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Santa Rosa Plateau

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve consists of over 8000 acres. The land was set aside to protect various ecosystems which include vernal pools, oak woodlands and riparian wetlands amongst others. There are nearly 50 endangered, threatened or rare animal and plant species protected here. There are two species of fairy shrimp that live in the seasonal vernal pools here. One species is found nowhere else on Earth!

About The Reserve

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is a great place for hiking. There are over 40 miles of trails and dirt roads that wander over rolling grassy hills, through shady trees and down into small canyons. Highlighted features are the vernal pools, spectacular views, the wildflowers and the diverse wildlife you can encounter. Be sure to bring your camera for taking pictures and binoculars for viewing wildlife. Note that the summers can get very hot, and many of the trails and roads are exposed, so dress accordingly and plan your route to take advantage of the shade offered by the trees.

For current information about hours, access, use and fees, see the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve - Visitor Information page. For current trail conditions, call the Visitor Center at 951-677-6951. If you are planning on visiting the Vernal Pools, I recommend that you call the Visitor Center for the current status of the pools. Their presence varies considerably each season. The Visitor Center hours are from 9am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday (closed on Monday). As of this writing, the reserve is open for public access daily from sunrise to sunset.

Wildlife in the Reserve

Every time we have visited the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, we are treated to a diverse variety of wildlife sightings. We have seen White-Tailed Kites, Northern Harriers, Bluebirds, Meadowlarks, Black-Necked Stilts, Rattlesnakes, Gopher Snakes, Coyotes, huge reddish Alligator Lizards and many more. For a list of more sightings in this area, you can view our Sightings and Observations Log and search on "Santa Rosa Plateau".


In the Spring, there are many different wildflowers that can be viewed throughout the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The various ecosystems each support their own collection of plants. As you wander from one area to another you will be treated to a different assortment of wildflowers. You can view an outstanding collection of photographs of many of these wildflowers at Keith Haworth's website.

Vernal Pools

The Vernal Pools are unique and very interesting and conditions can vary drastically depending on weather conditions. On our first visit several years ago, they were just small puddles. On our visit in 2010, there was a small lake and several ponds and the water was so high that it damaged the walkway. And in 2012, there was no sign of the Vernal Pools as they were completely dry.

The highlight of our visit in 2010, when the water level was very high, was the number of Two-Striped Garter Snakes we saw swimming around and under the broken walkway. This was not a place to visit if you're frightened by snakes - but REALLY COOL if you're not! My first thought was of the movie "Snakes On A Plane". There were so many and they were constantly moving, making them very difficult to photograph. There were also several species of water fowl and many wildflowers. We were fortunate to have timed our visit so well.

Sylvan Meadows Multi-Use Trails

In addition to hiking - Mountain Biking and Horseback Riding are allowed in the Sylvan Meadows and Multi-Use Trails portion of the reserve located in the northwestern portion of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. This also includes the "Fence Line Trail" located across the street from the meadows on the southeast side of Clinton Keith Road. The riding conditions are mostly gradual inclines, with a few short steep inclines, and vary from single-track to dirt roads. This is the only section of the reserve where mountain bikes and horses are permitted.

Sylvan Meadows Road and the Mortero Trail form an easy 2-1/2 mile loop encircling the actual meadows. There are comfortable benches located at various points along the route that offer great views of the meadow as well as the plants and wildlife found in the meadows. You might enjoy spending some time relaxing and taking in the views. Like I said before, be sure to bring your camera for taking pictures and binoculars for viewing wildlife..and maybe something to eat.

The Adobes

There are two historic adobes located in southern portion of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. They were built in the mid 1800's and were used to house ranchers and ranch hands. They have a colorful history. To find out more, visit the Adobes page on their website.

Exploring The Reserve

As mentioned above, the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is over 8000 acres (some sources say 9000). This is a very large area, and depending on which trail routes you choose, your trail miles can be vary greatly. We recommend downloading the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve Trail Map to plan your routes to cover a section at a time. Be sure to bring plenty of water and to wear adaptive clothing. Drinking water and flush toilets are available at the Visitor Center during business hours. Port-A-Potties are located at each of the parking areas (see Directions below) and at the Adobes. Note that these are the ONLY locations for these conveniences.

Maps and Directions for Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is located at 39400 Clinton Keith Rd, Murrieta, CA 92562 at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains in Riverside County.

There are 3 main points of entry into Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.

Updated: December, 2012

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