Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

Stephen F. Dennstedt

A couple of days ago Shawn and I headed up to the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murrieta, CA (about a 10-minute drive from his house). It’s beautiful up there now in early spring, especially after the abundant winter rains—everything is green and lush. Murrieta is about 1 – 1½ hours north of San Diego proper (avoid rush hour on the I-15 if possible).

To my local photographer friends: you might find new inspiration up on the plateau (at least for the next month or two). I imagine that it will get pretty hot up there during the summer months. I know, as a photographer, I am always looking for new venues to shoot—and this one is a beauty. Good walking shoes and water are a must, plus your camera of course.

A few safety warnings to be aware of:

  • Mountain Lions travel through the Reserve. Keep children close at all times and runners are advised to always stay with a partner.
  • Rattlesnakes.  Three different species of rattlesnakes—southern pacific, red-diamond and speckled—reside on the Reserve. Watch where you step, do not put hands where you cannot see, and never pick up any snake.
  • Poison Oak is a common plant of the Plateau. Stay on the trail to avoid this skin irritant, and become familiar with its appearance. Remember: “Leaves of three, let it be.”

Day Use Fees are: 2 – 12 years $3.00 and 13+ years $4.00. The collection of fees appears to be on the honor system. Many of the trails are multi-use: bicycle riding, horseback riding and hiking with dogs on a 6-foot leash (however many trails do not permit dogs—so be aware). The Reserve is open sunup to sundown and those are some of the best times to be there (especially for photographers in search of the Golden Hour). Critters abound: we saw coyotes, squirrels, gophers, hawks, crows, buzzards, meadowlarks, woodpeckers—and a snake (a small garter snake).

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve


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