Two-Canyon Empire

Let’s see ... a plateau that’s an extension of a mountain range, an undulating ridgeline, big boulders, and…

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Let’s see … a plateau that’s an extension of a mountain range, an undulating ridgeline, big boulders, and two canyons: The 6.6-mile Wiashal Trail is a great hike for ticking off a SoCal geology checklist! The trail follows a ridgeline atop a plateau that’s actually a southeastern extension of the Santa Ana Mountains—all to gain panoramic views of two canyons.

This lollipop loop winds up and down multiple summits in the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murietta for an elevation gain of close to 1,000 feet. It’s those ups and downs that garner you the dramatic views of Slaughterhouse and Cole Canyons down below. And the view of the Santa Anas isn’t so bad either!

Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Wiashal Trail Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

Start your trek at the reserve visitor center. You’ll first get a lowland experience as you hike through dramatic Englemann oak woodlands. Watch for golden star and false indigo wildflowers along the way. Then the work begins as you hike the reserve’s toughest trail. You’ll ascend the spine of the hills, passing through dramatic boulder formations. As the canyon views unfold, you can see most of the reserve, as well as the Santa Ana Mountains. Be sure to gaze skyward as well. You might catch a look at a red-tailed hawk, who most assuredly has already seen you.

TIP: Large portions of the trail are lined by dense brush on either side, so long pants are recommended.

To visit the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, take I-15 to Clinton Keith Rd. in Murietta, exiting west. Continue on Clinton Keith for just over 5 miles, turning right on Tenaja Rd. The parking lot will be on your left in 0.7 mile. $4/adult entry fee. No dogs.

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