Vernal Pool Trail

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, California

Elevation Gain424ft
Trailhead Elevation2,089ft
Elevation Min/Max1850/2092ft
Elevation Start/End2089/2089ft

Vernal Pool Trail

Vernal Pool Trail is a hiking trail in Riverside County, California. It is within Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. It is 1.6 miles long and begins at 2,089 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 3.2 miles with a total elevation gain of 424 feet. Near the trailhead there are parking and restrooms. Along the trail there are a scrub and a forest. This trail connects with the following: Los Santos Trail and Transpreserve Trail.

Vernal Pool Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Best Easy Day Hikes: Riverside (Falcon Guides)
Alleen Riedel
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"Follow Adobe Creek through an idyllic glen, and hike through historic ranchlands to the oldest standing structures in Riverside County. The pastoral landscape is rustic and stunning. Starting on the Coyote Trail, a gentle climb heads southward and into the rolling hills of the Santa Rosa Plateau. The route follows old roads and trails used by cattle ranchers dating back to the early 1800s. The region is very well signed, almost too well signed, and there are many overlapping trails that can lead to the same location. In some ways this makes the trail signs a bit confusing. Although there isn’t much chance for getting lost, unplanned exploration is a distinct possibility on the preserve."
"Atop Mesa de Colorado on the Santa Rosa Plateau are four shallow depressions formed from ancient lava flows. Water collects in the basalt rock depressions, creating pools. As the pools evaporate, concentric rings of multi-colored wildflowers grow along the moist, receding shoreline. The springtime pools along this trail are among the largest vernal pools in the state and act as a seasonal wetland for waterfowl. Below the mesa on the valley floor are two ranch structures known as the Moreno and Machado Adobes. They are original buildings from the 47,81 5-acre Rancho Santa Rosa, dating back to 1846. These are the oldest surviving buildings in Riverside County. A majestic pecan grove by the adobes was planted in the early 1 900s. This hike forms a loop—visiting both the vernal pools and the historic adobes—on old ranch roads and trails in the southwest section of the reserve."
Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire (Wilderness Press)
David & Jennifer Money Harris
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"In the southwest corner of the reserve is a shallow basalt basin that fills with water during the winter rains. Such vernal pools, so named because they usually hold an abundance of water in the spring, were once common in California, but over 90 percent have been destroyed by development or agriculture. Vernal pools nourish a variety of endangered species. The Santa Rosa Plateau has some of the last remaining vernal pools. This one, the largest pool in the reserve, supports fairy shrimp, frogs, and water birds. Wildflowers encircle the pool and creep toward the center as the water evaporates in May. A short well-marked trail leads to a boardwalk over the pool so that you can enjoy its wonders without trampling the fragile environment."
Afoot & Afield: Orange County (Wilderness Press)
Jerry Schad and David Money Harris
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"One of the largest vernal pools in California (39 acres at maximum capacity) lies in a shallow depression atop near-flat Mesa de Colorado on the south side of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve."

Vernal Pool Trail Trip Reports

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One of the finest hikes in California. Has everything, rolling hills with old oaks, streams, and the center point, the Vernal Pools. Came across game and snakes (good ones).
Take a lunch and eat at the old farm house adobe.
Do this in the winter months so the pools will be filled.
The Vernal Pools section is a great Grandpas hike. The kids will love it.

Vernal Pool Trail Photos

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Trail Information

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Nearby City
Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Skill Level
Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Local Contacts
TOPO! CD: California CD 10; USGS: Wildomar
Local Maps

Trail Log