Here's what puts SoCal's 10Lake Valley on the map

Apr 17, 2024

A hidden gem sits a few hours southeast of Los Angeles in the Southern California wildlands. It’s a destination that’s always been there, but you may never have heard of it.

Set against a serene yet dramatic mountainscape, here you’ll find wide-open lakes ready for boating and fishing. Go hiking, biking or saddle up for a scenic trail ride by horseback. Campgrounds under starry skies set the scene for unplugged weekends where adventure leads the way.

This outdoor playground is called 10Lake Valley—and if you haven’t heard of it before, well, that’s because this region just received its brand-new designation in 2023. Over 200 square miles in size, it encompasses 10 lakes and eight communities, including Southern California’s wine country.  

Here's our introductory guide for your first adventure in 10Lake Valley. 

Launching points and landing pads  

The region is less than a two-hour drive from nearby cities including Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs—making it an ideal weekend getaway. You have a range of accommodations options depending on your travel style.

Lake Hemet

For some of the best lake and mountain views, opt for one of Lake Hemet's campsites, surrounded by vistas of the San Jacinto Mountains. Reserve a spot ahead of time to bring your own tent or park your RV. There are also glamping tents available to rent, which come with luxuries like queen size beds, fresh linens, solar outdoor lighting and outdoor Adirondack chairs.  If a sturdy roof is more your speed, furnished lake-view cabins are available to book. 

Southwest of Lake Hemet is Vail Lake, situated in Temecula's rolling hills. At Temecula KOA at Vail Lake you'll similarly find reservations available for tent and RV sites under shady oak trees, plus cabins with kitchens and baths. The campground has activities for the whole family, with a variety of hiking trails, e-bike and golf cart rentals, three swimming pools, basketball and pickleball courts plus a mini-golf course.

GrapeSeed Spa

The South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is a 4-star hotel in Temecula's wine country. The upscale resort offers a variety of plush features depending on the room, including fireplaces, patios, private balconies and soaking tubs. Opt for a wine tasting at the onsite winery and enjoy fine dining at The Vineyard Rose Restaurant.  A short walk past the vineyards will lead you to the GrapeSeed Spa which includes a fitness center, a heated outdoor saltwater pool and a large selection of spa services. 

10 lakes with endless outdoor adventure  

Embrace the wild side of SoCal with a plethora of outdoor activities from chill to thrill. The aforementioned Lake Hemet has a marina with motorboats, pontoon boats, and single or double kayaks available to rent. But perhaps the biggest star of the show here is fishing. Depending on the time of year, you can catch trout, bass, blue gill and catfish. Spend a sunny afternoon relaxing under the tall pines lining the lake, or if you're camping overnight, try night fishing—allowed along the shoreline until 10 p.m. (All anglers 16 years and older will need a valid California fishing license, and you can purchase this at the Lake Hemet Market.) 

Lake Elsinore (about 50 miles west of Lake Hemet) sits near the base of the Santa Ana Mountains. The 3,000-acre lake is the largest freshwater one in Southern California. Its massive size makes for an aquatic oasis. Boats, Jet Skis, kayaks and paddle boards are available to rent from JT's Rentals near the north end of the lake. Licensed fishers can drop a line here to catch largemouth bass, white and black crappie, bluegill and channel catfish. For some sun and sand time, the Elm Grove Beach is situated along the eastern edge of the lake with conveniences like picnic tables, barbeques and free parking. 

For land-based adventures, the town of Murrieta—southeast of Lake Elsinore—has an abundance of trails to choose from. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve sits at the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains. It costs $4 per person to hop on one of the many trails, which range in difficulty and length. The reserve is home to ancient oak woodlands, endangered vernal pool wetlands (shallow pools of water only filled part of the year) and a variety of wildlife and plant species. Time your visit for the spring to catch lovely seasonal wildflowers in bloom. Stop by the visitor's center to see educational exhibits and learn more information. Those traveling with their bicycles might consider Sylvan Meadows, adjacent to the reserve. The area has 10 miles of trails (also $4 per person to enter) ideal for cycling, and also great for hiking and bird watching. It's also a popular equestrian trail, so look out for horses along the way. 

California Ranch Company

If you'd like to saddle up yourself, head to the California Ranch Company in Temecula. Enjoy horseback riding along beautiful wine country trails with a mountain backdrop—no experience required. The 90-minute adult trail rides guided by experts are available throughout the week and separate trail rides are available for kids 7 years and older. 

Wine down and fuel up  

Foodies and culinary aficionados will want to check out the Temecula Olive Oil Company. Stop by their tasting room in Old Town Temecula to try some of their fresh-squeezed extra virgin olive oil made with locally grown olives. The shops feature unique olive oil flavors like fresh basil, roasted garlic and Mediterranean herbs; plus varieties of balsamic vinegar, soaps and even homegrown olives. Their ranch, about 20 miles east of the shop, offers guided tours every other Saturday where you can learn how they grow, harvest and press the olive oil, plus savor complimentary tastings.

The Temecula Valley region is home to nearly 50 wineries. Wine fans may have a hard time figuring out where to begin—but the DePortola Wine Trail provides a great starting point. 11 wineries, set along the region's picturesque rolling hills, make up the trail. Try Masia de la Vinya's Spanish-influenced wines, tour Oak Mountain Winery's subterranean wine cave and pair some of Robert Renzoni Vineyard's Italian wines with cuisine from Mama Rosa's Trattoria.

For a craft brew and a bit of delightful nostalgia, the 8 bit Brewing Company in Murrieta is where it's at. Test your skills on some old-school arcade games, sample cleverly named beers like "Mario Tart: Jungle Lagoon" and "The Oregon Pale," and order one of their crowd-favorite menu items like chicharrones  or BBQ pork mac and cheese.

Days spent enjoying 10Lake Valley's ample outdoor recreational opps will certainly work up and appetite, and Lake Elsinore has a couple of great options. Bobber on The Lake, located on the north end of the lake near the boat launch, features American cuisine in a laid-back atmosphere. Sit back with a cold beverage and enjoy the lake views on the palm-shaded patio. 

Lookout Roadhouse

For dining with (arguably) the best views in town, drive up Ortega Highway to the Lookout Roadhouse. Established in 1945, the restaurant has earned a reputation for some of their most popular menu items like "Lookout's Famous Ribs," smothered in "super-secret rub" plus a house-made sauce; and the "Big Country Breakfast," a plate with three eggs, fruit, an English Muffin, spuds and onions plus your choice of meat (choosing the ribs is recommended). The restaurant's patio has a 180-degree view of the beautiful blue lake and impressive mountain vista. 

Ready to go? Start planning your trip to 10Lake Valley

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