Santa Rosa Plateau (Vernal Pool and Historic Adobe Loop)

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is a great location for a day hike in one of Southern California's premier hiking locations. Ashley and I had the opportunity, recently, to hike at the Santa Rosa Plateau in Riverside County. The Santa Rosa Plateau sits on the southern section of the Santa Ana Mountains and serves up a classic Southern California landscape and stunning biological diversity. The Santa Rosa Plateau offers great hiking trails and is a must do for any Southern California Hiker. For more pictures of our hike at the Santa Rosa Plateau make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, follow Interstate 15 South of Corona to the Clinton Keith Road exit in Murrieta. Drive south on Clinton Keith Road, passing the reserve's visitor center (which is open Tuesday - Sunday 9am - 5pm) at roughly 5 miles from the freeway. Keep going past the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve's visitor center and continue past the sharp right turn and in less than a mile from this location you will park at the Hidden Valley Trailhead parking area which is on the left side of the road. Make sure to bring 3 dollars for access for each adult and 2 dollars for each child 12 and under to access the hiking trails at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. (Cash Only).

Description of Hike: The hiking trails at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve are generally well maintained. Most of the trail intersections in the park have markers and thus it is easy to find your way throughout the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The reserve currently consists of more than 9,000 acres and continues to grow with additional acquisitions of land. This loop which takes you to the parks vernal pools and the historic adobes is a 6.3 mile loop with approximately 400 feet of elevation gain. From the Hidden Valley Trailhead area take the Coyote Trail and make a right on the Trans Preserve Trail. Take the trans preserve trail all the way to the Vernal Pools and make a left on the Vernal Pool trail. Follow the Vernal Pool trail down to the Ranch Road and make a right toward the Historic Adobes. From this historic adobes follow Lomas Trail almost all the way to Clinton Keith Road. Just before Clinton Keith road make a left on the loop trail which intersects with the Coyote Trail where you began the hike. Return to the hidden valley trailhead by the Coyote Trail. To print out a trail map for the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, click Here. Additionally, trail hiking maps are available at the visitor center and at trailhead kiosks on weekends.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed our visit to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The Santa Rosa Plateau is an area of biological diversity, rich human history, and the beautiful sights and sounds of nature. The main attraction of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve are the vernal pools that sit atop the volcanic landscape found in this area. Another major attraction is the Historic Adobes that are on the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The Historic Adobes are the oldest known structures in Riverside County. For more history on the Historic Adobes found at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, click Here.

Of the more than 120 sensitive species of plants and animals in the Inland Empire, 59 of them can be found on the Santa Rosa Plateau. California newts and southwestern pond turtles survive in bedrock-lined pools of the stream systems, and native wildflowers, some highly endangered draw thousands of spring-time visitors. Vernal pools, the seasonal, shallow ponds which collect on rare volcanic mesas, support endemic fairy shrimp and wintering waterfowl. The largest vernal pool can be up to 39 acres when full with water. Engelmann oaks a vanishing, semi-deciduous species with blue-grey leaves and contorted branches, are found in abundance among the rolling grasslands. Badgers, horned lizards, mountain lions, bobcats, gray fox, and deer are also found on the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve .

The best time to visit and hike at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is during a wet year, especially if you are going to see the Vernal Pools. One of the volunteer's at the park said that anytime where the area has gotten around 7 inches of rain in a two week period is a great time to come see the vernal pools. They were not filled when we visited and hiked at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, but Ashley and I are looking forward to coming back when we have a good rainy season. For those of you that live near the Santa Rosa Plateau there is a Foundation that you might be interested in getting involved with. The Santa Rosa Plateau Foundation was formed in 2003 and has raised over $350,000 to support its mission to fund education, research, and preservation of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.

Ashley and I look forward to visiting and hiking at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve soon. Make sure to bring your camera as due to the elevation of the park you can get spectacular pictures of the surrounding Southern California Mountains. Additionally, you have a great chance to see local Southern California wildlife while hiking at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. We got a chance to see a 4 foot gopher snake while we were hiking here. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is a great hiking location for any Southern California Hiker and both Ashley and I highly recommend this hike to others.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 400 ft. (Easy - Moderate), Distance: 6.3 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 2.5 - 3.5 hours.

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