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California Trails

San Diego: Monument Hill-Vernal Pools Loop

This 9.8-miler reveals the hard-knock life of the West--an old cowboy camp with jailhouse. Also, check out the rare shrimp in seasonal pools.

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Mapped by Rajeev Jain


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 15.8
  • Miles from city center: 72



Location: 33.5436058, -117.2701874

Go N on Granite Loop Trail through Engelmann oak woodlands and chapparal; in .3-mi., turn L (still Granite Loop Trail)


Location: 33.5411873, -117.2672043

L @ Y onto Vista Grande Trail, following seasonal creekbed; in .1 mi., turn R @ T, then cross bridge to take stairs up knoll


Location: 33.5394478, -117.2634048

Veer R; on L is lookout over dry pond and rolling meadow


Location: 33.5345535, -117.2593384

L @ T onto Waterline Rd. (jeep track). Dusty hills look like Bonanza country


Location: 33.5341187, -117.2543869

R @ 4-way onto Fault Rd. In .7 mi., turn R @ 4-way onto Monument Hill Rd.


Location: 33.5227814, -117.2602692

Turn L @ saddle onto spur trail


Location: 33.5216217, -117.2594986

Monument Hill: To NE, San Jacinto Peak and San Gorgonio Mtn. Turn S for Mesa de la Punta; return to WPT 6 and go L


Location: 33.5212936, -117.2705383

L @ next two Y?s, downhill past 100-ft. windmill; follow signs to Adobes


Location: 33.5116081, -117.2704391

Two adobe houses @ Santa Rosa Ranch (c. 1846) once served as cowboy camp and jailhouse. Head W on (dirt) Ranch Rd. In .3 mi., L onto Vernal Pools Trail; hike through sagebrush to Mesa de Colorado


Location: 33.5074997, -117.2836914

Go L for boardwalk over vernal pools that support Santa Rosa Plateau fairy shrimp in wet season, and their heat- resistant eggs in dry season. Return to main trail and go W. In .2 mi., turn R onto Trans- Preserve Trail


Location: 33.5132866, -117.2786102

Straight @ 4-way past Poppy Hill; in .4 mi., L @ T down into tree-choked canyon; cross several footbridges


Location: 33.5234756, -117.2793655

R @ Y onto Oak Tree Trail; in .6 mi., R onto Tenaja Truck Trail, bearing NE


Location: 33.5337067, -117.2614746

L @ T onto Waterline Rd.; close loop @ visitor?s center


Location: 33.5075455, -117.2836685

This is the boardwalk that leads to the vernal pools along Mesa de Colorado. ©Rajeev Jain

Small hill

Location: 33.5361023, -117.2640839

Nearing the end of the hike, the terrain rises and dips. ©Rajeev Jain

Santa Rosa Ranch

Location: 33.5115242, -117.2705154

A view of the barn through the trees at Santa Rosa Ranch. ©Rajeev Jain

Front view of the barn

Location: 33.5116692, -117.2700806

Check out this historic setting, including some of the first dwellings in the county. ©Rajeev Jain


Location: 33.542244, -117.2670441

The early stages of the trip lead through a long tunnel of trees and bushes. ©Rajeev Jain

Rocks in a field

Location: 33.5311852, -117.2540359

This lone set of rocks breaks up the otherwise prairie-like setting of Santa Rosa Ecological Plateau. ©Rajeev Jain

From Monument Hill

Location: 33.5214996, -117.2594528

Check out the views to Mesa de la Punta and over to the distant interior mountains. ©Rajeev Jain

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