The Santa Rosa Plateau is one of my favorite places to hike. The Plateau has something for everyone regardless as to what your skill level is. You can find dog, horse, and bike friendly trails. You can make your hike as easy or as hard as you would like by choosing trails that fit your skill level or just your vibe for the day. The fee to hike here is decent at only four dollars an adult and three a kiddo.
I have been to the Plateau many times and have tried several different trails, but I will be sharing my favorite route today which starts at the Hidden Valley Trail Head. This trail head does not start at the visitor center; however, you can stop there first for your hand stamp as they do accept cards. Otherwise, you can pay cash at the trail head.
I take the Hidden Valley Road to the Los Santos Trail which takes you all the way to the Vernal Pool trail head.
I would consider today’s hike to be moderate as these trails are not entirely flat. According to my watch, this trip was 5.14-miles. There are several bits of the trail that go uphill where I needed to remind myself to breathe. There are some downhill areas and the occasional scattering of rocks on the trail that you need to watch out for. If the season is right you will be able to see many kinds of wild flowers and a couple of streams that I am happy to say were full today. There are several parts of this hike that made me feel like I was in the Shire; thumbs up to you if you are a Hobbit or LOTR fan and are picking up what I’m throwing down. Everything was so green and pretty. I was only slightly disappointed that there weren’t patches of wild flowers or poppies like you see off the fifteen freeway in Lake Elsinore. Don’t get me wrong; there are still a lot of flowers, just not the purple or orange patches I was expecting to see. I will admit that when I saw some scattered poppies I jumped with glee and grabbed for my camera.
After about 1.3 ish miles, the trail will curve left and you will need to turn right to stay on it. It goes up and over the hill, pictured in the top frame above. I had to remind myself to breathe when I got to the middle of this hill! That doesn’t look steep you say? Pictures can be deceiving, my legs, feet, and lungs were yelling at me.
I have to say that one of the amazing things about the Plateau are the people that visit it. Everyone is so happy to be out there and so friendly when you meet them on the trails. My boyfriend and I bumped into a couple today at the Vernal Pools. We got to talking to them while we took a break and enjoyed watching the sparkling water dance in the breeze. They told us about one of the trails that is in a valley that was full of chocolate lilies. Chocolate lilies? I had never heard of such a thing, but then again, I am nowhere close to a Botanists so that didn’t surprise me. Though we didn’t take the trail they had mentioned, we saw some on the way back! Well, I thought I saw some, so I took pictures of them and went home and looked it up to be sure. I was right! Yay me! The Chocolate Lily is pictured below on the left. 🙂
After walking along the bridge at the Vernal Pools, I like to double back just a bit to take the Trans-Preserve Trail all the way back to my car. This trail crosses the Hidden Valley Road at one point, and gets a bit narrower on the other side, but it is still a great trail. You also get to walk near another steam and cross a few foot bridges by going back this way.
This hike took us about two hours and fifteen minutes, which is really pretty good since I stopped several times to take pictures, eat a Pop-tart, drink water, and breathe! I hope when you visit the Plateau you enjoy it as much as I do.