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Take a Hike at the Beautiful Santa Rosa Plateau

Nestled at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains in Southwestern Riverside County, California 9,000 have been set aside as an ecological reserve to protect native plant habitats and animals. The Santa Rosa Plateau is an important educational resource and a beautiful place to hike or bike, or even ride your horse (if you have one).

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

I’m embarrassed to admit that we live just a few miles from “the Plateau” and this is only the second time I have visited. This blog is filled with pictures of the California native plants we have planted in our yard instead of water sucking turf grass. So, when my son’s third grade teacher asked if I wanted to chaperone the field trip I jumped at the chance, and made sure to grab my camera.

Tips for Hiking the Santa Rosa Plateau

Getting to the Plateau is easy: exit the 15 Freeway at Clinton Keith Rd. and drive a few miles west. And you are there!

Bring along some water and maybe some food, but be sure to bring out all of your trash!

Dress in layers that can be easily removed and put back on. Closed toed shoes and long pants are a must. Unless you like stubbing your toes and getting scratched up by chaparral.

A camera and binoculars are highly recommended.

Visit the website before you head out so you have a better idea of what to expect and what to do.

First stop should be the Visitor Center on your first visit. They have maps and displays and docents to answer your questions, as well as restrooms.

Otherwise it is basic hiking etiquette: stay on the trails, leave nothing behind and take nothing out with you.

Take a Virtual Hike of the Santa Rosa Plateau

My first trip was to the Vernal Pools, which are amazing and I can’t recommend highly enough if you are in the area in Spring. Especially if we get some rain, but not too much so it wipes out the platforms over the pool.

This trip we stayed closer to the visitor center and walked around the Granite Trail Loop. Not a very long or strenuous hike, but there was plenty to see.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

Before we head out, a word of warning. Remember this is their home (along with rattlesnakes, tarantulas, coyotes, ….).

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

I need to get a drip system like this to keep my bird bath filled.

toyon

Toyon, a.k.a. Christmas berries. The ones in my yard have already turned red.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

I’m not sure what this tree is, but I liked the seed pods.

zauschneria

Zauschneria, hummingbirds love these trumpet flowers.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

Lovely lichen on many of the plants.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

There’s a reason it’s called Granite Loop Trail

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

This one looks quite majestic.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

How did we end up at Easter Island? The hike wasn’t THAT long.

 

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

One of the four plant habitats we saw on our hike.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

The wetlands aren’t very wet in the fall, but in years of good rain this bridge washes out. They’ve made it removable now so it doesn’t need to be replaced every year.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

California grasslands (bunchgrass prairie) surrounded by Oak woodlands. Two more plant habitats we saw.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

Be sure to bend down low to get an animal’s eye view. Beneath the Chaparral (plant community #4) you can see an animal trail.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

Oak trees were, and still are, a very important food source at the Plateau.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

“Grandpa”, one of the oldest and biggest of the trees on the hike. Born “before George Washington” according to our docent.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

“Grandma” is slightly younger than Grandpa, but still several 100 years old.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

YUMMY!

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

The “pantry” for an Acorn Woodpecker. The birds peck holes in the softer sycamore trees then store acorns gathered from the nearby oak trees.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

Birds aren’t the only ones to eat the acorns! The Luiseno tribe that lived on the Plateau used these stones to grind acorns for food.

The Santa Rosa Plateau located near Murrieta, CA in the Santa Ana Mountains is a great place to hike and learn about California's history and native ecology

The white man brought cattle and drove out the large predators like the Grizzly bears. This is the last one in the reserve, always watching over the visitor center.

Where are the animals?

I did mention this was a field trip with third graders, didn’t I? While it was great to have a docent led tour, hiking with a noisy group of eight year olds tends to send the animals into hiding. And I don’t blame them, ha ha.

Our hike was short, but we learned a lot. J has plans to take Daddy back once he has some time off. If you are in the area I hope you stop by too.

 
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  1. Haley Bradley

    It looks like a beautiful place to go! Reminds of the old western movies I watch with my grandpa.
    Haley Bradley recently posted…Want to Be The Best Parent? 16 Tips to Show You How!My Profile

    1. Audrey

      That would be the chaparral, very characteristic of the Western US.

  2. Lisa/Syncopated Mama

    What a fun hike! If I ever head out your way, you’ve definitely got to take us all there! #FridayFrivolity
    Lisa/Syncopated Mama recently posted…NIV Holy Bible for Girls, Journal Edition {a Zondervan Bible}My Profile

    1. Audrey Humaciu

      You’ve got a deal!

  3. Emma @ Muddy Boots and Diamonds

    This looks pretty! It’s crazy how you can live close to neat places and never visit. I feel that way about having lived near DC all my life. I never explored that area as much as I probably should have.

    1. Audrey Humaciu

      Sometimes it is fun to be a tourist in your own backyard.

  1. Free Printable 2017 Year at a Glance Calendars - Munofore

    […] boulder surrounded by chapparal from the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murrieta, […]

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