Hiking at the Santa Rosa Plateau

Spring time is here and it’s one of the best times to get out for a hike. The much needed rains have let up here in So Cal and that not only means we will see a lot of green but also the vernal pools at the Santa Rosa Plateau have been filled! So it’s no secret that one of my go to hiking spots for my family is the Santa Rosa Plateau, the ecological reserve is located in Murrieta about 4 miles off of the Clinton Keith exit. The Plateau hosts plenty of trail options, a nature center, historic adobes, and of course the vernal pools.

The vernal pools are only really visible after the rainy season. So this year is one of the best times to visit them since California experienced so much rain to help get us out of the long drought we have been under. The vernal pools are a great way to see a lot of the wildlife that the Plateau houses. Just on our visit alone we saw tadpoles, dragonflies, butterflies, ducks, a few different types of birds, grasshoppers, a snake (more about this later!) and the teeny hard to spot fairy shrimp. Plus the rains have brought about a Super Bloom so along the trails you are sure to see beautiful wildflowers.

*A fun game for my kids was to see how many different colors of flowers we could spot.*

For our visit to the Plateau I parked at the trail entrance for the vernal pools which is the last entrance to the Santa Rosa Plateau trails off of Via Volcano Rd. As were not planning on spending the day hiking the trails since we had come off of a little morning adventure I opted on this closer parking location. When you park at this location there is a trail that leads straight to the large vernal pool. You are also able to pay the visit fee at the drop box at the entrance of the trail. If you are up for it from this trail you can head to the historic adobe buildings as well. It all just depends on how much time you want to spend exploring. The trails at the Santa Rosa Plateau are great for beginners in my opinion. My kids have been on several hikes here and have done great. We have hiked just around the nature center, we have taken this trail to the vernal pools (during an off season) and continued down to the adobes. My kids and I on the way back from the pools ventured down a little on the hidden valley trail this visit. I would like to go back and check this trail out a little more.

So a little confession, before I headed down to the Plateau I did a little snooping on Instagram under the Places tab to see if there was any water still at the pools. Since the heavy rain I have been wanting to take the kids to see the vernal pools, but I didn’t want to make the trip only to be disappointed. The last time we hiked this trail was during the off season so while it wasn’t entirely empty it just wasn’t what I was expecting to see. So some of the most recent “posts” were up to days before and I was a little apprehensive that they would still look as full since the weather has begun to heat up. But it was still a chance to see them with water so we loaded up some hiking supplies and made for the pools. I was so glad we went, they were still full and the weather was warm so the muddy trails were dry. The parking lot was pretty full when we arrived and we passed quite a few people on the trails but it was surprisingly not crowded.

There was quite a while that we had the vernal pool all to ourselves. It was so nice to just sit and enjoy the view. Of course the highlight for the kids was seeing all the inhabitants. I mentioned much of what we saw above but the most exciting one we saw was a snake. It wasn’t a very large snake but it was a snake and that was enough to make my kid’s day. We watched the little snake swim around the pool a bit and a fellow hiker informed us about how it was most likely hunting tadpoles. This went along well with what my daughter has been learning in school about food chains.

Our little friend may be hard to spot but he is located in the center of this photo. He wasn’t a very big snake so he camouflaged well amoung the vegetation.

Another great time exploring the Santa Rosa Plateau. I was almost tempting to go hiking further because of how picturesque the landscape was. In the distance we could even see a little snow caped mountain, this year the rain really brought it.

We only went a little ways down the trail to the Hidden Valley. I would like to go back and explore this area more. What was nice was once we got into a shaded area there was a bench to sit on and just gaze out through a window in the trees to the valley.

Hiking Tips

*Always pack plenty of water
*Bring some snacks
*Wear good comfortable shoes
*Take plenty of breaks
*Use Sunscreen and Wear a Hat

And remember to just enjoy your time outside!

Cruzin Mama

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
39400 Clinton Keith Rd
Murrieta Ca 92562
Hours
Sunrise – Sunset
Nature Center • Tuesday-Sunday 9am to 5pm
Closed Mondays and all major holidays
Fees
Adults $4 Children 3-12 $3

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Discover Upper Newport Bay

Newport Bay Conservancy

Hiking around Newport Bay Conservancy and the Muth Interperitive Center

Saturday was National Trails Day and I attempted to take my family on a hike on the new trail here in Temecula. Unfortunately it was a completely unsuccessful, the trail is a new initiative to create a connection between Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar and Lake Elsinore. The Temecula trail is not very family friend from its intended starting point and after trying for about an hour we never reached the unpaved path. So instead of sharing all about that trail I decided to share about a great family hiking spot in Newport. Many times it is just myself and my two kids hiking so finding a kid friendly trail is a must. I especially like to find ones that have a nature center or learning centers so I can involve so education into our adventure.

The Newport Bay Conservancy fits just that, with its beautiful trails surronding the bay and two vistor centers. The first of which is the Muth Interpretive Center on the Upper Newport Bay side of the Conservancy. The second is the Back Bay Science Center. My family has yet to visit the Back Bay Science Center, but I know a trip is in the works to visit it this summer.

Upper Newport Bay

Upper Newport Bay Trails

Hiking Upper Newport Bay

When we arrived at the Conservancy we went up to the observatory deck to just take in all the views. The kids had fun looking through the view finder trying to find any animals out on the bay. We only hiked around a short trail as we ended up spending much of our visit at the Interperitive Center. On our next visit we will definitely get more exploring in.

Muth Interpertive Center

Muth Center Newport Bay

Newport Bay Turtle

Newport Bay Interpretive Center

*Coming Soon* Tide Pool Exhibit

Muth Interpertive Center

Newport Bay Muth Center

So we spent a lot of our visit at the Muth Interpertive Center. The kids had fun in the activity room playing with puppets, puzzles and coloring. The activity room also is home to an assortment of animals that are native to the bay, such as turtles, snakes and tarantulas. While in the activity room my daughter and I took the time to work on a free learning activity book. The book led us to the other half of the Center to answer questions in it. The other side of the Center features interactive exhibits with artifacts found in the area. This is the more educational side of the Muth building. There is also a movie room, but we did not happen to visit it during our trip. During our visit one of the exhibits was under construction, soon it will be a wave pool complete with Sting Rays.

Newport Bay Junior Ranger Program

Junior Ranger

The activity book that we completed at the Muth Center was apart of the Junior Ranger Program. This is a program to get kids involved with National Parks and in conservation. It’s a wonderful free program. When your child completes the program at a participating park or reserve, they are sworn in by a Park Ranger and given a Junior Ranger badge.

So the next time you’re out in the Newport Bay area take a hike and check out the Newport Bay Conservancy.

Cruzin Mama

Newport Bay Muth Interpretive Center
2301 University Drive,
Newport Beach, CA 92660
Hours and Cost
Open Tuesdays – Sundays 10am to 4pm
Parking and Entrance are FREE

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines Family Hiking

Living here in Southern California it’s hard not to be outdoors all the time with the favorable weather. I recently took advantage of this and went hiking with my kiddos at Torrey Pines State Reserve. Torrey Pines is located right at the northern edge of La Jolla. The name is perfect since it’s covered in pine trees but right next to the ocean. So you can also make a trip here a beach day. (We will be making a trip back to do that soon!) Torrey Pines State Reserve is a well known San Diego hiking destination. And after hitting the trails for myself I can see why!

Torrey Pines Visitor Lodge

Visitor Lodge

Since it was just me and my kiddos I decided to actually shell out the funds and pay to park. When speaking with the parking attendant he suggested to park near the visitors lodge at the top of the mountain since this was our very first visit. Most hikers park at the bottom lot or in the lots just outside the park. There is limited parking by the lodge but we were able to find a great space. Our first stop after parking was naturally to explore the visitor lodge. The lodge is filled with artifacts and animals(stuffed) that inhabit the area. There is a meet up area right in front of the entrance for a FREE guided tour on weekends and holidays. I hope on our next visit we are able to take advantage of this. We toured around the lodge for a bit and spoke with a very nice worker about the Reserve and the hiking trails. She was able to suggest a perfect trail for me and my two little companions.

Guy Fleming Trail at Torrey Pines

Guy Fleming Trail Map

Guy Fleming Trail

The trail recommended to me was Guy Fleming Trail, which was a short walk down hill from the Visitors Lodge. The Ranger suggested the trail since I had my little ones. It is an easier trail that went in a big loop. There wasn’t too many cliff sides to stress over which was nice. My son is pretty good at staying by my side or holding someone’s hand. The trail features a nice look out point where during migration season you can sometimes spot the whales. It’s also just a nice spot to just watch the ocean.

Torrey Pines Trail Lookout

Torrey Pines Ocean Lookout

We didn’t happen to spot any whales on our visit but the views were still worth it. A Ranger informed me that the best chance to see the whales migrating is early in the day, usually before and around 10am.

Torrey Pine tree tunnel

Rare Five-Needle Torrey Pines

The kids had a blast walking under the Torrey Pines on a section of the trail. These are the pine trees that give Torrey Pines its name. They are the five-needle Torrey pines that are only grow naturally in two places in the entire world! They are rare relics of a woodland coast past.

Hiking at Torrey Pines

My little family had a fun little adventure here. I can’t wait to go back and check out some more trails, some without the kids due to their terrain and difficulty. But I would definitely take them back to hike the Guy Fleming trail again or take a nice walk along the coast line. Torrey Pines is really a great family outing.

Have fun adventuring!

Cruzin Mama

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
12600 North Torrey Pines Road,
San Diego CA 92037
Open Daily 7:15am – Sunset (varies 5pm – 8pm)
torreypine.org

San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center

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My little family went on a little outing to the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center this weekend. I love finding local places to go for walks/mini hikes with my kiddos. It’s always a bonus when the place we go to has a museum or nature center that gives information and history of the area. The best is when the location participates in the Junior Ranger program. My children are able to complete activities to earn a special Junior Ranger badge, such an awesome FREE program. And the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center hit all of these.

San Elijo Lagoon and Nature Center
San Elijo Lagoon is a Ecological Reserve located in Cardiff-by-the-Sea (Encinitas). It features a loop trail through part of the lagoon and a 5,600-square foot visitor center. The visitor center is a fun interactive center great for kids. There are live animals that are inhabitants found in the lagoon inside the center so you can get a nice up close look. There is also artifacts of past civilizations as well as recycled material that has come from run off into the lagoon. The information is also presented in a nice kid friendly way with hands on interaction.

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The visitor center wasn’t very large but it is very nicely set up and easy for kids to go around and take it all in. My littlest one loved seeing all the animals there especially the snakes. While at the visitor center we picked up the program to complete for their Junior Rangers badges. The Junior Ranger program is put on by many National Parks and is a great way to get kids outdoors and learning about nature. The program here was a scavenger hunt where children check off items that they see while on the trail.

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Our walk on the trail was just so gorgeous with the sunset as a backdrop. It’s so funny how we are only minutes from the freeway and housing tracks while at the lagoon yet feel like we left that all miles away. There where some great little look out spots and also benches positioned in just the right spots to just take it all in. My little explorers very much enjoyed all the bridges on the trail. Especially one that went through a portion of the lagoon. The trail is great for beginning and novice hikers. It’s a loop trail so even if you only do a portion you see a good amount of the lagoon and get a nice little workout in.

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My kiddos completed the Junior Ranger program and were awarded their very own Junior Ranger Badges. I was so happy that my son was able to participate in the program this time. Parks may have age requirements for their program; when we visited Cabrillo National Monument only my daughter was able to do the program there so a return visit once my son is older is a must ;)
I have to say our little outing was a success and I can see us returning for another little adventure here.

Get out and have a little adventure yourself!

Cruzin Mama

View of the lagoon at sunset from the visitor center's  observation deck.

View of the lagoon at sunset from the visitor center’s observation deck.

San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center
2710 Manchester Avenue
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

Parking and Entrance
FREE

Open daily 9am to 5pm
Closed December 25th

Santa Rosa Plateau and Visitor Center

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On Saturday my little guy and I went on a little outing. His big sis was sick with a nasty bug and I wanted to keep him from catching it, so I took him out for some errands with me. We were near the Santa Rosa Plateau so I decided to stop by with him to check out their Family Wildlife Day event that was going on. I love to come here and explore a little with my kiddos. I usually stick to the trail loop near the Visitor Center. And lucky for us that is where all the fun was happening that day.

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The Visitor Center is packed full of information about the history of the area and all the animals that have called it home. The workers are very friendly and took the time to talk with my curious 3 year old.

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There is 9000 acres to explore at the Reserve. Near the Visitor Center is a great loop trail that branches off to many other trails. Some lead to the Historic Adobe Buildings or the Seasonal Vernal Pools. The Sylvan-Meadows side of the The Reserve offers multi-use trails which can be walked, hiked, biked, or even explored on horseback.

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There is signs and animal prints on rocks on the trail near the Visitor Center. My son loves the rocks with the animal foot prints he kept having to match up his hands to them. Some of the signs have a little history or talked about the types of vegetation in that area. One of the most important signs was about what to do if you encounter a Mountain Lion, remember this is a Reserve and there are wild animals that call it home.

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Family Wildlife Day was fun and a great little outing. We hang out with Smokey the Bear and got to sit in a Forest Service Truck. We got up close to falcons and hawks and also snakes. There was also a bat exhibit where a little bat was hanging around. We visited all the sponsor tents several had crafts for the kids. I’m glad I was able to check this fun event out.

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If you have a chance check out Murrieta’s hidden gem. Get out there and explore!

Cruzin Mama

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The Santa Rosa Plateau
39400 Clinton Keith Road
Murrieta, Ca 92562

Hours:
Trails– Sunrise to Sunset
Visitor Center– Tuesday through Sunday 9am to 5pm
Fees:
Adults $3
Children(2-12 years) $2

Weekend Events: San Elijo Lagoon Halloween Event

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San Elijo Lagoon Not-So-Scary Estuary

This Saturday October 18th and Sunday the 19th the Family Discovery Days at the San Elijo Lagoon will be hosting a Not-So-Scary Estuary. This is a FREE event for the whole family to enjoy. The fun is from 1pm – 4pm both days. There will be crafts, hands on activities, trick-or-treating, a giant spider web, and live animal presentations. This is a great chance to check out the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center and to get to know more about it’s not-so-scary inhabitants. Be sure to come in your costumes as there will be a costume contest going on.

I love finding events for my kids to wear their Halloween costumes as much as possible. I have not taken my family to the San Elijo Lagoon yet but we have gone to it’s neighboring Batiquitos Lagoon and had a wonderful time walking the trails and learning about the lagoon and it’s inhabitants. The San Elijo Lagoon should be just as fun and I love anything Halloween so it’s a win/win for me.

Below is the event flyer with full event details. Have a haunting good time exploring the lagoon!

Cruzin Mama

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Living Coast Discovery Center

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The Living Coast is a fun little Discovery Center located in Chula Vista. The Discovery Center is a great way to get up close to many of Southern California’s inhabitants. The Center is located on the 316 acre Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The Center itself is small but packed full of animals and information.

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My little family recently went on a little adventure to the Living Coast Discovery Center. This was our first visit, well except for my fiancé but he went when he was very young so it was like a first visit again for him. We took our time throughout the whole center which wasn’t crowded and all the animals and fish were easy to spot. All the staff was cheerful and would take their time and answer all my little explorers questions. I really loved how all the enclosures were so detailed. Being at the center is such a change from the downtown city setting I am so used to when we go to San Diego, it was a nice little escape.

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The first animal to greet you when you arrive at the Living Coast. Which made my kiddos so excited to go inside.

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Many of the birds at the Center are rescues, such as the Screech Owl pictured above. The Owl is blind in one eye and was brought to the Center where he helps to educate visitors.

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The kids got a nice up close look at sharks in the Shark & Ray Experience. If you can tell from the water on the ground the Rays like to splash a bit.

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Outside is all the bird exhibits and great views of the marsh. There was a volunteer who talked with us about the local birds and pointed out where to see their nests in the marsh. To help with seeing them we checked out a free pair of binoculars to share. My son was using his own Dora the Explorer ones.

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He really put his binoculars to good use while at the Discovery Center. ;)

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One of the best features of the Living Coast is the Walking Trails. The Trails lead from the Center to the shore of San Diego Bay. The views from the trails a beautiful and you may even hatch a glimpse of some San Diego natives such as rabbits or shorebirds. The day we went was rather hot so we didn’t fully explore the trails so you can bet that is on our list for our return visit.

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I can’t forget to mention the free shuttle bus that you ride to and from the parking lot to the Discovery Center and back. What better way to start and end the days adventure. The ride got the kids so excited and felt a little like you were traveling somewhere far off.

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If you have the chance try and explore this wonderful Discovery Center. My family had a great time there and can see our selves going back for another visit. For more information about the Living Coast Discovery Center visit thelivingcoast.org

Have fun exploring!

Cruzin Mama

The Living Coast Discovery Center
1000 Gunpowder Point Drive
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Hours and Admission
Open Daily 10am to 5pm
Adults $14
Children (4-17) $9
3 years and Under are FREE

Irvine Regional Park and OC Zoo

Posted in Summer Fun!

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My family went on a little adventure this weekend to Orange County. We wanted to go somewhere we have never been before and break from our usual areas we go out to. Orange County not only has beautiful beaches but it is filled with nice parks and great nature reserves. So we decided to check out Irvine Regional Park. I had only heard a little bit about this park so we were excited to check out all that was there.

The park was huge! When you enter there is a entrance fee of $3 per car on weekdays or $5 on weekends. There is walking, biking and horseback riding trails all through out it. Many different bikes are available for rental. A steam engine train that travels through a portion of the park, cost to ride is $5 a person and children under 1 year ride free. We didn’t ride the train this trip but plan on going back since I have a coupon for it that only works on weekdays. There was a small lake with pedal bikes to rent to ride on the water. Pony rides and horse rentals are also available. Or you can just set up an picnic under the large shady trees while the children play on one of the playgrounds throughout the park.

Oh and I forgot to mention there is also a Zoo in the park! That’s right a zoo, how cool is that. The OC Zoo was located not to far inland from the enterance of the park. It is a small Zoo but we absolutely loved it. All the animals were so visible and close my toddler had no problem seeing them. The keepers were all so friendly and informative with the animal encounters. My daughter completed a scavenger hunt and received a free OC Zoo patch. Before I forget entrance to the Zoo is just $2 a person with children 3 and under free.

The OC Zoo a little gem hidden in Irvine Park in Orange County.

The OC Zoo a little gem hidden in Irvine Park in Orange County.

The kids had a blast!

The kids had a blast!

Another one of our stops in the park was to the Nature Center. Entrance to the Nature Center is free, there is a donation box to help with the upkeep and running it. I love to visit Nature Centers and see all the history about the area. They are usually interactive for the kids which I always feel is a great way of learning. My daughter completed another scavenger hunt in the center which was posted on a board with others after she finished. The Nature Center isn’t very large but there was a lot of my kids to do there. Some of the hands on activities were dusting for fossils, panning for gold, making animal tracks, a touch and guess station, and a replica of a Native American hut. This is just a bit of what is in the Nature Center.

Exploring the Nature Center

Exploring the Nature Center

Just a glimpse of the Irvine Parks Nature Center.

Just a glimpse of the Irvine Parks Nature Center.

I feel like I could keep going on about this wonderful park. My family had a great experience and were so glad to go on a little adventure here. It really paid off to go somewhere new and break from routine. If you happen to be out in the Orange County area be sure to check this place out!

Irvine Regional Park
1 Irvine Park Rd,
Orange, CA 92869

Adventure is out there!

Cruzin Mama

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