Introduction and Maps
How to Get to The Santa Rosa Plateau
Introduction and Maps
The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is a special place in Southern California:
- The geology is quite different from most, if not all, of other good hiking areas.
- Because of the geology and the current state of erosion, the topography is also quite unusual for Southern California.
- Because of both the geology and topography, the Santa Rosa Plateau is the home of some of the few vernal pools left in Southern California.
- The Santa Rosa Plateau was recently a working ranch, and hiking in the Reserve gives one the feeling of peering into a type of place that most of us never experience.
- The Reserve also contains the oldest building still standing in Riverside County, the Machado Adobe, built in the late 1840s.
- The views of and from the Plateau are absolutely magnificent in summer, and awe-inspiring in winter.
Day use fees are $2 for adults and $1 for children between the ages of 2 and 12. See the official Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve website for rules and regulations, as well as a wealth of other information about the reserve.
Docent-led tours can be arranged Tuesday through Saturday for groups of 12 or more for a total cost of $3 per person. Call (909) 677-6951x4 to obtain a form to request a tour.
How to Get to The Santa Rosa Plateau
General Directions to the I-15 exit:
- From the northern part of Los Angeles Basin: Take I-210, I-10 or SR60 to SR71 south to its end at SR91. Take SR91 east to I-15 South.
- From the southern part of Los Angeles Basin / Orange County: Take SR91 east to I-15 South.
- From Cajon Pass and points north: Take I-15 south past SR91.
- From Riverside / San Bernardino and points east: Take I-215 south to the Clinton Keith exit. Go west on Clinton Keith ~5 miles to I-15.
- From San Diego County: Take I-15 north past Temecula to the Clinton Keith exit, three exits past the I-15 / I-215 split.
Directions from the I-15 exit: Take the Clinton Keith exit from I-15 in the Wildomar area between Lake Elsinore and Murrieta. Go southwest on Clinton Keith
- 4.1 miles to the Visitor's Center on the east side of Clinton Keith, or
- 4.8 miles to the Hidden Valley Parking Area / Sylvan Meadows Parking Area a bit past the 90° right turn at the old entrance that is now closed, or
- 7.5 miles to the Vernal Pool Trailhead. Park along the side of the road. There is space for about 20 cars total in the areas with pea gravel.
Directions for most Fallbrook residents, and optional for people coming from coastal San Diego County / southern Orange County: Here is a much more striking way to get to the Plateau, and a quicker way to get to the Vernal Pool Trailhead from Fallbrook. Since the Santa Rosa Plateau forms the northern skyline from Fallbrook, this route provides a much better context of how close the Plateau is to Fallbrook.
Take Sandia Creek Drive north from downtown Fallbrook past the Santa Margarita River and up Sandia Creek Canyon. Sandia Creek Drive leaves Sandia Creek Canyon at Rock Mountain. It then descends past Rock Mountain, giving a stunning view of nearly the entire Santa Rosa Plateau, and bottoms near a house with a great pool on your left. At about 0.8 miles after the house, turn left on De Anza Road, which is just after the large single egg-shaped rock on your right. De Anza Road is marked by a yellow "road intersection" sign, and is 4.1 miles north of the Santa Margarita River crossing. Cross Sandia Creek and turn right on Cameron Road where De Anza ends, 0.7 miles from Sandia Creek Drive. After about a half mile, look at Sandia Canyon on your right and try to figure out how you got so high so quickly!
Cross De Luz Road and continue until Cameron Road ends at Carancho Road, 1.4 miles from De Anza Road, where you turn left. Proceed 1.5 miles to Los Gatos Road on your right, and ascend a 27% grade at the end to reach the Plateau. Los Gatos turns left and becomes Avocado Mesa Road, which turns right and becomes Via Volcano (which eventually becomes Clinton Keith). The Vernal Pool Trailhead quickly appears on your right, just after the second of the two smaller pools (only present and visible in late winter).
Visitor Center Information
The Visitor Center is at:
39400 Clinton Keith Road Murrieta, CA 92562 (951) 677-6951.
The staff, and their extension numbers for voicemail, are:
- Interpretive Program Coordinator Maria Isabel Torres (4)
- Reserve Ranger Kevin Smith (225)
- Reserve Interpreter Rob Hicks (222)
- Resource Manager Carole Bell (223)
Assistant Resource Manager Zach Principe left in late 2004, and has not yet been replaced.
The new Visitors Center (formerly called the Operations Center) is open most Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In peak flower season, it is usually open on Thursdays and Fridays as well, if volunteers can be found to staff it.
The Visitor's Center contains several interesting items, in addition to helpful volunteers or staff that can answer a lot of your questions:
- A stunning aerial photograph in the Visitor's Center which is a must-see. It is extremely difficult even for a practiced eye to find the pools on the photograph, and even when you find them, it is hard to believe that they look as shown on the photograph!
- A plot showing the wanderings of mountain lions in the Santa Anas, ranging from around SR91 to the Fallbrook / De Luz area.
- Examples of poop from various mammals that you can examine to get to know the various mammals through the most likely form of contact that you will have with them!
- Binoculars for rent for bird watching.
Copyright © 1996-2006 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 27 February 2006.