Walker Canyon is a short hiking trail in Lake Elsinore, California. The area is most popular for its rolling hills covered in wildflowers each spring.
Hiking In Walker Canyon
In the rolling hills above Lake Elsinor lies Walker Canyon. Directly to the east of Interstate 15, the area has a nine plus mile hike that travels through the rolling hills. The highest points in the canyon give wonderful views of Lake Elsinore, The Santa Ana Mountains, Mount San Jacinto, San Gorgonio Mountain, and the San Gabriel’s. The growing season is quite short in this area. During most of the year hills are often brown and sparse with vegetation. At best, Walker Canyon is a relatively easy place to get outside during the cooler hours and get some fresh air.
However, under certain conditions, Walker Canyon quickly becomes the town’s main attraction. During the late winter and early spring after winter rains, the hills in Walker Canyon turn from a parched summer brown to a vibrant green and orange. What draws so many people in are the thousands of blooming California Poppy flowers that blanket the hills. There is one caveat: this doesn’t happen each year. Years with light rainfall won’t allow the proper soil conditions to materialize for the hills to light up in gold.
In the winter of 2019, Walker Canyon found itself in the center of a social media firestorm. A superbloom of California Poppies brought tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of visitors that inundated the area. The City of Lake Elsinore tried its best to handle the influx in tourists of astronomical proportions. However, the infrastructure of the area could not handle it. Local residents became enraged as roads became nearly impassable. One of the worst tragedies was the death of a California Highway Patrol motorcyle officer. The officer was struck and killed by a drunk driver who was illegaly bypassing traffic congestion through the area on the right side of the highway.
Meanwhile, on social media, thousands of influencers were posting pictures of sponsored content from Walker Canyon. Unfortunately, these influencers often wandered off trail and regularly trampled flowers and other vegetation. Others sought to recreate some of the same pictures that influencers had done. The end result was eroded hillsides and carved out trails that led away from the main path. The superbloom of 2019 was just another example of social media and its negative impacts on the environment.
On A Personal Note:
I personally came to explore Walker Canyon specifically for the poppy bloom. The blooms were beautiful and I had never seen a poppy field like this before in my entire life. While the blooming flowers tend to draw in the crowds, don’t let a lack of flowers let you skip this short area. This short trail is great for those looking for a simple escape to get outside. The hills overlook Lake Elsinore to the west and Santiago Peak to the west.
To be honest, visiting Walker Canyon to see the wild poppy blooms has become extremely disheartening. While there are a majority of people who come to view the flowers and cause no harm, there are an overwhelming amount of people who have. People who call themselves social media “influencers” have come to the area to take pictures specifically for their accounts.
These influencers have done nothing but to promote selfish and poor behavior and the actions aren’t just limited to them. Many people are wandering off of the main trail, rolling around in the flowers, stomping on the flowers, and letting their dogs trample the flowers as well. If you do decide to visit this area, please stay on the main trail (there is only one), don’t trample or roll around in the flowers,
Have you hiked this trail recently? Please share any trail updates/pictures in the comments below.
- Overall Difficulty: 40% 40%
- Overall Views: 50% 50%
Walker Canyon Trail Quick Facts:
- Elevation: 1,745 feet.
- Elevation Gain: 616 feet.
- Estimated Distance: 3.5 miles.
- My Actual Distance: Approx 0.75 miles.
- Estimated Time: 1-2.5 hours.
- My Time: 60 minutes
Walker Canyon Trail Directions:
Walker Canyon Trail Pictures:
Who Walker Canyon Trail Is For:
Advanced Hikers: You might find the crowds too heavy during heavy flower blooms. Wander further in to escape the crowds. The trail could be a nice nature escape during the year before the crowds come.
Expert Hikers: Expert hikers might prefer to look for some less crowded trails that can offer the same types of views.
It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.
Best Time Of Year To Hike Walker Canyon:
The best time to hike this area is after the winter rains have turned the hills a nice green. There’s a short window for this area from late fall to early spring before temperatures get too hot. If you’d like to use the trail just to get outside during the summer, do so in the cooler hours around dawn and dusk.
With all trails, it’s always a good idea to check the weather before heading out.
Walker Canyon Trail Conditions:
Please do not wander off of the main trail. There are several trails throughout the hillside that appear to be trails but are not. They are from people wandering off the main trail to take pictures with the flowers.These trails contribute to severe erosion of the topsoil prevents plants from growing in the future.