Los Santos/Trans Preserve 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 5.1 miles. Once you are in the reserve, take a sharp right onto Tenaja Road. Go 0.7 miles and park at the Hidden Valley Trailhead on the left side of the road. Admission fee is $3 per adult or $2 per child.
- Agency: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
- Distance: 4.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 500 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2 hours
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo map: Wildomar
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
- Recommended gear: sun hat
- More information: here; park map here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
This enjoyable hike samples some of the best non-Vernal Pools/Historic Adobes scenery of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (although both of those landmarks can be easily added to this route.) While it lacks the wide-ranging views provided by the hike to Monument Hill, the hike offers more variety as it passes through wide meadows, rolling hills and shaded oak woodlands.
From the parking area, head right on the Hidden Valley Trail. After 0.2 miles, turn right on the single-track Los Santos Trail which winds its way uphill, providing nice views of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio (provided the weather is clear). At 0.8 miles, you enter a grove of oaks and shortly after the trail bends sharply left and heads south (stay straight and ignore the trail branching off to the right.)
The trail then dips down into a ravine, crosses a footbridge and reaches another junction with the Hidden Valley Trail. Turn right and head uphill, still on the Los Santos Trail, making a short but steep ascent. After following a ridge, the trail dips in and out of another canyon before joining the Vernal Pools Trail at 2.4 miles, the approximate half way point.
Head left (east) on the Vernal Pools Trail for a level 0.3 miles, bringing you to a junction. If there have been recent rains, consider continuing on to see the pools, but if you are not hiking during the wet season, turn left and begin a scenic descent on the Trans-Preserve Trail ( a segment shared with the Vernal Pools/Historic Adobes loop described on this site, but in the other direction). As you make your way along the gnarled-branched oaks, you will get glimpses of the wide meadow below and perhaps San Gorgonio Mountain in the distance.
The trail drops into a wide field near a knoll known as Poppy Hill, passing an intersection with the Hidden Valley Trail, and continues north. You drop into another woodland, cross a footbridge and come out at an intersection with the Coyote Trail. Bear left and follow the Coyote Trail for half a mile to the trailhead.
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.