Crestridge Ecological Reserve – Valley View Truck Trail

Crestridge Ecological Reserve is wonderful oasis between Interstate 8 and the residential development of Crest. The reserve contains approximately 3000 acres of protected habitat, including riparian and oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub, and chaparral. There are numerous, interconnecting trails which connect as far as Flinn Springs County Park and Los Coches Road, allowing one to craft hikes of varying lengths and difficulties.

During a recent heat wave, we decided to head out early before the sun burned through the protective marine layer and do a short section of the Valley View Truck Trail which runs through the Reserve. While there are multiple access points to Crestridge, we started at the main entrance off of Horsemill Road.

We passed through the gate and headed up the trail. We came to a large open area with a kiosk on the left, and a greenhouse and bathroom just beyond it.

On the right was the mushroom-like Visitor Center building.

In front of the building was an awesome mosaic tile lizard bench.

From the kiosk, we headed straight, going down a gentle slope.

We came to a “Y” junction at the bottom of the hill and stayed left.

We continued on the wide, dirt road as it curved around, heading into a gorgeous grove of oak trees.

We found yet another “Y” junction about halfway through the oak grove, and continued to the left.

Around .25 mile, on the western edge of the oak grove, we came to another “Y” junction. The road to the right with a closed metal vehicle gate was Valley View Truck Trail. We turned right and began to climb the hill.

A short distance past the gate another trail branched off to the left. This leads up the hill to a nice little overlook area, and eventually reconnects with the Truck Trail, but for now we continued to the right.

The buckwheat was flowering, adding beautiful sprays of white to the various shades of green along the hillside.

On clearer days, one can enjoy nice views of the surrounding boulder-studded hills. Today however, we had a lovely, spooky mist obscuring much of our surroundings.

The trail bent west. To our right was a barbed wire fence with a grove of avocado trees beyond.

Around .85 miles we came upon a shady stretch where oaks surrounded the trail.

Amid the trees, another trail branched off to the left – this was the other end of the previous branch we had passed.

We continued straight on the truck trail. We were gaining a small amount of elevation, and the fog thickened noticeably.

Much of the trail was exposed, with just brush and shrubs alongside, but there were occasional eucalyptus and oak trees.

Around 1.55 miles the road turned sharply south.

A short distance beyond, we found a subtle use path branching off to a rocky outcropping on the right.

We made our way through the flowering buckwheat and chamise to explore a pile of boulders.

I’m sure there are some beautiful views to enjoy from up here on a clear day.

But with the hazy, gray morning, we had to content ourselves with enjoying the scenery on a more macro level.

While the truck trail continues on for several more miles, we wanted to make sure we were done hiking before the marine layer burned off. So we decided to call this our turnaround point, and headed back the way we had come.

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From I-8 east, take exit 20 for Greenfield Dr toward Crest. Turn right onto Greenfield Dr. Turn left onto La Cresta Road. Continue on La Cresta Road for 3.1 miles, then turn left onto Mountain View Road. Follow Mountain View Road for 1.2 miles, then turn left onto Horsemill Road. The trailhead will be at the end of Horsemill Road (in approximately .6 mile). Park on the street, being careful not to obstruct anyone’s driveway. map

Total Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Total Ascent: 450 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Composting toilet and water at trailhead
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Earth Discovery Institute – Crestridge Ecological Reserve
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Crestridge Ecological Reserve
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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