There is this place near to where my family lives in Southern California which makes a great little hiking escape. The Santa Rosa Plateau, is an ecological reserve tucked away in the hills above Temecula valley. The landscape here is beautiful- small valleys and grasslands filled with oak trees and granite boulders, wildflowers and coastal sage brush. There are a variety of hiking trails from very easy to difficult switchback and it is a wonderful place to spend the day exploring. I've been many times and I always want to go there when I'm in town. This trip I took the kids up there early one morning to stretch our legs and try to alleviate our jet lag. We only spent a couple of hours there this time as it's summer and it can get pretty hot. Even so, it was a perfect morning. We walked and talked, listening to the birds, thought about how cool it was how we were here this day in this landscape having just travelled from the tropics on the other side of the planet the day before... an amazing sensation really. My boys climbed a couple of boulders my daughter enjoyed taking some photos. It was all so chill.
The lovely thing about the Santa Rosa Plateau is that it is a state Reserve which protects one of the best examples of bunchgrass prairie remaining in California. In the Spring a vernal pool naturally occurs and you can access this unique wetland over a wooden boardwalk. Spring sees most of the native wildflowers too like orange poppy, chocolate lily and that gorgeous purple cluster lily- brodiaea. There are plenty of critters to spot and the reserve protects over 200 species of native birds as well as animals such as the mule deer, the mountain lion, the badger and the bobcat. On past visits I have personally spotted coyote, Kite birds and one tarantula spider- no joke! I think the best times to visit are Winter and Spring when it is not so hot, the grass goes green and you get more interesting weather coming through. Picnic, water and sunscreen are essential. Happy Hiking!