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San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park

Battlefield Monument Trail

1 mile round trip

The Battle of San Pasqual had little military significance, historians surmise, but was nevertheless a pivotal event during the Mexican-American War—a conflict that brought California under American control and eventually into the Union.

At dawn on December 6, 1846, American troops, led by Stephen Kearny, peered through the fog at the Californios who were encamped in the San Pasqual Valley. Then they attacked. The Americans and their horses were in terrible condition (the result of an exhausting journey from New Mexico). To make matters worse, their gunpowder was wet.

The Californios, a superb group of horsemen under the command of General Andres Pico, met the Americans’ charge with gunfire and their deadly long lances.

Some 21 Americans were killed and many more wounded, including General Kearny, in the short but intense battle. About a dozen Californios were wounded as well before both sides withdrew.

A four-day standoff followed. Kearny sent Kit Carson to bring back U.S. Army reinforcements from San Diego. The reinforced Americans, with overwhelming superiority, soon captured San Diego and Los Angeles as well.

The state historic park interprets the battle—the most severe one of the Mexican-American War fought in California. A visitor center and museum tell the story of the conflict with maps, displays and a video. Other exhibits feature the history and natural history of the San Pasqual Valley. The park’s short nature trail and Battlefield Monument Trail are also good introductions to the life and lore of San Pasqual Valley.

Most visitors rush through the valley on the way to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, located adjacent to the park. But San Pasqual Valley and the state park are well worth a stop.

Directions to the trailhead: From Highway 78, eight miles east of Escondido, take the turnoff to San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park. Leave your car in the lot by the visitor center.

The hike: Join the nature trail, which begins on the hillside behind the visitor center. After 0.25 mile, join Battlefield Monument Trail and ascend a sloped bristly with prickly pear cactus. At a picnic ramada, enjoy an inspiring view of the wide San Pasqual Valley as well as a fine place to eat lunch. Return the way you came back to the visitor center or continue west on Battlefield Monument Trail to a historic monument next to Highway 78.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at