The oaks preserve in Exeter has four very nice and easy hiking trails. The purpose of this page is to inform you of the highlights and differences of each trail.

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The Grapevine Trail
  • Trail begins 15 yards past 3rd bridge, follow the dirt road 1/2 mile west from the parking lot.
  • This is a self-guided trail; 13 numbered stops
  • Printed trail brochure available near stop # 1 (or print one from here)
  • 1/4 mile long, allow at least 30 minutes
  • Most frequently used, easy, mostly level and shady, benches on trail
  • Very young visitors need extra supervision while crossing 3 bridges

grapevines seem to swallow up small treestrail includes grapevine tunnels

  • Water under bridges is variable. Can be rushing, dry, or have lively puddles!
  • Dry creek bed can be explored during dry periods
  • Animal tracks most visible in moist dirt in creek bed under bridges in dry season
  • “The Vine Cave” is just beyond #10, behind dead “Cottonwood Stump” collapsed this winter and is no longer accessible. What a pity!
  •  Forest Floor Study can be done to the right of #11 in “The Conference Room” best done in fall when acorns are present
  •  Bark Study on Black Willow #13, on final leg of tour ( focus in on the small!)

  • The Sycamore Trailclass portrait on the climbing tree
  • Also called “The Enclosure Trail” and “The North 40”
  • Cross-over on the step ladder over the fence or open gate to enter. Be sure to close gate behind you. Always leave any gate the same way you found it.
  • This is a self-guided trail; 12 numbered stops
  • Printed trail brochure available near fence (see trail brochure)
  • Allow 1 hour for this 3/4 mile trail
  • Trail is wide and usually mowed, level and mostly shady, benches on trail
  • Many California Giant Sycamores mixed with Valley Oaks and Willows in open oak woodland landscape
  • Bees active when willows bloom in spring when temperatures rise above 80 degrees - okay before 9 am
  • Nice Red-tailed Hawks here, nests in spring, many Spotted Towhees
  • Forest Floor Study under first sycamore – all year ‘round is great (you can spend hours under and around this tree!)
  • Alligator Lizards and wolf spiders can be found in abundance, especially in early spring (catch and release - PLEASE)
  • Pond - directly across from 1st sycamore for pond water study, spring only
  • "Best climbing tree in Tulare County" is at the #9 marker, great for class photos and using up a little energy (spring-a few ants on tree)
  • Ticks occasional problem when hiking off-trail

    Rosa californicaWild Rose Way
  • Trail begins after crossing the concrete (weir) bridge - turning right in front of the willows
  • Wild California Roses bloom from late May through June, occasional in fall
  • Allow a minimum of 30 minutes for this 3/8 mile trail
  • Very narrow and must be single file
  • Seems to be lots of song birds here
  • Relax on the bench at the beginning of this trail and enjoy the view featured on the first page of this website
  • Special plants on this trail are: wild rose, mugwart, horsetail rush, white hedge nettle, Oregon ash, pokeweed, and wild fig.

    Alkali Meadow in winter

    Alkali Meadow - not a trail

  • Excellent in early spring – no foxtails!
  • Great spot to discuss floods, droughts, plants’ ability to adjust to changing environments, and medicinal plants
  • Salt Grass Tasting is impressive here during dry season
  • Yerba Manza (Lizard Tail, white coneflower), Sand Spurrey and Nitrophila are native plants in bloom from mid-May through June
  • Ground birds and rodents often visible
  • Watch for hovering (kiting) birds of prey - American Kestrels, and White-tailed Kites 
  • Northern Harrier and Loggerhead Shrikes often observed hunting over meadow
  • Coyote pack can be observed in early morning
  • Warm in high temps – be selective with groups in warmer weather
  • Mini-Meadow Walk on way to Sycamore Trail is a nice activity
  • Please stay on the road while observing the plants and animals of the meadow. This will avoid disturbing ground-nesting birds and keep foxtails out of your socks!

Black Willow Tree at the Turtle Pond
    Swamp Trail
  • Not a real "swamp." It is the lowest point on the meadow and the meadow did "swamp" during the snowmelt in the Sierra's before Terminus Dam was built. But it is no longer a true "swamp."
  • Trail entrance located on the far west side of  the meadow, 3/4 of a mile from preserve entrance
  • Allow 1 hour for this 7/8 mile trail
  • Interpretive trail brochure to the 15 trail markers located at #1 marker (see trail brochure)
  • Valley Oak, Western Sycamore and Wild Plum trees in an open woodland landscape
  • Can be swampy or marshy in rainy season (February)
  • Catch and release any critters you might find on this trail
  • Follows Deep Creek for a short distance
  • Turtle Pond active through late summer-do not disturb turtles, this habitat is fragile
  • Red-shouldered & Red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, 

  • and lots of smaller raptors can be observed on this trail
  • Birds and other critters very active here
  • Ants and ticks occasional problem when hiking off-trail

Here's some fun activities

Tree Gazing is a fun activity for all ages. Laying on a towel or tarp under one of the mature valley oaks in The Preserve, gaze up into the tree canopy and observe all the activity that goes on up there. Look for birds and acorns, of course, but also spiders, lizards, gnat colonies, oak galls (balls), urchin galls (star galls), willow or cottonwood fluff, etc. Then gaze beyond the tree into the sky - can you see clouds, planes or birds? 

Blind & Spin game is a very good trail activity brought to you by one who knows how to have fun - Liz Cox, a sixth grader from Charter Oak School in Tulare. Here's the game: you blindfold someone and lead them to a tree. Let them feel the bark and ask a few questions about it. Then walk away and spin them three times. Unfold the player and let them find the tree they were just at by feeling, touching or smelling. It's easy and lots of fun, too.

Role Playing is a fun and educational game to play with children K-6th grade. Assign each child a historical part: settler, indian, soldier, etc. Set the stage, for example, the first European Settler arrives here, or a lost gold miner needs help, etc.; or have the children make up a scenario. Then role play for 10-15 minutes. You may want to establish that this tree is a cabin, or that bush is a teepee, etc. Have fun and be prepared to praise their creativity!

Bark Study re-focuses your attention from the grandeur of the mature Valley Oaks to the closeness of nature at our fingertips. Stand very near the bark of any tree, put your hands together like you're framing a photograph (thumbs touching horizontally, fingers straight up) and focus on the bark through the 'frame'. Watch for a minute or two and name what you can see inside the frame. Depending on the season you can see bark beetles, ants, spiders, moss, willow fluff, egg shells, bird droppings, lichen, seeds, leaves, and don't forget the bark!

What's Between Your Feet? Use the same concept from the Bark Study, but stand with your feet separated slightly and observe life 'between your feet'!

Scavenger Hunts are really fun, too! Take a trail, first, and point out specific items like acorns, galls, dried leaves, lichen, ants, pill bugs, etc. Then go back to the picnic area and let the child(ren) hunt for the items while you rest! This really helps everyone to remember what the items are and where they can usually be found. NOTE: Please don't take live things off the trees. Thanks.

If you invent a fun nature activity, please email us
with a description and we'll add it to the above list.

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