Looking for something to do? Take a hike!

Hiking the trails throughout the Temecula Valley and the surrounding area offers the opportunity for residents and visitors alike to get out and experience nature at its finest. With the days getting longer and the fairly mild winter we are experiencing, now is the perfect time to get out there and take a hike.

Some of the more scenic, yet relatively easy trails in the area include the San Juan Loop Trail in Lake Elsinore, Warm Springs Trail and Falcons View Trail in Murrieta.

San Juan Loop Trail is rated as an easy and relatively short hike by everytrail.com. Running 2.1 miles in length, this trail loop located in the Cleveland National Forest off of Ortega Highway makes its way through different portions of open trail and ancient oak trees. Featuring views of a small waterfall, the trail is both family and dog friendly and bicyclists are not allowed.

To get to the San Juan Loop Trail take the Ortega Highway 10 miles west of Lake Elsinore. Visitors need to bring a National Forest Adventure Pass and display it in the windshield of parked vehicles.

Murrieta’s Warm Springs trail is located in Warm Springs Park off of Whitewood and Alta Murrieta roads. The easy quarter mile hike makes a nice loop through a wildlife and nature preserve. Warm Springs Trail is dog friendly though, all four-legged visitors need to be on a six-foot leash when hiking the trail.

Falcon’s View Trail, also located in Murrieta, allows hikers to escape to one of the highest points in the city where those adventurous enough to make the trek will see a breathtaking view of the entire Murrieta Valley.

At just over a half mile in distance, this trail dog-friendly trail offers hikers the opportunity to climb to a lesser known viewpoint within the city. The trail can be accessed from California Oaks Road or Nutmeg.

Murrieta offers 22 miles of trails for those who wish to get out and walk. Ranging from easy to difficult, many trails are included in the city’s Get Fit program.

Signs along the trails will assist those who are out exercising to determine which direction of walking will meet their fitness needs, said Parks and Recreation Manager Lea Kolek.

“We have a lot of trails because our perspective is to get people out of the house and into a natural setting so they can see things that they may not see at a park or by taking a recreation class,” said Kolek. “As part of Get Fit Murrieta, there are walks that people can take with calculations on distances. It ties in the trails.”

Murrieta is currently working with the Sierra Club as well as Temecula, Wildomar and Lake Elsinore on the interim Murrieta Creek Trail connecting all of the cities. The approximately 14-mile trail will open on June 6, said Kolek.

“There will be trailheads throughout four different cities,” said Kolek, who added that the Murrieta trailhead ribbon cutting will be held at Cooper Canyon Park. “There are a few easements we still have to get yet so it’s not a continuous trail yet. There are some areas where hikers will need to come off the trail, go on some sidewalks and then reconnect to the trail.”

The City of Murrieta also encourages those who enjoy any one of its numerous trails to help keep its parks and trails clean by picking up any trash they may see along the way and to report graffiti and vandalism to the community services department.

For more information on Murrieta’s parks and trails visit www.murrieta.org or call (951) 304 PARK.

Just up Interstate 15, off of Clinton Keith Road lies Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Park, undeniably one of the best areas for hiking in the region.

With miles of trails ranging from easy to moderate, meandering through vernal pools, sprawling grasslands and dramatic looking Engelmann oaks, the park is a must visit for both new and seasoned hikers alike.

“The ecological reserve protects a lot of rare and exciting habitats that are difficult to find in Southern California, primarily vernal pools in the springtime and native bunch grass prairie which is virtually gone from California and that is where you will find most of the wildflowers growing come springtime,” said Riverside County Parks Interpreter Rob Hicks. “Engelmann oaks are an extremely rare tree species that are found in the open prairie so (hikers) will see them in the savannah of the Santa Rosa Plateau. They are very distinct looking and that makes the landscape unique.”

In addition to the landscape, Hicks said wildlife is abundant and varied and includes everything from coyotes to birds of prey.

“Mule deer and coyotes are often seen on the trails as well as the many raptor species that are both swooping through the canopy of oaks along with the bigger species that are soaring through the open grasslands,” said Hicks. “There is a lot of wildlife to enjoy as well.”

Offering interpretive programs, a visitor’s center and two historic adobes dating back to 1854, the park offers something for everyone. While most of the programs that take place at the visitor’s center are held during the week there is programming available on the weekends.

“On weekends during the spring we have periodic bird hikes as well as general information hikes about the geology and human history of the plateau,” said Hicks. “On Saturday mornings starting in March through May at 9:30 in the morning there is a two-hour hike that everyone is welcome to join. It’s a general overview of the natural and cultural history of the plateau.”

Keep in mind if you go, there is a $3 per person fee and hikers must stay on the trails at all times. Dogs are not permitted on the trails, but are allowed on leash at Sylvan Meadows.

Everything in the park, including flowers and rocks are protected so collecting or disturbing any element, including wildlife, which is abundant, is prohibited.

The park is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.

Individual passes can be purchased for $35 annually and includes access to 12 locations for a single person. A $10 annual vehicle pass is also available and includes access to all locations for everyone in the vehicle.

“It’s a very diverse place with a lot of exciting experiences for people,” Hicks said.

For more information on Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Park, visit www.rivcoparks.org or call (951) 677-6951.

While hiking can be a great way for family and friends to spend time together in the great outdoors, it’s important to be safe while on the trail. The National Park Service offers the following tips to make that hiking trip a safe and enjoyable one for everyone involved.

  • Carry and drink plenty of water (a minimum of one quart every two hours).
  • Sturdy footwear with good traction might save an ankle.
  • Minor to moderate health or medical issues can be easily exacerbated by hiking up steep trails—know your limits and pay attention to how you’re feeling. If you are too out of breath to speak, then you are working too hard.
  • Hike with a family member or friend.
  • Stay on the established trail.
  • When hiking in a group, each member of the group should carry some water and food in case the party becomes separated, and the group should make a plan for where to meet up (at the vehicle, at the trailhead, etc.) if the members become separated.
  • Hikers should have a plan and inform someone of where they are going and when they plan to return.
  • Carry a whistle and flashlight.
  • Eat well prior and during a hike.
  • Stay on the trail and ask for help when needed.
  • For backcountry hikes, hikers should familiarize themselves with the area.
  • Use a map when one is available.
  • Expect changes in the weather.

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