma is a Luiseño word meaning "I bring water” or “a place where there is water,” in reference to the San Luis Rey River that flows through the valley.
The town of Pala grew up around the Mission San Antonio de Pala. Established in 1816 as an extension of the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, it’s the only mission in the San Diego area that continues to provide services to the native population. It is open to the public, and there is a daily Mass.
Located in the picturesque San Luis Rey River watershed, Wilderness Gardens Preserve is the oldest County Parks and Recreation open-space preserve. With more than four miles of hiking trails, the 737-acre park is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Acquired in 1973 as the first open-space preserve in the park system, the land contains historical evidence of the Luiseño people, who settled the area more than 10,000 years ago.
Owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology since 1949, the Palomar Observatory is home to five telescopes, including the 200-inch Hale telescope. The observatory and visitor center are open daily to the public. The viewing station is active every clear night of the year and is an ideal place to observe the night sky.
Six miles from the observatory, Oak Knoll campground offers tent sites, R.V. hookups and rental cabins with amenities such as a Wi-Fi hotspot, swimming pool, convenience store and laundry facility.
Owned by the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, the La Jolla Indian Campground is at the base of Palomar Mountain. Open year-round, it has 36 R.V. campsites with electrical and water hookups.
Originally a working ranch, the Lazy H Ranch was converted to a destination resort ranch more than 60 years ago. Built in the 1920s, the motel is a favorite for retreats, weddings and reunions. The restaurant features an extensive menu of home-cooked dishes at lunch and dinner.
-By Cameron Leigh James. James is an Encinitas-based freelance writer.
Tucked away in the northeastern part of the county, there's more to Pauma Valley than the numerous nurseries and farms: One of the largest optical telescopes in the world, a historical mission, Vegas-style casinos and resorts, and several opportunities for exploring nature are all here.