Many people equate Temecula, California with golf courses and wineries. However, there are quite a few hiking opportunities in the area as well. For those looking to escape the daily work-from-home routine and get some fresh air, the city is bursting with outdoor adventures.
The trails range from easy to difficult and experienced hikers will even have the chance to take on routes of over 20 miles! There is plenty of elevation gain on trails with a summit, as well as quite a few family-friendly options that stay relatively flat. Many of the trails allow leashed dogs, so everyone can come along.
Waterfalls, lake views, and wildlife sightings abound along the Temecula trails. If you’re ready to get out and begin exploring, the hikes below are some of the best that the area has to offer.
1. Wild Horse Trail
This 12-mile single-track trail is located within the confines of the Agua Tibia Wilderness. Hikers can expect to dedicate a full day’s worth of hiking (5-6 hours) to this trail or break it up into multiple segments.
This trail is relatively well traveled, so you’re likely to see other outdoor enthusiasts on your hike. The best time to plan a hike is between March and November, as the weather will be ideal.
Dogs are welcome to join their owners on the adventure, as long as they’re kept leashed. You’ll want to stay mindful of any snakes along the path, as rattlesnakes have been spotted.
Although the destination at the end of this trail is simply a turnaround point and not a summited peak or landmark, there are plenty of striking views to take in along the way. There are even unique rock formations to take a quick break on.
Hikers will begin at the Dripping Springs campground, where the fee is $5 to park. If you have a National Park Pass, this fee is waived.
Distance: 12.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,952 Feet
2. Harveston Lake Loop
Harveston Lake Park is a great family-friendly location for a quick evening hike. It’s open year-round and is beautiful during all seasons.
Dogs are welcome but for everyone’s safety, they must be kept on a leash. You’re likely to come across birders, road bikers, as well as trail runners along the route.
The path is paved and flat, so this is a great option for wheelchair users and families bringing along strollers. There are even spots for fishing if you want to pack your pole and a tackle box.
Enjoy a picnic at one of the nearby tables and even rent a paddle boat, which the kiddos are sure to enjoy. This loop trail is great for those days when you want a convenient outdoor adventure close to home.
The trail gets a bit more crowded on the weekends, so plan for a weekday outing if you want to avoid the crowds. Visiting during the morning hours is ideal for beating the heat.
Distance: 0.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 124 Feet
3. Temecula Creek Trail
This out-and-back trail can be hiked in under an hour but there’s more to do in the area for a longer outdoor excursion. The route is popular with birders and trail runners, as well as other hikers.
If you hit the trail early, you’re likely to have the majority of the path to yourself. The surface of the trail is mainly soft gravel, which is great for all-terrain wheelchairs and sturdier strollers.
There is a large open green space near the playground, so the kids can burn off any excess energy after the quick hike. The trail even has BBQ pits near the picnic area, so you can enjoy a grilled lunch after your workout.
Mature, large trees line the path. This makes for great shade cover during the heat of the day. You’ll still want to throw on a layer of sunscreen to protect yourself against the remaining rays.
The creek often dries up during the hot summer months, so don’t expect to find much water. Dogs are welcome on the trail but must stay leashed and close to their owners.
Distance: 1.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 36 Feet
4. Vail Lake Loop
Vail Lake Loop takes hikers approximately 3 hours to complete, making it a great weekend hike option. The trail is popular with mountain bikers and trail runners as well.
Dogs are allowed, so long as they remain leashed. There’s not a lot of shade to be had, so be sure to pack plenty of water for both yourself and your pup.
There is a small fee charged at the trailhead, ranging from $5-$10, depending on the day of the week. Guests must also sign a waiver. This prevents overcrowding and allows outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy some natural solitude.
You’ll find stunning views of Vail Lake, as well as the dam. Sunrises are beautiful over the lake and getting an early start is recommended to beat the heat of the scorching sun rays. If you go during March and April, you’ll see beautiful meadows of wildflowers in bloom.
There are beautiful vistas and some steeper segments of elevation. Most of these sections are short though, staying around 1/8 of a mile. The trail overall is easy to navigate and you won’t have problems staying on the main path.
Distance: 7.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 833 Feet
5. Agua Tibia Full Loop Trail
This challenging hike can be broken up over several days if you decide to backpack and camp in Agua Tibia Wilderness. The hike itself can take upwards of 10 hours to complete.
There is a small, $5 parking fee for guests who don’t subscribe to the Adventure Pass. The route is open year-round and dogs are more than welcome to come along. Don’t forget their leash.
Significant sections of the trail are exposed to direct sunlight, so packing plenty of water is recommended. A wide-brimmed hat and a long sleeve shirt can help avoid too much sun as well.
Due to the length of this trail, some areas have suffered from overgrowth. However, the trail is manageable throughout apart from minor annoyances such as fallen trees.
The trail is mainly rated as difficult due to the length, not so much the terrain. The elevation gain is mostly even throughout the mileage, with some short steeper sections.
The further you hike on this trail, the fewer people you’re likely to see. Most hikers turn back a few miles in, so prepare to be relatively secluded the further you traverse and explore.
Distance: 20.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3,871 Feet
6. Temecula to Vail Lake Overlook and Oak Mountain
This loop trail is popular with birders and hikers alike and takes approximately 4 hours to complete. You’ll encounter sweeping views from the summits, as well as a wide variety of terrain to keep the hike interesting.
Some segments of the trail are adjacent to residential private property. Hikers should stay on the trail and be respectful of people’s land.
While most of the trail is well-marked, some sections can become a bit confusing with intersecting trails. Keeping a map handy will help to avoid potentially veering off course and becoming displaced.
There is not a lot of shade along the trail, so wearing appropriate clothing is recommended. Water with additional electrolytes can help keep hikers hydrated throughout their trek.
You’ll come across views of the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as nearby San Jacinto and San Bernardino. The elevation can be challenging at times, so trekking poles may come in handy to provide you with some extra stability and support.
Children may be able to manage a mile or two of this trail but overall, this isn’t a family-friendly hike. The length and moderate rating will be too difficult for many younger kids.
Distance: 7.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,578 Feet
7. Great Oak Trail
This out-and-back trail is located in the Patricia H. Birdsall Sports Park. It’s popular with road bikers, trail runners, and pedestrians looking for a quick hike or leisurely walk.
Dogs must stay leashed but are otherwise welcome to join their owners for the outdoor excursion. This trail should take between an hour and an hour and a half to complete, so it can easily be a weekday outing.
The trail is paved with asphalt and concrete in certain sections, making it wheelchair and stroller friendly. The width ranges between 4 and 8 feet wide, providing people with plenty of space to maneuver. There is very little elevation but hikers can still get a decent workout in throughout the nearly 4-mile path.
You’re likely to see signs of wildlife, such as ducks, lizards, and several native bird species. This urban hike is a hidden gem within Temecula and provides residents with a well-maintained outdoor experience.
Distance: 3.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 111 Feet
8. Double Money Loop
This relatively short loop trail takes around 2 hours to complete and it’s open year-round. You’ll frequently find birders, mountain bikers, and fellow hikers exploring the path and enjoying the fresh air.
There is a $5 fee to gain access to the trail and it’s on a per-person basis. Dogs must be leashed to enter.
Hikers should stay alert for mountain bikers and step off the path briefly for them to pass. Following proper trail etiquette on multi-use paths helps to keep everyone safe.
The trail surface is mostly a dirt road and there are beautiful flowers that bloom alongside the main route during the springtime. There isn’t a lot of shade, so a wide-brimmed hat and extra water are recommended during the hot and sunny months.
If you’re looking to spot some wildlife, coming earlier in the morning or around dusk is recommended. That’s when critters are the most active.
Distance: 4.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 511 Feet
9. Vernal Pool Trail and Transpreserve Trail Loop
This quaint loop trail is located in the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The reserve is located in nearby Murrieta, California which is approximately 10 miles from Temecula.
The loop is great for hiking and walking and you won’t encounter bicyclists due to the nature of the reserve — which is dedicated to protecting the surrounding area and the habitats within the ecological system.
There is a fee to enter, with adults being charged at a rate of $4 and children at a rate of $3. It costs $1 for a dog and they must be on a leash. Exact cash only is accepted.
At times, the trail is open only on a limited basis. It’s recommended that hikers call ahead or check the website before making the trip.
When the vernal pools are full, visitors will see the active fairy shrimp and other wildlife that live within them. During the summer months, they usually dry up fairly quickly. The wildlife sightings make for a great family-friendly hike, as they often keep children interested.
There are segments of brief inclines and declines but the trail stays relatively flat throughout. At times, it becomes narrower and rocky, so it may not be a great option for wheelchair users.
Distance: 3.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 305 Feet
10. Lake Skinner Loop Trail
Lake Skinner Recreational Area is a short drive from Temecula, in nearby Winchester, California. This trail takes around 1-1.5 hours to complete, making it a quick day trip that can be turned into a family-friendly adventure.
The loop takes you around the perimeter of the park and provides a scenic view of Lake Skinner. It gets busier in the summer months, so getting an early start is recommended if you want to avoid a crowd.
There is a $6 fee to enter the park, per adult. $3 is charged per child. The background of the hike is a beautiful mountainous view, which glistens off the surface of the water.
There are fishing opportunities along the path and plenty of largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and even catfish waiting to be caught. Applying a generous layer of sunscreen before your hike is a good idea, considering there isn’t much in the way of tree cover.
Distance: 3.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 111 Feet