Kaweah Oaks Preserve has several short, flat, self-guided nature trails.
Allow 20-30 minutes to access each trailhead except the Buttonwillow Trail, whose trailhead is near the front entrance, just to the left. Most other trails begin about 0.5 miles (0.8 km) west of the gateway kiosk and parking area.
(0.38 miles/0.61 km.); allow 20 minutes. The Buttonwillow Trail -- whose trailhead is near the preserve entrance -- is named after two very large, tree-sized buttonwillows that grow along the east side of the trail. The buttonwillow, or buttonbush, typically grows as a shrub and is named for the bright white, spherical flowers that bloom in the summer, attracting bees and butterflies. The shady Buttonwillow Trail takes you past a reforestation project of several hundred trees which enhanced the habitat of an area previously heavily invaded by milk thistle and poison hemlock. The trail heads south along Road 182, then west as it follows Johnson Slough, finally bringing you to the Alan George Picnic Area where the trail ends.
(0.38 miles/0.61 km.); allow 30 minutes. The shady Elderberry Trail runs parallel to Kaweah Oaks' main lane through the preserve and Johnson Slough. It features many fine specimens of its namesake, the blue elderberry. For most of the year elderberries flower and provide valuable sustenance for pollinating insects and hummingbirds before their berries feed birds, squirrels, and coyotes. Stop by the shore of Johnson Slough and, in the summer, note the tall thickets of tules, the reed from which Tulare county got its name. Tules can be used to make baskets, houses, food, canoes, and more. Thanks to SRT's collaboration with Sequoia Brewing Company, Kaweah Oaks Preserve Elderberry Trail Ale was a hit throughout the San Joaquin Valley. The limited batch craft brew featured handpicked berries from this locale.
The Skip Pescosolido Wild Rose Trail
3/8-mile (0.6 km); allow 30 minutes. Enjoy aromatic mugwort and beautiful California wild roses along the Skip Pescosolido Wild Rose Trail. This location also provides opportunities to observe wild grapes and towering valley oaks. In 2015, the family of the late Exeter citrus business leader Skip Pescosolido dedicated the trail in his honor.
1/4-mile (0.4 km); allow 30 minutes. The Wild Grape Trail features curtains of three-story-high California wild grape vines growing skyward into the canopies of valley oak trees. Look for ripening grapes in summer and early fall as you hike this lush trail.
Valley Oak Trail
0.78-mile (1.25 km); allow 60 minutes. This trail was once characterized by its thick stand of massive valley oaks. Drought, sinking groundwater, and rising average temperatures have all impacted the vitality of this once-lush destination (formerly named the Swamp Trail, populated with western pond turtles). More than a dry half century after the Terminus Dam restricted essential flooding for the valley oaks' survival, this trail has been altered for centuries to come but still serves as a useful outdoor lab detailing the vagaries and impacts of climate variability. While there, observe the raptors and other bird species that use the massive tree snags for breeding and a suitable place to roost while searching for their next meal below! You'll observe California wild grapes, blackberries, and mostly youthful valley oaks. During wet years, you may encounter brief periods of induced flooding thanks to SRT's collaboration with the the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District. That agency's resources have allowed periodic groundwater recharge, but only during the wettest years. During dry years when the water table dips due to area irrigation and residential usage, the vestigial turtle pond vanishes.
The Timothy Blaine Tashjian Deep Creek Fitness Trail
.75 miles (1.2 km.); allow 35 minutes. The 22-acre Timothy Blaine Tashjian Deep Creek Fitness Trail is a loop that sits on land reclaimed from a former plum orchard and is the latest property addition to Kaweah Oaks, which brings the preserve to 344 acres. The parcel was purchased in 2013 from a local longtime farming family thanks to the generosity of the community for the Campaign for Kaweah Oaks, a capital drive that raised $568,000 for the land, new restrooms, and preserve signage. This fitness trail will someday feature fitness equipment and other features. In 2015, it was dedicated by his daughter Hayley in honor of her father, the late Exeter real estate and citrus businessman Tim Tashjian.
3/4-mile (1.2 km); allow 60 minutes. This trail includes examples of the grandeur of California sycamore trees. Himalayan blackberries and oak galls are common along this trail. A wildfire in 2016 altered this landscape substantially, but, as you'll see, its revitalization is underway.