Granite Loop (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve)
- Location: Murrieta, in southwest Riverside County. From I-15, take the Clinton Keith road exit. Turn right and head southwest for 4.1 miles. Park in the visitor center (open 9am-5pm daily) on the left side of the road. There are restrooms inside the visitor center and portables outside. Admission fee is $3 per adult or $2 per child.
- Agency: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
- Distance: 1.2 miles (with optional 0.4 mile side-trip)
- Elevation gain: 100 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 30 minutes (plus extra time for side trips and Visitor’s Center)
- Best season: Year-round (hot during the summer)
- USGS topo map: Wildomar
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
- More information: here; park map here; trail description here
- Rating: 6
Like the Oak Tree Loop, this short but scenic hike is proof that there’s more to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve than the famed Vernal Pools and historic adobes, and that the large park can be a nice summer hiking destination. To be sure, in hot weather, precautions should be taken even on a short hike, but if you have water, sun protection and an hour or so, the Granite Loop is a great little excursion.
The loop can be hiked in either direction, but for the sake of this post, it’ll be described clockwise. Head north out of the lot on the signed Granite Trail Loop, and descend into a picnic area shaded by the park’s characteristic Engelmann Oaks. At 0.4 miles, bear left to continue on the Granite Loop (the straight spur heads back to the visitor center). A slight climb brings you to a spot where you can get a glimpse of San Jacinto Peak.
The trail descends, passing by some boulders, and enters a meadow. You can take a detour on the Vista Grande Trail (left at the first junction) to a view point, 0.2 miles south.
Continuing on the Granite Loop, you pass the dirt Waterline Road, and come to an oak with branches so long they touch the ground. A few benches allow you to rest in the shade; this is the approximate half way point in the hike. After leaving the oaks, you cross a footbridge, continue through a meadow, cross another footbridge and begin a slight climb before dropping back down into the parking lot.
If you have time, there are plenty of other great trails to explore here. The visitor center, which has several exhibits on local wildlife, is worth dropping by as well.
Text and photography copyright 2013 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.