Hiking the Santa Rosa Plateau: Oak Tree Trail, Trans Preserve Trail, Vernal Pool Trailhead, Vernal Pool Trail, Lomas Trail

Participants: Susan and Tom Chester
Date: 7 November 1996 (Written up 7-17 November 1996)
Numbers: 5 miles, ~400' elevation gain.

This was our first visit to the Santa Rosa Plateau, and it followed one inch of rain. We were curious to see what the state of the vernal pool would be!

We parked our car at the intersection of Clinton Keith Road and Tenaja Road, using the entrance into the Reserve that is destined to be closed permanently on 1 December 1996, to make it easier to collect the new $2 entrance fee. One could do essentially the same trip starting at the Vernal Pool Trailhead entrance on Volcano Road, if that entrance is not also closed.

We picked up the Oak Tree Trail, and took the left branch. 0.3 mi later, we took the Trans Preserve Trail to its end at the Vernal Pool Trail. It was beautiful hiking all along every part of the trail. The map indicated there were vernal pools at the Trailhead, so we went there, finding nothing at present. We turned around and headed to the big pool.

Be sure to note the incredible "tree shell" about 200 yards northwest of the junction of the Vernal Pool Trail and the Trans Preserve Trail. The top part of the tree is entirely gone, with the part left splaying apart at the top. The rest of the tree is now a "walk-through" tree like the "drive-through Giant Sequoia"! (We did not leave the trail to walk-through it.)

There's a beautiful bench just before you get to the big pool, where we stopped and ate. It was great to be able to sit at a bench in shade, instead of on a rock in the sun! There's a display board there giving a lot of information about vernal pools and the Reserve.

From the bench area, it looks like the pool is much deeper than it turned out to be. The other side of the hill had a faint resemblance to the far side of open-pit mines, and I was surprised that it wasn't deeper than it was. I was also surprised that the lowest point was where it was - on approaching, it looked like the lowest point occurs to the south of where it actually does. There was no water in the Pool, but the ground was damp.

After a quick through-trip on the boardwalk, we continued on the Vernal Pool Trail, bearing right and dropping off the Mesa de Colorado. The views are just stupendous hiking in this direction along the trail. My one disappointment was that we had no view of Fallbrook because we were too far from the southern lip of the Mesa.

We admired the working windmill at the end of the trail, as well as the adobes. As we left the adobes on the Lomas Trail, Susan noticed that the windmill was shooting water 5-10' in the air from a pipe near its base!

Be aware that Jerry Schad's map is more accurate than the Reserve Map for the junction of the Lomas Trail with Monument Road. If you just go by the Reserve Map, you'll be temporarily confused. The difference is that you hit a big wide road - Monument Road - which is correctly indicated on Schad's map, but is shown as the continuation of the Lomas Trail on the Reserve Map. Also, the Vernal Pool Trail goes a bit farther to the east than indicated on either map before it loops back to the west and hits the Ranch Road.

Explanation of column headings

Detailed Hiking Log
Recording numberMileageTime arrivedTime leftAltitudeComments
00.009:13 1500Clinton Keith and Tenaja Road.
10.309:22 1500Junction Trans Preserve Trail.
20.509:28 1500Junction closed trail to east.
30.859:39 1500Jct. trail to east before Poppy Hill.
41.209:47 1500Jct. Los Santos Trail/ to Ranch Road. "Main Gate: 1.4 mi. Vernal Pools: 1 mi."
51.8010:05 1700Jct. Vernal Pool Trail. "Adobes: 1.3 mi. Ranch Road: 0.8 mi. Vernal Pool Trail Head: 0.4 mi."
62.1010:15 1700Vernal Pool Trail Head.
72.2010:18 1650Los Santos Trail Head.
82.4510:24 1650=5.
92.5010:2610:431700Bench with shade just before biggest vernal pool.
102.6010:46 1700Largest vernal pool.
112.7510:52 1700=10, after loop on boardwalk through pool.
122.9510:58 1750Jct. faint trail to north: continued east, dropping off Mesa de Colorado.
133.5511:14 1550Jct. Ranch Road at windmill. "Vernal Pool: 1.1 mi."
143.6511:16 1500Adobe houses.
153.7511:23 1500Jct. Lomas Trail.
163.8511:28 1500Jct. Adobe Loop Trail.
174.2011:37 1550Jct. Monument Road.
184.3511:43 1600Jct. Lomas Trail to left.
194.5011:47 1600Just over hill: great view of north end of Mesa de Burro.
204.7511:54 1450Jct. Ranch Road. "Lomas Trail to adobes: 1.4 mi."
214.8511:59 1400Car.


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Copyright © 1996-2006 by Tom Chester.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 27 February 2006.