Difficulty G Distance 0 to 2 miles General information: Cellular Service General information: Dogs allowed General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 4-6 Santa Clarita Valley and Desert Gateway Season: All year

Kaweah Oaks Preserve


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  • Location: Central valley, east of Visalia. From Highway 99, head east on Highway 198 for 14 miles. Turn left on Road 182 and follow it 0.5 mile. Park in a large dirt lot on the left side of the road. The preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset (see link below for exact hours). Parking is free. Suggested donations are $3 per adult/$1 per child.
  • Agency: Sequoia Riverlands Trust
  • Distance: Up to 2 miles
  • Elevation gain: Level
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: Year round but hot during the summer
  • Recommended gear: sun screen; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: Available near the trail head
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • More information: Article about the preserve here; Yelp page here; Facebook page here
  • Rating: 4

Many L.A. hikers might think of the Central Valley as simply a place to pass through on the way to Yosemite or Sequoia, but this large and diverse area has a few enjoyable open spaces to explore as well. On the outskirts of Visalia, the Kaweah Oaks Preserve is a pleasant little spot to get some fresh air and stretch your legs, ideal for breaking up a long drive. Highlights include wetland ecology, open fields and mountain views. Though the area gets notoriously hot during the summer, the trails here are short and easy enough for year round use, with appropriate precautions.

From the parking area, the main route leads 0.2 mile to a junction. The north fork leads to the 3/4 mile Sycamore Loop. As of this writing, another 3/4 mile trail, adjacent to the Sycamore Loop, is under construction. Unfortunately, a fire in 2016 destroyed many of the sycamores in this area of the park, but the loop allows hikers to observe the recovery process in which the native plants are sprouting again.

Back at the junction, the other fork continues west to two short loops: the Grapevine and Wild Rose. (A longer trail, the Swamp Trail, lies farther west but is closed as of this writing.) These two trails can be reached by walking across the Johnson Slough on a metal footbridge. Both trails showcase impressive valley oaks, supported by runoff from the nearby mountains a that provide shade and block out the sights and sounds of nearby Highway 198. A picnic table by the water at the start of the Wild Rose loop makes for a nice resting spot.

Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Exeter, CA
Following the road to the Sycamore Trail
Sycamore Trail, Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Exeter, CA
Sycamore Trail
Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Exeter, CA
Valley Oaks on the Grapevine Trail
Kaweah Oaks Preserve, Exeter, CA
Distant mountains as seen from the Kaweah Oaks Preserve

Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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