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North County San Diego Neighborhood Guide: Bonsall

Hidden Hills Ranch

The rural community of Bonsall is a census-designated place in North County San Diego. With a population of just 3,982 at the 2010 census, this 13.6-square-mile area is home to horse ranches (such as the Hidden Hills Equestrian Ranch pictured above), family-owned farms, estate properties and plenty of small town charm.

It is the home of Vessels Stallion Farm, which has been producing well-known racehorses for more than 20 years, Wild Wonders Zoofari wildlife education center and the River Village Plaza shopping center. It is also home to nearly 4,000 locals who enjoy a quieter way of life where folks actually know their neighbors but only have to drive a short distance for the city amenities offered by Escondido, Oceanside, Vista and San Marcos.


Bonsall was first known as Mount Fairview and was home to the Mount Fairview post office between 1871 and 1880. In 1881, the post office’s name switched to Osgood in honor of chief engineer Joseph O. Osgood of the California Southern Railroad. By 1889, the names Reed, Favorite and Bonsall were being recommended by way of petition. Bonsall won out and remains the name of this unincorporated area.

As the story goes, James Bonsall was a Methodist minister who purchased land, built a home and established a successful nursery in the area. In the late 1800s, after the hamlet was given the name Bonsall, services located in the area included a blacksmith shop, a school, a hotel, a general store and a post office.

Bonsall Bridge Construction circa 1925


The rural community of Bonsall offers a mix of older and newer homes, condominiums, luxury estates, ranches and farms, and vacant lots just waiting for someone to build a dream home. Because of the variety of property types and sizes available in this area, housing prices vary greatly.

The most affordable property available in Bonsall at the time of this writing is vacant land listed at $139,800. Other vacant land options include a 2.9-acre parcel on the market for $194,900 and a four-acre parcel listed at $192,000.

A handful of condominiums are on the market in the low $200,000s, and the lowest-priced single-family home I could find at this time is a three bedroom, three bathroom, 1,352-square-foot home built in 1997 listed at $359,000. There are a few homes on the market in the $400,000 to $550,000 range, and options increase significantly for those with home-buying budgets of more than $600,000.

Reviewing what is currently on the market, it appears that estate homes begin in the $700,000s, but there are not many luxury options available until you move into the $800,000s and beyond. Although there is one property listed at $11,950,000, it looks like most of the higher-end homes in this area are currently listed between $1,000,000 and $3,000,000.

The estimated median home price (which includes condominiums and single-family homes) in 2012 was $572,322. In 2011, the mean price for detached, single-family homes was $979,170, and the overall mean price for all housing units was $853,957.

Vista Valley Country Club

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Aside from a few feed stores and nurseries found throughout the community, most of the shopping and dining options in Bonsall are located in and around the River Village Plaza, which is located at the junction of Mission Road and Highway 76 at 5256 South Mission Road. This large retail and business complex is home to a wide variety of stores and services, including law offices, banks and financial services, the Bonsall Chamber of Commerce, architects, a photo and postal center, a real estate office, a chiropractor and a dentist’s office.

There is also a movie theater, a grocery store, a salon, a spa, a barber shop, a gift shop, a dry cleaner and a wine shop. Eateries in the area include Z Cafe, Village Pizza, Peking Wok, Jack in the Box, Fresco Grill & Bar and Bailey’s Frozen Yogurt.

Expanded shopping, dining and entertainment options are available in the neighboring cities of Vista, Escondido, Oceanside and San Marcos.

Teepee Village at Rawhide Ranch

Parks & Recreation

This rural community has lots of open land and nearby trails, but there is not much in the way of parks within the area. However, there are plenty of parks, golf courses and outdoor recreation areas within just a short drive.

The Champagne Lake RV Resort is just east of Interstate 15 along the eastern border of Bonsall. This popular vacation destination offers stocked fishing lakes, a swimming pool, tent sites, full-hookup RV sites, a deli and mini market, and a lakeside playground.

The All Seasons RV Park is just south of Champagne Lake RV Resort and also off of Interstate 15. This 27-acre RV park offers a fishing lake, a heated swimming pool and spa, a country store and 150 campsites. Since this park is also open to the public for day use, locals can spend the day enjoying the pool, lake, picnic areas or playground without staying overnight.

A bit further south on the east side of Interstate 15 is Welk Resort San Diego, which is located on Lawrence Welk Drive in Escondido and is home to two golf courses. The Fountains Course was designed by David Rainville, is ranked among the top 10 golf courses in San Diego and is on Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play list. The Oaks Course was designed by Jim Brown and is an 1,837-yard, par-54 course designed to be enjoyed by both novice and experienced golfers.

The 18-hole, 6,550-yard, par-72 course at Meadow Lake Golf Club in Escondido is also just a short drive away. This popular North County golf course has a clubhouse, snack bar, chipping and putting green, and a driving range.

If you prefer an afternoon on the green or by the pool in a more private, upscale country club setting, the Vista Valley Country Club might be more to your liking. Located just south of the Bonsall community, this members-only club offers a fitness center, swimming pool, spa, golf course, golf clinics, youth golf camps and fine dining.

For those in search of a great spot to view wildlife, the Bonsall Preserve, which is under the care of the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, is located near the northwestern corner of the community. Although the public cannot access most of this 27-acre wetland area, there is a volunteer-built boardwalk where you can enjoy viewing the preserve and its wildlife.

For a more hands-on wildlife experience, Wild Wonders Zoofari is a Bonsall attraction that offers private tours, events and zoo camps. Approximately 150 animals call this facility home and are part of interactive programs aimed at educating the public about the importance of understanding and preserving wildlife around the world.

If you are on the hunt for camp options for your little ones, you might want to look into Bonsall’s Rawhide Ranch, which offers youth and family camps, school programs and other events throughout the year. During these camps, kids and adults can enjoy singing around the campfire, sleeping in a teepee, learning how to care for farm animals, taking part in arts and crafts activities, riding horses and more.

Another park worth noting that is within an easy drive from Bonsall is Guajome Regional Park located just off Highway 76. This popular attraction is southwest of the Bonsall community and offers a playground, picnic areas, hiking trails, fishing and camping.

Bonsall Preserve


The Bonsall Unified School District serves public school students living in this area. Elementary school students attend Bonsall Elementary School, Bonsall West Elementary School or Vivian Banks Charter School. Middle school students attend Norman L. Sullivan Middle School.

High school students may attend either Fallbrook High School in the Fallbrook Union High School District or the new Bonsall High School in the Bonsall Unified School District. Bonsall High School opened in 2014 and is a new tech academy offering a student-centered, project-based approach to education.

A Waldorf School, Rock Rose School for Creative Learning, is located in Fallbrook and offers preschool and parent-child classes.

California State University San Marcos is located in nearby San Marcos for adult learners interested in furthering their education.

Champagne Lake RV Resort


The community of Bonsall is located south of Fallbrook and north of Vista. Interstate 15 runs along its eastern border, and its western border is just a bit west of Highway 76.

Additional Information

Those in search of horse ranches, farms or country estates for sale in North County will definitely want to add Bonsall to their list of communities to check out. This rural, unincorporated area is a family-friendly community with good schools, great weather and a tranquil lifestyle just a short drive away from shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation options.


The photograph of Hidden Hills Equestrian Ranch is courtesy of the Hidden Hills Equestrian Ranch website. The photograph of the Bonsall Bridge is courtesy of the Bonsall Chamber of Commerce website. The photograph of the Champagne Lakes RV Resort is courtesy of the Champagne Lakes RV Resort website. The photograph of Rawhide Ranch is courtesy of the Rawhide Ranch website. The photograph of the Bonsall Preserve is courtesy of the Fallbrook Land Conservancy website. The photograph of the Vista Valley Country Club is courtesy of the Vista Valley Country Club websiteReal estate data was gathered from and

AJ Davis-Varela: AJ is a freelance writer and blogger at Articles by AJ specializing in travel, real estate, natural wellness and green living. She is a magazine columnist, a former San Diego newspaper columnist, has been published in a variety of print and online publications, and regularly contributes to several websites and blogs. You can connect with AJ on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+