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Hiking | Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve – Sylvan Meadows

Sylvan Meadows is the only dog-friendly portion of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. With large, statuesque oak trees and a meadow of bunchgrass prairies, this place takes my breath away; the rural nature reminds me of what Southern California may have looked like 100 years ago. Come here in the spring when the wildflowers are at their best. The flat, wide paths are also great for trail running.

Getting here is straightforward. Exit the I-15 Freeway at Clinton Keith Road in Murrieta, Riverside County.

- Proceed south on Clinton Keith Road, 5 miles.

- Park in Visitor Center on the left side of the road, or if there’s room, park on the right side of the road next to the trailhead. Trailhead (pink arrow) is to the right side of the road.

Our visit on February 12, 2012:

Our loop: Trailhead near Visitor Center > Tovashal Trail > Right at Sylvan Meadows Road > Mortrero Trail > Cajalco Trail > Back to Trailhead.

Start of the Trail near the visitor center… And trailside vegetation.

Plants on the trail… Early spring wildflowers, fungus on tree bark and sage.

On Tovashal Trail… And approaching Sylvan Meadows.

The Meadow.

Views of the meadow along Sylvan Meadows Road. Beautiful, eh?

A hiking friend wanted to know what these clumps of greenery were. I said I’d snap a photo and ask my bontanist husband later. The verdict: mistletoe. Who knew?!

More of the beautiful meadow, in the shade…

…and a few minutes later, in the sun.

Oak trees. The Engelmann oak (mesa oak) is native to the coastal foothills of Southern California and far-northern Baja California. They’re easily distinguishable from their bontanical cousins and frequent neighbors, coast live oaks, by their grayish scaly bark and grayish-blue-green leaves.

Rocks. There are lots of them.

Beautiful, blue skies along the Cajalco Trail.


And lastly: trailing Friday… wherever she decides to go. Happy dog!!

One final note: Be sure to check your dog over for ticks at the conclusion of your hike. I found one in Friday’s ear, but missed a second one that attached itself to her chest for almost a whole week before I noticed and pulled it off.

I bought an annual pass because plan to visit often. Join me in the spring?!

Happy trails,

Kim and the gang

P.S. If you’re going to be out here anyway and enjoy wine, set the afternoon aside to go wine tasting. We did, and it was fun.


- Afoot and Afield Orange County, Jerry Schad (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Trip 2)

- Afoot and Afield Inland Empire, David and Jennifer Money Harris (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, Trip 8.2)

Other Recommended Reading:

- Nobody Hikes in LA (October 2010): Stevenson Canyon and Sylvan Meadows in the Santa Rosa Ecological Reserve


Weimaraner addict. Garden warrior. Chicken keeper. Picture takerer. Food maker. Thirsty for beer. Hungry for travel. Sayin' hi from the So Cal 'burbs!

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