The following table lists the most popular hiking routes, and gives the total length in miles of each route, from each of the four parking areas at the Santa Rosa Plateau, in order of increasing mileage.
The elevation gain and loss of each route is also given. Elevation gains and losses are of course the same for all loop trips that begin and end at the same trailhead, and hence only a single number is given for those routes. The gains and losses are not the same for a one way route along the Wiashal Trail, and hence they are given separately.
In most cases, mileages are from GPS measurements of the trails, with elevation gains and losses obtained from USGS topographic maps. Not all trails have the highest-accuracy GPS mappings, so some of these numbers may change slightly in the future; some roads have not yet measured with GPS.
Each of these routes is given in detail in the plant trail guides, accompanied by a complete listing of all vascular plant species encountered on each trail in order of their first appearance on the trail.
These routes completely cover all the trails and roads of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The 15 routes marked with an asterisk before the name give one set of routes that covers all the trails and roads; the others just give variations in covering the trails and roads.
Examples of the redundant coverage are:
- including the Wiashal Trail twice, once as a round-trip and once as a one-way, car-shuttle trip;
- including five routes involving just the Vernal Pool, S. Los Santos and S. Trans Preserve Trails, since these separate routes are popular. In particular, one route is from the Vernal Pool Trailhead to the Adobes and back the same way. Many people do that latter route, even though returning from the Adobes via the S. Trans Preserve Trail adds only 0.13 miles and about 30 feet of elevation gain to the trip.
The Punta Mesa Loop and the Vista Grande Loop both include the 0.20 mile round-trip to Monument Hill; they would be 0.20 miles shorter, with 40 feet less of elevation gain and loss, if one does not take the spur road to Monument Hill itself.
The trails can be identified via Trail Maps of the Santa Rosa Plateau or by consulting the free brochure available at each trailhead. Later this year I'll put online a map showing each route explicitly.
These numbers were first compiled on 8/8/05, and I easily could have made a typo in the following or in the computation. These numbers will be checked against my hiking logs in the future to double-check them. If you notice any suspicious numbers, please let me know.
The mileage for the Vernal Pool Trail reflects its new alignment as of 2005, which is ~0.1 mile shorter to get to the Adobes than via the older route.
The mileage for the Wiashal trail as given here includes 0.28 miles beyond the boundary of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. A round-trip hike only to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve boundary and back would be 0.56 miles shorter. The mileage for the one-way Wiashal trip includes an additional 0.29 miles below the end of the trail in order to get to the parking area; this additional 0.29 miles is not included in a round-trip hike.
Remember, loop trips done in the opposite direction have the same mileage and elevation gain and loss. Only one direction is listed in the table below to save space. Thus, for example, the S. Los Santos / Adobes / Vernal Pool Trail loop has the same mileage and elevation gain and loss as the Vernal Pool / Adobes / S. Los Santos route.
In order to avoid additional rounding errors, mileages are given to hundredths of a mile, even though they are probably accurate only to 0.05 mile or so even for the most-accurately surveyed trails.
Note that some of these numbers will change when all trails have more been accurately GPS'd; until then, these numbers should be regarded as ballpark numbers.
Route Mileage Elevation Gain / Loss (feet)
Visitor Center Trailhead
*Granite Loop Trail 1.16 75 *Tovashal Trail / Sylvan Meadows Road / Torino Trail Loop 2.41 300 *Wiashal Trail (one way with car shuttle) 3.49 550/1150 *Waterline Road / Monument Hill Road / Fault Road Loop 4.29 300 *Vista Grande Trail / Monument Hill Road / N. Lomas Trail / Tenaja Truck Trail / Waterline Road Loop 5.21 400 Wiashal Trail (roundtrip) 6.60 1700
Sylvan Meadows Parking Trailhead
*Nighthawk Trail 0.61 30 *Mortero Trail / Sylvan Meadows Road Loop 2.62 150 *Sylvan Meadows Road / Shivela Trail / Stevenson Canyon Trail / Fenceline Trail Loop 3.86 500
Hidden Valley Parking Trailhead
*N. Los Santos Trail / Hidden Valley Road Loop 2.20 250 *Coyote Trail / N. Trans Preserve Trail / Ranch Road / Oak Tree Trail Loop 3.69 300
Vernal Pool Trailhead
Vernal Pool Trail / Adobes / Vernal Pool Trail 3.22 270 *Vernal Pool Trail / Adobes / Ranch Road / S. Trans Preserve Trail Loop 3.34 300 *S. Los Santos Trail / Hidden Valley Road / S. Trans Preserve Trail Loop 3.55 400 *Vernal Pool Trail / Adobes / S. Lomas Trail / S. Trans Preserve Trail Loop 4.13 400 *Vernal Pool Trail / Adobes / Adobe Loop Trail / Ranch Road / S. Trans Preserve Trail Loop 4.36 400 Vernal Pool Trail / Adobes / Ranch Road / Hidden Valley Road / S. Los Santos Trail Loop 4.41 400 S. Los Santos Trail / Hidden Valley Road / Ranch Road / Adobes / Ranch Road / S. Trans Preserve Trail Loop 4.43 450 Vernal Pool / Adobes / Adobe Loop / S. Lomas / S. Trans Preserve Loop 5.03 500 *Vernal Pool Trail / Adobes / Punta Mesa Trail / Monument Hill Road / S. Trans Preserve Trail Loop 7.74 750
Copyright © 2005-2006 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 20 April 2006.