Off the Beaten Path, San Marcos

Off the Beaten Path, San Marcos

I would imagine that San Marcos, California doesn’t show up on many preferred vacation lists.  It is just some random city in Southern California.  However, it does have a lake and would you believe that it has a resort that was named in the top 25 hotels in the U.S. by Trip Advisors in 2014?

For us, it is more of a staycation, a one day visit that will take us off the beaten path to not one but two lakes, although one of them only covers about five acres and probably barely shows up on a map.

Education, Eats, and Electronics
The town of San Marcos has a population of about 95,000 and is situated in the North County part of San Diego County.  It is home to the illustrious Cal State San Marcos University and Palomar College.

There are plenty of modern shopping centers in the area plus a few stores only exclusive to San Marcos. I’m talking Fry’s Electronics where you could browse the television section for hours or gaze at the giant fish tank that greets you when you walk in the door.

The other is, the eclectic Hobby Lobby which is right down the road from Fry’s and where you will find all sorts of decorations for the home or patio plus brilliant ideas if you are so inclined to be creative.   There are not that many of these arts and crafts stores around Southern California, so San Marcos does have one up on the other cities in the area.

Just off of San Marcos Blvd sits Old Restaurant Row which features 14 different eating establishments and a huge movie complex.   From Sushi, to hot wings, to Mexican and much more, you should be able to find something good to eat!

Scenery and Serenity on a couple of Lakes
Away from the restaurants and the shops, we decided to head off the beaten path to visit Lake San Marcos and Discovery Lake.

Discovery Lake is a small lake right in the middle of a residential area.  Just off of the 78 freeway, you will have to use your GPS to find it, as it takes you through a neighborhood of homes until you end up in front of the parking lot.

You don’t even see the lake until you get out of your car and walk a little. This five-acre lake is surrounded by a park plus hiking, biking, and walking trails. Dogs are allowed with a leash.

The trails around the lake are paved and make it really easy for all fitness levels to enjoy the scenery.    There are other trails spread out beyond the lake with some that extend higher into the hills. If you huffed and puffed on the lake trail, maybe you will want to stay away from those.   The paved trails make it so easy to walk with your family, dogs, kids in strollers, and wheelchairs.

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Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo State Park

I was invited up for the day to visit some friends that were camping for a week at Leo Carrillo State Park.  It is just outside of the main part of Malibu so from Oceanside I was thinking it might be an hour and forty- five minute drive.  On a Tuesday morning however, it actually took two and a half hours and that was virtually with no traffic. As I was driving back home later in the evening, I thought to myself that it was well worth the drive!

Leo Carrillo State Park can be easily accessed from Southern as well as Central California. As I was nearing the park entrance, I noticed a sign that said 21 miles to Oxnard.  I didn’t realize how far up the coast I had traveled.

Driving north through the main part of Malibu past Pepperdine University and Zuma Beach, the state park could go unnoticed unless you were actually looking for the sign. Obviously some people know all about this place as the campground was full and even though it was mid week, there were scores of people on the beach. Even if you are not camping, you can use the day use parking for $12.00 a day.

The Campground
The campground sits amongst the Malibu hills and the campsites were surrounded by every type of tree imaginable. If you really stretched your telephoto lens, you could also see a few sizable mansions way up in the hills.

Besides having some of the largest campsites I have ever seen, the park also provided a picnic bench,a fire pit, and a cute little store was on the premises.

There were plenty of birds in the trees and you could hear them squawking from far away. They added to the wonderful sounds of nature that went along with the frogs and crickets at night. It is nature’s ambient music at its best.

The trees also provided much needed shade to the campsites

Relaxation is what these campgrounds are all about, however, with the beach so close it allows for playtime too.

After a great lunch it was time to take the short walk to the beach. We crossed through the parking lot and walked under the  Highway 1 bridge. Colorful marine life paintings greeted you on the walls and columns of the bridge as you made your way to this popular sand playground.

The road to the beach

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