Sierra Pelona Loop

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Baldy and the San Gabriels from Sierra Pelona

Baldy and the San Gabriels from Sierra Pelona

Rolling hills below Sierra Pelona

Rolling hills below Sierra Pelona

Sierra Pelona Loop

  • Location: Sierra Pelona Mountains west of Palmdale and north of Santa Clarita.  From L.A. take the 14 Freeway to the Red Rover Mine exit.  Merge onto Ward Road, go 0.3 miles and continue onto Sierra Highway.  Go a mile and bear right on Shannondale Road.  Go 0.7 miles and turn right on Shannon Valley Road.  Go 0.8 miles and turn left on Via Famero.  Go 0.1 miles and turn right on Shannon View Road, a narrow single-lane that climbs up the side of the mountain (be careful).  Along the way it becomes Telephone Road.  After a total of 2.6 miles, just past a run-down metal gate, you reach a junction with the Sierra Peloma West Mountainway.  Park in a small dirt turnout at the junction.
  • Agency: Ritter Ranch Park
  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,100 feet
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Best season:  October – June
  • USGS topo maps: Sleepy Valley; Ritter Ridge
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 8

The Sierra Pelona Mountains lie between the Santa Clarita Valley and Antelope Valley.  If the weather is clear, views of both are great and you can also see the San Gabriel Mountains, the Santa Susanas and a little bit of the Tehachapis.  This loop–entirely fire roads and paved roads–tours Ritter Ranch, a large park under the jurisdiction of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.  There is no shade but depending on the time of day, the sun may be blocked by the hills.  Since the loop reaches a mile above sea level, it can be cold (and windy) during the winter so plan accordingly.

0:00 - Start of the hike on the Sierra Pelona West Mountainway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Start of the hike on the Sierra Pelona West Mountainway (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The loop can be hiked in either direction but this post will describe the counter-clockwise direction, allowing a scenic ascent through a canyon (as opposed to an exposed climb on a fire road). Though the loop never gets too far away from civilization–notably due to its proximity to the 14 Freeway and the high presence of power lines and communications towers–it often feels pleasantly rugged and isolated.

0:46 - Bear left at the junction (times are approximate)

0:46 – Bear left at the junction (times are approximate)

From the junction of Telephone Road and the Sierra Pelona West Mountainway, head right and start a long, crooked descent along the eastern side of the ridge. On the way down you are treated to wide-ranging views of the Antelope Valley and the San Gabriel Mountains. Ignoring several short spurs that branch off (when in doubt, keep descending), you arrive at a junction at 2 miles. Bear left and continue to a 5-way junction where you will follow the second fork from the left, resuming the descent.  The trail makes a few switchbacks as it drops into a shallow canyon, reaching a T-junction 3 miles from the start.

0:54 - Left turn at the 5-way junction

0:54 – Left turn at the 5-way junction

Turn right and begin a gradual descent down the canyon. Unlike the higher terrain, the canyon is pleasantly wooded, with a grove of juniper trees on the left side. The trail heads north and then west, entering a wide pasture with a nice view of the rounded hills ahead.

1:17 - Turn right and follow the trail down the canyon

1:17 – Turn right and follow the trail down the canyon

At about 3.8 miles, you begin a long, steady ascent, first heading southwest into a canyon and then making a twisting ascent along the north side of the ridge. At 5.4 miles, stay left as you join the Ana Verde Motorway.

Continuing your ascent, you arrive at a saddle after about 1,200 feet of climbing (6.7 miles from the start). Here you are rewarded for your efforts with nice views to the west. When you’re ready to continue, turn left on the Ana Verde Motorway. Stay left again at the next junction and resume your ascent, following a portion of the shorter Ritter Ranch Loop.

2:15 - Stay left at the junction with the Ana Verde Motorway

2:15 – Stay left at the junction with the Ana Verde Motorway

Your long ascent finally ascends at 8.3 miles as you reach the top of Sierra Pelona. There’s not much of a summit, per se, but at the top of the ridge you get excellent views in both directions. The next mile or so is more or less level as you pass some communication towers before making a final descent back to the parking area.

3:00 - View from the saddle (turn left)

3:00 – View from the saddle (turn left)

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

4:00 - Antennas near the top of Sierra Pelona

4:00 – Antennas near the top of Sierra Pelona

About these ads

Coachella Valley Preserve (Pushwalla, Horseshoe & Hidden Palms)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Morning sun at the Pushwalla Palm Grove, Coachella Valley Preserve

Morning sun at the Pushwalla Palm Grove, Coachella Valley Preserve

Following the ridge on Bee Rock Mesa, Coachella Valley Preserve

Following the ridge on Bee Rock Mesa, Coachella Valley Preserve

Coachella Valley Preserve (Pushwalla, Horseshoe & Hidden Palms)

  • Location: East of Palm Springs, Coachella Valley.  From I-10, take the Bob Hope Drive exit.  Turn right and go 0.2 miles to Ramon Road.  Turn left and go 4.8 miles to Thousand Palms Canyon Road.  Turn left and go 1.8 miles to a turnout on the right side of the road. This is the trailhead but you can also visit the visitor’s center, a little farther down the road, for more information.  Parking is free but donations are encouraged.
  • Agency:  Coachella Valley Preserve
  • Distance: 5.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 900 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  October – March
  • USGS topo map: “Myoma”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information:  Preserve homepage here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The expansive (over 20,000 acres) preserve features several oases of wild California Fan palms, the only palm species native to California, which can live up to 250 years.  With 25 miles of trails, there are plenty of options for hiking (or horseback riding, which is popular here).  The route described in this post is based on the entry in “Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire”, visiting three of the palm groves and taking in some nice views of the San Jacinto and Little San Bernardino Mountains. There are a few spots where the terrain is somewhat rough and navigation can be a little tricky, although the trails are well signed for the most part and well used; odds are there will be footprints to point you in the right direction. Several small washes cross the valley but the trails typically just go right through them and continue on the other side.

0:05 - The stairs (times are approximate)

0:05 – The stairs (times are approximate)

From the parking area just south of the visitor center, follow the signs for the Pushwalla Trail. The trail heads southeast toward a steep staircase cut into a ridge known as Bee Rock Mesa. After climbing the stairs you reach a junction with the Hidden Palms Trail, your return route.

0:07 - Junction at the top of the stairs; turn left on the Pushwalla Trail

0:07 – Junction at the top of the stairs; turn left on the Pushwalla Trail

Bear left and continue your ascent, following what might be described as the Coachella Valley’s version of Mt. Baldy’s Devil’s Backbone. The trail cuts along the narrow top of the ridge; hiking poles aren’t necessary but they may provide some security for hikers who are sensitive to heights.

0:36 - Descending toward the first junction (stay right and on the ridge)

0:36 – Descending toward the first junction (stay right and on the ridge)

A mile of ups and downs brings you to a junction. Both forks lead to the Pushwalla grove, but the quicker route is to stay right. You climb again and then make a twisting, roller coaster-like descent off the ridge to another junction (1.8 miles from the start.)

0:47 - Descending into the canyon toward the Pushwalla Palms

0:47 – Descending into the canyon toward the Pushwalla Palms

Turn left and begin a mile-long detour to the Pushwalla Palms. The trail drops into a narrow slot canyon; the terrain is rugged but not too hazardous. Following the canyon, you reach the south end of the grove. Turn north and head toward the main group of pines (2.3 miles). The trail continues, eventually looping back toward Bee Rock Mesa, but to follow the route as described in the guidebook, retrace your steps to the junction.

0:55 - Main grove at Pushwalla; turnaround point for the spur

0:55 – Main grove at Pushwalla; turnaround point for the spur

Back on the main trail, continue south for a short distance before making a sharp right turn (look for a sign) toward the Horseshoe Palms. You pass by this grove, meeting up with a jeep trail (3.2 miles.) Bear right and head west, then south, toward Hidden Palms.

1:15  - Take a sharp right and head toward the Horseshoe Pines

1:15 – Take a sharp right and head toward the Horseshoe Pines

At 3.9 miles, you make another right turn to reach the Hidden Palms Oasis. The dirt road continues northwest past the palms, although you can wander among them as you like. Past the oasis, the trail becomes a single-track, signed for the visitor’s center.

You climb out of the canyon on the single-track, staying left at the first two junctions.  At the third, shortly before you reach some power lines, bear right and complete the loop by returning to the junction with the Pushwalla Trail.  Descend the steps and return to the parking area.

1:50 - Hidden Palms Oasis

1:50 – Hidden Palms Oasis

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:20 - Bear right at the fork before the power lines and return to the junction at Bee Rock Mesa

2:20 – Bear right at the fork before the power lines and return to the junction at Bee Rock Mesa

Forster Ridgeline Trail (San Clemente)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Looking west from the Forster Ridgeline Trail

Looking west from the Forster Ridgeline Trail

Ocean view from south of the Rock Garden, Forster Ridgeline Trail

Ocean view from south of the Rock Garden, Forster Ridgeline Trail

Forster Ridgeline Trail (San Clemente)

    • Location: San Clemente.  From I-5 take the Camino Estrella.  Head northeast (left if you’re coming from the north; right if from the south) and go a total of 2.5 miles (Camino Estrella becomes Camino De Los Mares).  Parking is available on Camino De Los Mares just past the intersection with Diamante.
    • Agency: City of San Clemente; City of San Juan Capistrano
    • Distance: 7.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
    • USGS topo map:  San Clemente
    • More information: San Clemente information page here; Everytrail report here; Yelp page here; trail map here
    • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trailhead at the north end of Camino De Los Mares (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead at the north end of Camino De Los Mares (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This hike is basically a longer and more challenging version of the nearby Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail.  There isn’t a whole lot of scenic variety but you do get some nice views of the ocean, the hills of south Orange County and if the weather is good, the San Gabriels and Catalina Island.  It’s basically an urban hike; the sights and sounds of civilization are with you throughout, but it provides a very good workout that’s conveniently located to south O.C.

0:06 - Sharp right on the connector trail toward Forster Ridgeline (times are approximate)

0:06 – Sharp right on the connector trail toward Forster Ridgeline (times are approximate)

From the north end of Camino De Los Mares, pass through the gate and begin hiking on the Los Mares Trail (part of the San Juan Capistrano trail system.) At 0.2 miles, make a sharp right on a trail that will bring you to the Forester Ridgeline Trail. It dips down into a grove of eucalyptus trees, passes a treatment facility and rises to a bend where you get a nice view of the ocean to the south.

0:48 - Ocean view from the power lines (take a hard right to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

0:48 – Ocean view from the power lines (take a hard right to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

From here, the trail begins its first major ascent, steadily climbing over 400 feet. At 1.9 miles you reach a clearing beneath power lines where the Talega Trail branches off to the left. Take a hard right to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail, which descends, now heading south.

1:18 - Ocean view from the "Rock Garden" (turn left and head south to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

1:18 – Ocean view from the “Rock Garden” (turn left and head south to continue on the Forster Ridgeline Trail)

At 2.4 miles, you pass a spur on the right leading to Camino Del Rio. Soon after the trail splits; the steep right fork leads to a vista point while the left fork loops around the side of the hill. The trails soon rejoin.

At 2.9 miles you reach another split. Head left (the right fork leads to an alternative trailhead on Costero Risco.) You climb a place known as the Rock Garden (3.1 miles) where fossilized rocks are inscribed with inspirational quotes from the likes of William Wordsworth and Marie Curie and a short spur leads to a scenic vista point. You can enjoy a 360-degree panorama which is probably the most scenic point on the hike and a good turnaround point if you are short on time.

1:30 - Geographical trivia on the southern end of the Forster Ridgeline Trail

1:30 – Geographical trivia on the southern end of the Forster Ridgeline Trail

If you want to continue, take the left fork at the junction and continue south, descending about 300 feet over the next 0.6 miles to Avenue Vista Hermosa, the turnaround point. This last stretch has some good near bird’s eye-views of the surrounding residential areas.

1:40 - Turnaround point, Vista Hermosa

1:40 – Turnaround point, Vista Hermosa

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Fisherman’s Camp Loop (San Mateo Canyon Wilderness)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Fall colors in San Mateo Canyon

Fall colors in San Mateo Canyon

Sunlight through the oaks, San Mateo Canyon

Sunlight through the oaks, San Mateo Canyon

Fisherman’s Camp Loop (San Mateo Canyon Wilderness)

  • Location: Southeast Riverside County, Cleveland National Forest.  From I-15 in Murrieta, take the Clinton Keith Road exit and head southwest (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south).  Go a total of 6.8 miles, past the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  On the way, the street name changes to Tenaja Road.  Take a right at a junction to stay on Tenaja Road (if you find yourself on Via Volcano or at the Vernal Pools trailhead, you’ve come too far).  Go 4.2 miles to Cleveland Forest Road and turn right.  Go a total of 3.7 miles on Cleveland Forest Road – which is one lane so exercise caution – and look for the Fisherman’s Camp Trailhead and a small dirt turnout on the left.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) are required.  Click here to purchase.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Trabuco Ranger District
  • Distance: 5.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: November – May
  • USGS topo map: “Sitton Peak”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Orange County
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here (out and back to Fisherman’s Camp); Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Beginning of the Fisherman's Camp Trail (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Beginning of the Fisherman’s Camp Trail (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This enjoyable hike visits both the high and low country of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, providing panoramic mountain views and secluded stretches through thick woodlands.  You’re not likely to have much company here, except perhaps on busy holiday weekends.

0:20 - View of the mountains on the descent to Fisherman's Camp (times are approximate)

0:20 – View of the mountains on the descent to Fisherman’s Camp (times are approximate)

From the Fisherman’s Camp trailhead, you begin the hike by entering an attractive grove of oaks. The trail then exits the woods and follows an exposed ridge, providing good views into the canyon and of the mountains across the way. After staying more or less level for about 0.7 miles the trail begins a twisting descent into the canyon. During the fall, you get a nice aerial view of the sycamore foliage below.

0:45 - Heading north from Fisherman's Camp toward the Tenaja Falls Trailhead

0:45 – Heading north from Fisherman’s Camp toward the Tenaja Falls Trailhead

At 1.6 miles, you reach a junction. Continue a tenth of a mile to Fisherman’s Camp, an attractive spot shaded by huge oaks, where the Tenaja Trail intersects. After enjoying the quiet, retrace your steps and take the left fork, heading deeper into wooded San Mateo Canyon. You cross a rocky wash and climb out of the canyon. The trail soon drops back down to the stream bed and crosses another wash. You then reach a junction where you’ll stay left and climb out of the canyon again, soon reaching a junction with a fairly recently created trail that stays above the canyon floor, closely following the east wall. (The original trail, which branches off to the left, follows the creek, crossing it a few times.)

0:48 - Crossing the wash just north of Fisherman's Camp

0:48 – Crossing the wash just north of Fisherman’s Camp

The two trails merge in another grove of oaks, about 3.4 miles from the start. You continue to a T-junction with the Tenaja Falls Trail, where you will turn right and walk 0.1 miles back to the street. Turn right and follow the road 1.5 miles back to the Fisherman’s Camp Trailhead, completing the loop. As far as paved roads go, this one’s pretty enjoyable: traffic is usually very light (if any), and the road provides some nice vistas of the canyon.

1:00 - Bear left and climb out of the canyon

1:05 – Bear left and climb out of the canyon

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:05 - Right turn on Cleveland Forest Road; follow it 1.5 miles back to your car

2:05 – Right turn on Cleveland Forest Road; follow it 1.5 miles back to your car


San Pasqual Hiking Trails (South)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Looking west from near the top of the eastern fork

Looking west from near the top of the eastern fork

View of Highway 78 from near the top of the western fork

View of Highway 78 from near the top of the western fork

San Pasqual Hiking Trails (South)

  • Location: East of Escondido.  From I-15, take the 78 Freeway east for 1.5 miles, where it becomes Lincoln Parkway, then Lincoln Avenue.  At 0.8 miles from the end of the freeway, turn right on Ash St.  After a mile, Ash St. becomes Highway 78.  Continue for 10.2 more miles (5.3 miles past the Wild Animal Park entrance.)  The parking area and trailhead are on the right.
  • Agency: San Dieguito River Park
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: November – May
  • USGS topo map: San Pasqual
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information:  here; trip description here; Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 7

Known also as South Clevenger Canyon, this Y-shape hike climbs from Highway 78 up a steep hillside, providing a good workout and panoramic views of the area.  The southern half of the San Pasqual/Clevenger Canyon trail network has two main routes, both of which are worth exploring given the time and energy.  The directions and time figures for this post assume that you will be taking the shorter western fork first, although it’s arbitrary.

0:00 - South trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – South trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the parking area on Highway 78, follow the signs to the Clevenger Canyon trailhead and begin a steady ascent, taking care to avoid the switchbacks that have been cut off. After a little more than half a mile, you reach the split between the two trails. The right fork continues its steady ascent, taking in a nice aerial perspective of the highway and the San Pasqual Valley. A few spots can be muddy or slippery after rain, and the trail cuts close to the edge of the hillside, so exercise caution.

0:14 - Junction of the two main forks of the South San Pasqual Trails (times are approximate)

0:14 – Junction of the two main forks of the South San Pasqual Trails (times are approximate)

After making a few switchbacks, you reach the first of two vista points, about 1.4 miles from the trailhead (and almost 900 feet higher). Here you get a great view to the west and north, including the ocean if you’re lucky. The trail continues to another slightly higher vista point, although this last segment is somewhat overgrown and rocky. A sign clearly marks the end of the trail.

0:37 - View from the first overlook on the west trail

0:37 – View from the first overlook on the west trail

Heading back down to the junction, turn right on the eastern trail. You enter an attractive woodland (a tributary of Santa Ysabel Creek) which unfortunately is the only shade on the hike. Climbing up from the creek, you make your way southeast, reaching a sharp left turn (about 3.2 miles from the start.) You follow the top of a ridge, passing by a dome-like boulder on the left side of the trail. The trail dips slightly, reaching a junction where you will stay left and head toward a pointy knoll.

0:42 - View from the second overlook on the west trail

0:42 – View from the second overlook on the west trail

At 4 miles from the start, you reach another junction; this is the beginning of a small loop around the tip of the knoll, the turnaround point, where you get some nice views to the east, with the Cuyamaca Mountains and Volcan distant, and toward Boden Canyon in the north. You can sit among the jumbled boulders and enjoy the panorama before heading back down.

1:10 - Oaks in a tributary canyon on the eastern trail

1:10 – Oaks in a tributary canyon on the eastern trail

In case you were wondering, the San Pasqual Valley was the site of an 1846 Mexican-American War battle. Farther west on Highway 78, the San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park commemorates the event.  You can also explore the trails on the north side of the highway (half a mile east of the south trailhead), although they are not as well maintained as these ones.

1:35 - Following the ridge on the eastern trail (turn left at the junction)

1:35 – Following the ridge on the eastern trail (turn left at the junction)

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:50 - Looking east from the end of the eastern trail

1:50 – Looking east from the end of the eastern trail

Chaparrosa Peak (Pioneertown Mountains Preserve/Pipes Canyon)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Burnt Pinyon Pine on the trail to Chaparossa Peak

Burnt Pinyon Pine on the trail to Chaparossa Peak

High desert geology on the way to Chaparrosa Peak

High desert geology on the way to Chaparrosa Peak

Chaparrosa Peak (Pioneertown Mountains Preserve/Pipes Canyon)

  • Location: High desert near Yucca Valley.  From I-10, take Highway 62 northeast for 20 miles.  Turn left on Pioneertown Road and go northwest for 7.5 miles.  At a four-way intersection, take a left on dirt Pipes Canyon Road and drive 0.7 miles to the park entrance.  Bear right and drive an additional 0.2 miles into the parking area.
  • Agency: Wildlands Conservancy/Pioneertown Mountains Preserve
  • Distance: 5.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, terrain, navigation)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  October – May; trail open 8am – 5pm
  • USGS topo map: “Rim Rock”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
  • More information:  Trip description here; Everytrail report here; photos and maps from the loop version of the hike (currently inaccessible) here
  • Rating: 9
0:00 - Beginning of the hike, leaving the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Beginning of the hike, leaving the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

It may be a long drive from L.A., but Chaparrosa Peak is well worth the trip.  It offers a hiking experience similar to that of Joshua Tree National Park, nearby Warren Peak in particular.  Highlights include mountain views, jumbled rock formations and great panoramas of the high desert.  The hike isn’t too difficult but navigation and terrain are tricky, so novice hikers might not want to do this one alone.  The trail is also almost completely exposed and the area is susceptible to high winds.

0:04 - Beginning of the Chaparrosa Trail (times are approximate)

0:04 – Beginning of the Chaparrosa Trail (times are approximate)

It used to be possible to climb Chaparossa Peak as a loop hike, but as of this writing the Indian Loop trail is closed for repairs, so your only option is a 5.6-mile out and back (park literature has the distance at 6.6 miles, but Everytrail measured it as 5.6)

After signing in at the ranger station, head uphill on a dirt road leading from the parking area. After a short distance you come to a staging area where you will see a sign for the Chaparrosa Peak Trail. The single-track dips in and out of a canyon before climbing to join a dirt road (about 0.5 miles.) You ascend steadily, enjoying nice views of the Sawtooth Mountains and Pioneertown to the south, passing two gates (0.7 and 0.9 miles respectively). To navigate around the second gate, climb uphill briefly to the end of the fence before continuing on the road.

0:39 - Turn right on the single-track

0:39 – Turn right on the single-track

At 1.3 miles, head right and uphill on a trail leading away from the dirt road (GPS N34 09.632, W116 33.034). You begin a challenging ascent over loose terrain. The trail isn’t always clear; keep an eye out for the ducks. After gaining 200 feet in less than a quarter mile, the trail levels out and you’re rewarded for your efforts with some great views of the desert to the north. The trail descends briefly and climbs again to a junction (2.1 miles, GPS N34 39.331, W116 33.627). Head left on a spur signed for Chaparrosa Peak.

1:15 - Trail ducks on the cutoff trail to Chaparossa Peak; turn right and follow the ridge to the summit

1:15 – Trail ducks on the cutoff trail to Chaparossa Peak; turn right and follow the ridge to the summit

The trail becomes tougher to follow as it works its way through a wash, heading south to a ridge where it makes a sharp right turn (2.5 miles).  You begin the final steep ascent to the summit, passing by a large rock that resembles an oven mitt.  Finally you reach the peak (elevation 5,541; GPS N34 38.990, W116 33.845), where you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama, including San Jacinto, the eastern end of the San Bernardino range and the Mojave Desert to the north.

1:22 - "Cookies are done!"

1:22 – “Cookies are done!”

If you enjoyed this hike, be sure to check out some of the other open spaces overseen by the Wildlands Conservancy, such as the nearby Whitewater Canyon Preserve and Oak Glen Preserve.

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:30 - San Jacinto above the clouds, looking southwest from Chaparossa Peak

1:30 – San Jacinto above the clouds, looking southwest from Chaparossa Peak

Wiashal & Cole Canyon Trails (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View from the upper end of the Wiashal Trail

View from the upper end of the Wiashal Trail

Oak woodland below the Wiashal Trail, Cole Canyon

Oak woodland below the Wiashal Trail, Cole Canyon

Wiashal & Cole Canyon Trails (Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve)

  • Location: Murrieta.  From I-15, take the Clinton Keith exit and head southwest (turn left if you’re coming from the south, right if you’re coming from the north) and go 1.7 miles to Calle del Oso Oro.  Turn left and go 0.9 miles to Clear Creek St.  Turn right and go 0.2 miles to miles to Placer Creek St. Turn left and go 0.1 miles to the end of the street and turn right on Single Oak Way.  Park at the end of Single Oak Way.  The trail begins on the north side of the street.
  • Agency:  Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
  • Distance: 7.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
  • Difficulty Rating:  PG-13 (Steepness, terrain, elevation gain, distance)
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Best season:  October – May
  • USGS topo map: “Wildomar”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • More information: Every trail report here; hike description here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Trailhead on Single Oak Way (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead on Single Oak Way (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Murrieta’s Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve is best known for its rolling hills, oak woodlands, historic adobes and (in the spring) the vernal pools, but the Wiashal Trail showcases the park’s wilder side.  With steep ascents and descents over frequently rugged terrain, this hike is considerably more challenging than most of the other routes in the reserve.  It loses some points due to the unfortunate amounts of trash and graffiti in the lower areas of the trail, and due to a somewhat monotonous upper end and anticlimactic finish at Clinton Keith Road, but the trail is still a great workout with a lot of scenic variety; a must do if you live in the area and a worthwhile place to drive to from Orange County or San Diego. The hike is popular as a point-to-point with a fairly easy to set up car shuttle. Mountain bikers and equestrians are also common on this trail.

0:08 - Indian motreros (times are approximate)

0:08 – Indian motreros by the trail (times are approximate)

There are several informal trails in this area that lead to the beginning of the Cole Canyon Trail and later the Wiashal Trail, but the route described here is scenic and direct, fairly easy to follow. From the end of Single Oak, follow a gravel trail briefly north before taking a hairpin turn to the left, heading south. The trail splits (both paths rejoin, but the left route descends more gently. Stay right at two junctions and enter a pleasant oak woodland, about half a mile from the start. Keep an eye out for a rock with two “motreros” (small round holes) carved inside, on the left side of the trail.

0:30 - Sign for Cole Canyon; trail heads left and uphill

0:30 – Sign for Cole Canyon; trail heads left and uphill

After leaving the clearing, the trail starts a short but steep ascent and begins heading north. You drop into another canyon (1 mile) and arrive at a junction where you will bear left, passing by a sign indicating Cole Canyon. Now the work begins: 700 feet of elevation gain in the next mile. After passing a sign and fence indicating the beginning of the Wiashal Trail (1.3 miles), the grade mellows a little bit. The views of the Murrieta area–extending to the San Jacinto range on clear days–are better and better as you climb higher.

0:37 - Start of the Wiashal Trail

0:37 – Start of the Wiashal Trail

At 1.9 miles, you reach a T-junction where you get a nice aerial view of Clinton Keith Road where you will turn left. The trail ascends sharply, reaching a short spur that leads to an overlook (2.3 miles.) The overlook is a good destination for those who want a shorter hike; at this point, you have achieved most of the workout and experienced the best scenery of the trip.

0:55 - View of Clinton Keith Road from the T-junction (turn left)

0:55 – View of Clinton Keith Road from the T-junction (turn left)

However if you want to continue to the end of the Wishal Trail, head downhill, watching your footing on the loose terrain (hiking poles will be helpful). As you descend, you get some nice views of the main area of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The remaining mile-plus of the Wiashal Trail makes a couple of moderate ascents and descents before reaching its end, a parking area at Clinton Keith Road (and an alternate starting point).

1:50 - End of the Wiashal Trail at Clinton Keith Road

1:50 – End of the Wiashal Trail at Clinton Keith Road

In case you were wondering, the trail’s name is pronounced “WEE-uh-shawl.”

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Reino Road to Twin Ponds (Dos Vientos Open Space)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Boney Mountain from Dos Vientos Open Space

Fall colors in the Dos Vientos Open Space

Reino Road to Twin Ponds (Dos Vientos Open Space)

        • Location: Southwest of Thousand Oaks.  From L.A., take Highway 101 to the Borchard Road exit.  Turn right and go 1.8 miles to Reino Road.  Turn left and go 0.9 miles, looking for a parking area on the right (just past Dunaway Drive; if you hit Lynn Road, you’re about 0.2 miles too far.)  From Ventura, take Highway 101 to the Wendy Drive exit.  Turn left on Wendy and go 0.8 miles to Borchard.  Turn right and go 0.5 miles to South Reino.  Turn left and go about a mile to the parking area.
        • Agency: Conejo Open Space Foundation
        • Distance: 8 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
        • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
        • Best season:  October – May; parking lot open daily until 4pm
        • USGS topo map: Thousand Oaks
        • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
        • More information:  Here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
        • Rating: 6
0:00 - Trail head from the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head from the parking area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This hike explores the western end of the land overseen by the Conejo Open Space Foundation.  Stringing several trails together, the route threads its way in between and around residential neighborhoods.  The rating of “6″ may be raised in the future; as of this writing, the hiking experience this trail provides suffers from the noise of housing construction and the latter part of the route is recovering from the recent Springs Fire.  If there have been recent rains, the twin ponds make a nice destination; if the weather has been hot and dry, they might seem anti-climatic after a four mile hike. All that being said, however, this trail offers a good workout with some great views of the northwestern Santa Monica Mountains and the Thousand Oaks area; on clear days, you can see the ocean.

0:25 - Bench with a iew of the Santa Monicas (times are approximate)

0:24 – Bench with a iew of the Santa Monicas (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the Potrero Ridge Trail as it ascends a series of switchbacks. (Don’t get too excited about the large oak trees at the bottom of the hill; there is hardly any shade on the hike.) Stay straight as trails branch off to the right. You curve around the side of the hill, heading briefly south, arriving at a bench where you can enjoy a nice view of the Satwiwa/Point Mugu area. You continue to a split; the two trails soon rejoin (the right fork is a little steeper, so if you want to conserve energy, head left, slightly downhill.)

0:31 - Crossing Las Brisas

0:31 – Crossing Las Brisas

Shortly after the trails rejoin, you reach the first of two street crossings: Via Las Brisas (1.2 miles.) There is no crosswalk or traffic signal, but traffic is likely to be light. On the opposite side, continue your hike on the Sierra Vista Trail. You soon arrive at a pair of junctions, where you will head left and then right.

0:35 - Left turn at the first junction past Las Brisas

0:35 – Left turn at the first junction past Las Brisas

At about 1.7 miles, you reach a paved service road. Bear left and follow it a few yards, looking for the continuation of the trail on the left side. You continue to follow the trail which drops down to meet Rancho Dos Vientos Drive, just south of the entrance to a gated community.

0:36 - Right turn almost immediately after

0:36 – Right turn almost immediately after

Crossing Rancho Dos Vientos (again, no stop light or crosswalk but traffic should be sparse), look for the Vista Del Mar Trail. Briefly head right and cross back through a metal fence. The beginning of the Vista Del Mar Trail is less than auspicious, passing through what looks like a vacant lot, but the trail continues west, leaving the road behind.

0:47 - Trail leaving the service road

0:47 – Trail leaving the service road

The trail leads around the back of a housing development. At 3.5 miles, another bench provides great views toward the west, past the end of Point Mugu State Park and toward the coastal plains of Ventura and Oxnard. Continuing along toward Twin Ponds, you pass through an area heavily burned in the Springs Fire, resembling Serrano Canyon and the homestead site nearby in Point Mugu State Park. A few trails branch off to the right; you can take any one of these and end up at the ponds, but the quickest and easiest way is to stay on the main trail.

1:00 - Beginning of the Vista Del Mar trail

1:00 – Beginning of the Vista Del Mar trail

At 3.8 miles you reach a T-junction. Turn right (left is likely to be gated) and head downhill, arriving at the ponds. It used to be possible to walk out onto a bridge to get a better look at the ponds, but the structure was damaged in the fire and is unsafe. Walking up the hill a little ways past the bridge provides nice views of the larger pond.

1:24 -Western view from the bench

1:24 -Western view from the bench

From here, you can either turn around and retrace your steps, or if you have time, you can continue, eventually looping back toward the Dos Vientos Open Space, creating a loop hike. You can visit the COSF’s Dos Vientos page here to get some ideas for variations on the route.

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:45 - Upper pond, turnaround point

1:45 – Upper pond, turnaround point


Bommer Canyon/Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Loop

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Sandstone cave in upper Bommer Canyon

Sandstone cave in upper Bommer Canyon

Sycamores in upper Laurel Canyon

Sycamores in upper Laurel Canyon

Bommer Canyon/Laguna Coast Wilderness Loop

  • Location: 6400 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine.  From I-405, take the Culver Drive exit, go south (right if you’re coming from the north, left if from the south) for 2.6 miles and turn left on Shady Canyon Drive.  Go 1.6 miles and turn into the lot.  As mentioned below, this hike is available only by (free) online registration on days specified by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.  When you arrive at the park, you will be met by volunteers who will check your name off the list and direct you to the parking area, about a mile down the main road of the park.
  • Agency: Irvine Ranch Conservancy/Orange County Parks/Crystal Cove State Park
  • Distance: 7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (distance, steepness, elevation gain)
  • Best season:  October – May; availability of days and times determined by Irvine Ranch Conservancy
  • USGS topo map: Tustin; Laguna Beach
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Description of upcoming hike on 11/21/13 here; Bommer Canyon trail map here; Laguna Coast Wilderness trail map here; Bommer Canyon description here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Trail head in the Cattle Ranch section of Bommer Canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head in the Cattle Ranch section of Bommer Canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This 7-mile loop is one of several guided hikes provided by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (also known as www.letsgooutside.org.)   When it is offered, it’s usually listed on the site as a “Morning Nature Hike”, often scheduled between 9am and noon.  The loop described here can also be done during a scheduled Wilderness Access Day at Bommer Canyon (usually one Saturday per month.)  Check the website for scheduling information.   Only a third of the route is on private land managed by Irvine Ranch, but that stretch allows you to make a scenic loop, using the former cattle ranch area of Bommer Canyon for your beginning and ending.

0:01 - Historical marker (times are approximate)

0:01 – Historical marker (times are approximate)

If you hike as part of a scheduled event, the trip will be led by two trained volunteers, so navigation will not be an issue. Even if you hike on your own, the route is fairly easy to follow. You can vary it by exploring more of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park or Bommer Canyon.

0:29 - View from below Coastal Peak park, just before crossing under the 73 Toll Road

0:29 – View from below Coastal Peak park, just before crossing under the 73 Toll Road

From the parking lot, head past a shaded picnic area, adorned with several historical artifacts and an interpretive plaque paying tribute to the land’s ranching days.  You follow the trail into the canyon where you’ll turn left at the junction.  The West Fork Trail is the biggest ascent of the hike, as you climb 550 feet during the first mile, but you are rewarded with nice views of central Orange County, extending to the Santa Anas and even the San Gabriels on clear days. After crossing under the toll road, you arrive at Coastal Peak Park in Newport Coast. You continue on the dirt Bommer Ridge Road, enjoying nice ocean views to the right, passing by several trails leading into Crystal Cove’s back country.

1:15 - Hard left at the four-way junction

1:15 – Hard left at the four-way junction

At about 3 miles, you reach a four-way junction in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, part of the popular Laurel Canyon Loop. Make a hard left and begin a steep descent into Laurel Canyon, enjoying some shade from oaks and sycamores. Make another left at the next junction and head into the pleasant upper reaches of Laurel Canyon, in and out of a meadow, and cross under the 73 Toll Road a second time.

1:25 - Turn left at the next junction and head into Upper Laurel Canyon

1:25 – Turn left at the next junction and head into Upper Laurel Canyon

Another ascent brings you to a junction (4.7 miles) where you will make a hairpin left turn and re-enter Bommer Canyon though Hogsback Gate. You are now back on private land. The climb continues, taking in some great views of south Orange County. Keep an eye out for a large sandstone boulder with a cave carved through it.

1:45 - Hogsback Gate,re-entrance to private land

1:45 – Hogsback Gate,re-entrance to private land

At 5.3 miles, you reach a T-junction. Turn right and begin your descent back into the park on the winding Ridge Route.  With panoramic views of the Orange County coastal plain, this is one of the most scenic parts of the hike.   The trail drops gradually at first, then more steeply, finally arriving back at the parking area.  After passing through the gate, turn left and return to your car.

2:30 - View from the descent on the Ridge Route

2:30 – View from the descent on the Ridge Route

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:55 - Back at the parking lot

2:55 – Back at the parking lot

Morton Peak Lookout

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View of San Bernardino Peak from below Morton Peak

View of San Bernardino Peak from below Morton Peak

Looking southwest toward the Santa Anas from Morton Peak

Looking southwest toward the Santa Anas from Morton Peak

Morton Peak Lookout

  • Location: San Bernardino National Forest foothills north of Mentone and Yucaipa.  From the west, take I-10 to University St.  Turn left and go a mile to Highway 38 (Lugonia Road.)  Turn right and go a total of 9.2 miles (about 2 miles past the ranger station) and look for a turnout on the left side of the road.  Park by the sign for Morton Peak Lookout.   From Palm Springs, take I-10 to the Live Oak Canyon/Oak Glen exit. Turn right and head northeast for 4.3 miles on Oak Glen Road to Bryant St.  Turn left and go 2.4 miles to Highway 38.  Turn right and go 2.3 miles to the turnout.
  • Agency:  San Bernardino National Forest/Mill Creek Ranger Station
  • Distance:  5.2 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,350 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness)
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: October – May
  • Recommended gear:  sun hat; sunblockhiking poles
  • USGS topo map: Yucaipa
  • More information:  Summitpost page here; Morton Peak Fire Lookout information here; Everytrail report here; description from a Meetup event here
  • Rating: 8

Named for Redlands resident R.B. Morton, this summit (elevation 4,624 feet) is the home to one of the seven fire lookouts in the San Bernardino National Forest.  Though not nearly as tall as some of the surrounding mountains, Morton’s position provides a great vantage point and from the peak, with good visibility, you can see San Jacinto, the Palomars, the Santa Anas, the San Gabriels and more. The trail is almost entirely exposed, but it’s far enough above the valley floor that it can be done on warm days, given an early start and good sun protection.

0:00 - Trailhead off Highway 38 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trailhead off Highway 38 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the gate, begin walking up the fire road (Warm Springs Truck Road on some maps). The early going is fairly steep, gaining over 600 feet in the first mile, but you are rewarded with tremendous views of San Bernardino Peak to the east and a nice aerial perspective on Mill Creek below. There’s some highway noise but it fades as you get farther up the mountain.

0:03 - Don't get used to it: Shade from the only oaks on the route (times are approximate)

0:04 – Don’t get used to it: Shade from the only oaks on the route (times are approximate)

At about 1.1 miles, you reach a Y-junction. Turn left and pass a metal gate, continuing your ascent. The climb becomes more moderate here as you make a long pair of switchbacks.

0:30 - Turn left at the junction and pass the gate

0:30 – Turn left at the junction and pass the gate

At about 2 miles you get your first glimpse of the metal lookout tower. Soon after, stay straight on the fire road as the Santa Ana River Trail branches off to the left. The road wraps around the north side of the peak and soon arrives at the summit.

0:40 - Wildflowers at the end of the first switchback

0:40 – Wildflowers at the end of the first switchback

Here, your efforts are rewarded with a panoramic view, which you can enjoy from the shade of a pair of pines, or from a picnic table. If the lookout is open you can climb up and visit with the volunteers. The lookout used to be open for overnight guests, but unfortunately it is not anymore.

0:56 - View of the lookout

0:56 – View of the lookout

If you have a high clearance vehicle it may be possible to start the hike at the junction by driving up the first mile. The road is narrow and rough in a few spots, but as of this writing is navigable. Parking at the junction (but not on at the bottom) requires a National Forest Service Adventure Pass. Click here to purchase.

1:10 - San Gabriel Mountains from Morton Peak

1:10 – San Gabriel Mountains from Morton Peak

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Los Penasquitos Creek, below the waterfall

Los Penasquitos Creek, below the waterfall

Looking east from the canyon above the waterfall

Looking east from the canyon above the waterfall

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

  • Location: North San Diego.  From Highway 56, take the Black Mountain Road exit and head south for a mile.  Turn right into the Canyonside Community Park, drive past the ballfields, turn right and park.  From I-15, take the Mercy Road exit and head west for 1.4 miles.  Turn right on Black Mountain Road and make a quick left into the park.
  • Agency: Los Pensasquitos Canyon Preserve/County of San Diego
  • Distance: 6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 300 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Best season:  All year
  • USGS topo map: “Del Mar”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • More information:  Here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report (slightly different route) here; trail map here
  • Rating: 6

San Diego hikers who assume they have to travel to the eastern part of the county to experience solitude will be pleasantly surprised by Los Penasquitos Canyon.  Although the preserve doesn’t feel as remote as the Palmoar or Laguna Mountains, it is surprisingly quiet, considering how close it is to civilization.  You are likely to have company from fellow hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians and airplanes will buzz overhead, but the park is still a nice, convenient place to get away from it all.

0:00 - Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

There are over ten miles of trails crossing the preserve, so it is possible to do several different routes. The 6-mile round trip described here uses the park’s main trail, on the south side of the creek, and visits a small waterfall.  Unfortunately fallen boulders obscure most of the waterfall but it’s still a nice place to sit and relax, and perhaps dip your feet.

0:03 - Footbridge in Los Penasquitos Canyon (times are approximate)

0:03 – Footbridge in Los Penasquitos Canyon (times are approximate)

From the south side of the parking lot, follow the signed trail into the preserve.  You cross a footbridge and reach the main trail, a fire road, at 0.2 miles.  Turn right and head east. For the next nearly 3 miles, you head in and out of groves of oaks and sycamores and also pass through some open fields. Several trails branch off on the right side of the road, looping back to the main trail; you can explore some of these for variety.

0:35 - Grove of sycamores on the Los Penasquitos Trail

0:35 – Grove of sycamores on the Los Penasquitos Trail

You pass a couple of big junctions, one on each side of the trail, after about a mile. Continue heading east, passing a four-way junction (“Carson’s Crossing”) at 2.4 miles.  Shortly after the 3 mile mark, follow a sign for the waterfall.  You head down a steep staircase to the banks of the creek.

0:53 - Sign at "Carson's Crossing" intersection on the way to the waterfall

0:53 – Sign at “Carson’s Crossing” intersection on the way to the waterfall

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can cross the creek and climb down the rocks and sit by the water.  Although the waterfall is hidden behind the boulders, this is a nice place to dip your feet and enjoy the sound of the stream before turning around.  Keep an eye out for crawfish that may be swimming in the pools. You can return via the same route or by the trail on the north side of the creek.

1:10 - Sign for the waterfall

1:10 – Sign for the waterfall

In case you were wondering, Penasquitos means “the little cliffs.” Near the parking lot, you can visit the historic Rancho Penasquitos adobe, dating back to the mid 19th century.

1:15 - Los Penasquitos Stream above the waterfall

1:15 – Los Penasquitos Stream above the waterfall

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Tahquitz Peak via South Ridge Trail

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Looking southeast toward the Desert Divide from Tahquitz Peak

Looking southeast toward the Desert Divide from Tahquitz Peak

San Jacinto from Tahquitz Peak

San Jacinto from Tahquitz Peak

  • Location: San Jacinto Mountains south of Idyllwild.   From the 60 Freeway, take the Gilman Springs exit and head southeast for a total of 14 miles (Gilman Springs becomes State Street.)  Turn left on the Ramona Expressway and go 6.2 miles to Florida Ave/Highway 74.  Turn left and go 14.5 miles to Highway 243 at Mountain Center.  Turn left and go 3.4 miles to Marian View Drive.  Go 0.4 miles and turn right on Saunders Meadow Road.  Go half a mile and turn left on Pine Ave (note the sign for the South Ridge Trail.)  Go 0.1 miles and turn right on Tahquitz View.   Go 0.3 miles and turn right on Forest Route 5S11, a dirt road.  A high clearance vehicle is recommended, but might not be necessary if conditions are good (check with the ranger station).  The road is narrow, steep and twisting, so exercise caution.  Follow the road a mile, staying left at the only major junction and park at the end.   The South Ridge trailhead GPS coordinates are N 33 44.126, W 116 41.761.   You can also reach the trailhead  from I-10 in Banning, following Highway 243 southeast for 25 miles to Saunders Meadow Road.  A National Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for a year) is required. Click here to purchase. A free San Jacinto Wilderness permit is also required and available from the ranger station.
  • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Idyllwild Ranger Station
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 2,400 feet
  • Suggested time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: R (Elevation gain, steepness, altitude)
  • Best season:  May – October
  • USGS topo maps: San Jacinto Peak, Idyllwild
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Trip reports here, here and here; Everytrail report here; National Forest Association page with information about volunteer lookout program here
  • Rating: 10

You already know how to reach Tahquitz Peak from Humber Park via the Devil’s Slide Trail, so in this post we’ll look at the less-traveled South Ridge Trail approach.  The scenery in the two routes is a trade-off: the Devil’s Slide/Pacific Crest Trail approach travels through more pleasantly shaded high country and offers better views of Suicide Rock, San Jacinto Peak and the desert, but the South Ridge Trail has excellent views of Garner Valley, the Santa Rosa Mountains, the Palomars and more.  Logistically, the two routes also have their trade-offs: the Devil’s Slide trail requires a special permit which is sometimes unavailable, while this route (which requires the more readily available standard San Jacinto Wilderness Permit) is at the end of a mile of rough dirt road.  However, all red tape aside the end result of both routes is the same: Tahquitz Peak, which offers one of the best views of any summit in So Cal.

0:00 - South Ridge Trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – South Ridge Trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

The good news is that (in addition to being outside the area closed following the Silver Fire) the South Ridge Trail gets less traffic than the Devil’s Slide, so you will have more solitude. The bad news is that much of the trail is exposed and steep (the last mile gains nearly 1,000 feet of elevation.) Still, the payoff is worth it.

0:30 - "Rock window" (times are approximate)

0:30 – “Rock window” (times are approximate)

From the parking area, head northeast on the signed South Ridge Trail. The beginning of the hike is moderately graded, allowing hikers to get used to the altitude. It’s also shaded, which helps. Like a version of the Ernie Maxwell Trail built on higher ground, the South Ridge Trail climbs through the forest, providing glimpses of San Jacinto and its neighboring peaks. You pass into the San Jacinto Wilderness, getting some good views of Garner Valley to the south.

0:40 - View of Tahquitz Peak from the "picnic" area

0:40 – View of Tahquitz Peak from the “picnic” area

At about 1.4 miles, a jumble of boulders creates a “window” through which you can see Antsell Rock and the Desert Divide. Shortly after, the grade mellows out as it approaches a flat area popular for picnics. This is the approximate half way point in terms of distance, although more than half of the elevation gain is still to come. You get a look at Tahquitz’s triangular shape before continuing north.

1:20 - View of Garner Valley from the steep switchbacks below the summit

1:20 – View of Garner Valley from the steep switchbacks below the summit

Another pleasant quarter-mile or so on a fairly level trail brings you to the toughest part of the hike, the switchbacks. They climb steeply, mainly in the open although there are a few shaded spots. Watch out for rattlers which may be hiding under the rocks.

1:45 - "Peace, man!"

1:45 – “Peace, man!”

The trail reaches a bend where you get an excellent view of San Jacinto, and the grade eases up a little bit. You may notice the American flag on the lookout tower at this point, boosting morale. At a junction, the South Ridge Trail continues toward the Pacific Crest Trail and a spur leads to the summit. Head right, climbing over some rocks to reach Tahquitz Peak.

1:55 - Spur to the summit

1:55 – Spur to the summit

In addition to an amazing view that includes the Palomars, Santa Rosas, San Gabriels, Santa Anas, Cuyamacas and on clear days the ocean and Catalina Island, Tahquitz also boasts a historic fire lookout. If the lookout is open, you can climb up and say hi to the volunteer on duty. In addition to signing the register, you can request membership in the Ancient and Honorable Order of Squirrels. (It’ll make sense when you get there.)

2:00 - Welcome to Tahquitz Peak: looking southwest from the summit

2:00 – Welcome to Tahquitz Peak: looking southwest from the summit

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Oat Mountain

1 Comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Looking northwest from Oat Mountain

Looking west from the summit of Oat Mountain

Looking up at Oat Mountain (note radio towers on the summit)

Looking up at Oat Mountain (note radio towers on the summit)

Oat Mountain

  • Location: Santa Susana Mountains north of Chatsworth.  From the 118 Freeway, take the DeSoto Ave. exit.  Head north (turn left if you’re coming from the west, right if from the east) a short distance to the end of DeSoto and turn right on Browns Canyon Road, following the signs for Michael Antonovich Regional Park (not to be confused with nearby Michael Antonovich Open Space or the Michael Antonovich Recreational Trail in San Dimas.)  Follow Browns Canyon Road for 3 miles to the main entrance of the park, stop by the iron ranger and pay the $5 per vehicle/day fee.  Continue a short distance to a parking area on the right side of the road just before reaching a metal gate.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Michael Antonovich Regional Park
  • Distance: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,850 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness, distance)
  • Best season:  September – May
  • USGS topo map: “Oat Mountain”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; insect repellent
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
  • More information: Peakbagger page here; trip description from a Meetup page here; Everytrail report here; story about Oat Mountain’s former use as missile site LA-88 here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Beginning of the hike (click thumbnails to see full sized versions)

0:00 – Beginning of the hike (click thumbnails to see full sized versions)

Oat Mountain (elevation 3,747) is one of the highest points in L.A. County outside the Angeles National Forest.  It’s the tallest peak in the Santa Susana Mountains and despite a radio facility on the summit and likelihood of smog, the views from the top are panoramic, including the Santa Monicas, Verdugos, Simi Hills, Hollywood Hills, San Gabriels and more.

0:17 - Santa Monica Mountains parkland (times are approximate)

0:17 – Santa Monica Mountains parkland (times are approximate)

To be sure, some hikers may be turned off by the fact that the route is entirely on a paved road (closed to traffic other than maintenance vehicles.) The route is almost entirely exposed, but it’s high enough above the valley floor that it can be doable in the summer months, given an early start, at least half a gallon of water and sun protection. The great workout it provides, plus its convenience to the Valley, Santa Clarita and even downtown L.A., makes Oat Mountain a worthwhile destination to keep in mind.

0:31 - Under the shade tree

0:31 – Under the shade tree

From the parking area, follow the dirt road past the gate, almost immediately beginning a steep climb. You get some nice views of Rocky Peak to west and Simi Valley to the south.  Bear right at the first junction and continue your climb on a road signed on maps both as Palo Sola Truck Trail and Oat Mountain Motorway.  At about 2/3 of a mile you pass through a gate with a sign indicating Santa Monica Mountains Parkland, and continue the ascent.

0:45 - Grove of oaks

0:48 – Grove of oaks

At 1 1/4 miles, a lone oak tree a few yards to the right off of the trail makes a nice place to take a break in the shade. You get a view to the east, down into a canyon. Past the oak, another ascent brings you to a mercifully flat stretch.

0:56 - Head right at the fork near the second helipad

1:00 – Head right at the fork near the second helipad

At 1.8 miles, the trail starts bending to the north, passing a helipad site. You continue through another grove of trees (2 miles), staying right at the next junction (2.2 miles), passing a second helipad.

1:08 - Stay straight at the four-way junction

1:12 – Stay straight at the four-way junction

At 2.9 miles, you reach a four-way junction. Cross the road and continue straight ahead, soon reaching the base of the summit. Just before the road ends, climb up a use trail on the left, cross over a concrete barrier and arrive at the fence lining the radio facility. Walking around the fence, you arrive at a flat area on the north side of the summit where you can enjoy some great views of the Santa Clarita Valley and the Santa Susana Mountains before heading back down.

1:12 - Head uphill on the trail to the summit

1:16 – Head uphill on the trail to the summit

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:15 - Looking northwest from Oat Mountain's summit

1:20- Looking northwest from Oat Mountain’s summit

Gabrielino Trail: Switzer Picnic Area to Red Box

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View of the Angeles Crest Highway from the Gabrielino Trail

View of the Angeles Crest Highway from the Gabrielino Trail

Woodland on the Gabrielino Trail

Woodland on the Gabrielino Trail

Gabrielino Trail: Switzer Picnic Area to Red Box

    • Location: Angeles National Forest near Mt. Wilson.  From I-210 in La Canada Flintridge, take the Angeles Crest Highway (highway 2) northeast for 10 miles to the road for the Switzer Picnic Area (mile marker 34.19).  Drive downhill to the picnic area.  The hike begins at the eastern end of the lot, by an information board and a vault toilet.  A United States Forest Service adventure pass ($5 for a day or $30 for the year) is required. Click here to purchase.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River District
    • Distance: 8.2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,500 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 4 hours
    • Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
    • USGS topo maps: Condor Peak, Mt. Wilson
    • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat; insect repellent
    • More information: Everytrail report (descent only) here; description of the trail as a mountain bike route here; description of the whole trail (scroll down for this section) here
    • Rating: 7

Linking two major stops on the Gabrielino Trail, the Switzer Picnic Area and Red Box, this hike can be done as a moderate day trip, as part of a backpacking trip or with a short car shuttle, as a point to point. The beginning of the hike suffers somewhat from freeway noise as it travels through an area heavily burned in the Station Fire, but the payoff comes higher up as you travel through shaded woodlands while taking in great aerial views of the upper Arroyo Seco and the surrounding hills. The area gets hot in the summer but there’s a decent amount of shade, and the steep walls of the canyon help block out the sun, so the hike can be done in the summer months with appropriate preparation. Keep an eye out for poison oak, no matter what season, however.

0:00 - Trail beginning at the east end of the Switzer Picnic Area

0:00 – Trail beginning at the east end of the Switzer Picnic Area (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

From the eastern end of the parking lot, follow the trail past the picnic area, crossing the stream on a concrete walkway. You pick up the trail on the south side of the canyon, passing a yellow sign warning of the dangers of hiking through a burn area.

0:03 - Picking up the trail past the picnic area (times are approximate)

0:03 – Picking up the trail past the picnic area (times are approximate)

After a little more than a mile, during which the trail parallels the freeway, progress is blocked by a big fallen tree. Bypass it by following a rough path to the left into the creek bed, following the creek bed for a few yards and almost immediately heading out and back to the trail.

0:30 - Turn left before the fallen tree and into the creek bed

0:30 – Turn left before the fallen tree and into the creek bed

The trail continues its ascent on the south side of the canyon, with the views getting better and better as you ascend. At about 1.7 miles you enter a big S-curve, briefly heading northwest before continuing south and then east.

1:10 - Looking east toward Red Box from the switchbacks

1:10 – Looking east toward Red Box from the switchbacks

At 2.4 miles, a giant pine tree welcomes you to the upper reaches of the trail, and you enjoy some shade as you cross a tributary canyon of the Arroyo Seco. You continue on to another S-curve with more wide-ranging views before the last stretch of the trail brings you to the Red Box area. This makes a good turnaround point (4.1 miles), but if you’ve got more gas in the tank, you can continue downhill on the Gabrielino Trail toward Valley Forge, or up Mt. Wilson Road a short distance to the San Gabriel Peak Trail.

1:20 - Into the pines

1:20 – Into the pines

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:00 - Red Box parking area

2:00 – Red Box parking area

Delamar Mountain

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View of San Gorgonio and Big Bear Lake from the P.C.T. en route to Delamar Mountain

View of San Gorgonio and Big Bear Lake from the Pacific Crest Trail en route to Delamar Mountain

Pine flat on the Pacific Crest Trail to Delamar Mountain

Pine flat on the Pacific Crest Trail to Delamar Mountain

Delamar Mountain

        • Location: North of Big Bear Lake.   From the intersection of Highway 38 and Highway 18 at the western end of Big Bear Lake, take Highway 38 east for 5.3 miles.  Turn left onto Polique Canyon Road, which soon becomes dirt (a little bumpy but as of this writing passable for all vehicles.)  After 1.6 miles, turn right at the junction.  At 0.7 miles, park in a small turnout on the right side of the road by a sign reading “Holcomb View Trail.”  While most of the trails in the area require a National Forest Service adventure pass for parking, there’s no indication at the trail head that the pass is required.  If you want to be sure, you can purchase the National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 per year) here.
        • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Big Bear Discovery Center
        • Distance: 5.4 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (altitude, elevation gain, steepness, trail condition over last half mile)
        • Suggested time: 3 hours
        • Best season: May –  October
        • USGS topo map: Fawnskin
        • Recommended gear: insect repellent; hiking poles
        • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
        • More information:  here (described from the beginning of Polique Canyon Road); here (described via the Cougar Crest Trail, 12 miles round trip)
        • Rating: 8

Located on the north shore of Big Bear, Delamar Mountain is the tallest point on the ridge between the lake and Holcomb Valley, with a summit of 8,398 feet.  Although the views aren’t quite as good as from the hike to nearby Bertha Peak, and the trail doesn’t offer the variety of Gray’s Peak, it’s still an enjoyable and challenging hike, well worth a visit.

0:00 - Trail head on Forest Road 2N09 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head on Forest Road 2N09 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The beginning of the hike, which follows the Pacific Crest Trail, is deceptively easy. The P.C.T. heads very gradually uphill, climbing only about 400 feet over the first two-plus miles through a forest of black oaks, firs and pines. In the early part of the hike, you get some nice views of Big Bear Lake and San Gorgonio to the south.

0:38 - Following the north side of the ridge on the P.C.T. (times are approximate)

0:38 – Following the north side of the ridge on the P.C.T. (times are approximate)

After a little more than a mile, the trail crosses to the north side of the ridge, giving glimpses of Holcomb Valley. Rounding a curve you get a nice view of Bertha Peak’s pointy summit to the east.

0:54 -  Turn left and begin the steep climb

0:54 – Turn left and begin the steep climb

At about 2 1/4 miles, the P.C.T. crosses a steep, loosely defined trail. This is where the bill comes due. Delamar Mountain has an elevation similar to Smith Mountain in the Angeles National Forest (although Smith is more difficult): an easy beginning but a difficult push to the summit.

1:02 - Watch out for the log

1:02 – Watch out for the log

Climb up the loose and steep trail, using your poles. After ascending almost 200 feet you get a brief respite. The trail flattens out and bends south, passing a primitive campsite, and then the steep ascent begins again. You hack your way up the mountain, climbing another 300 feet, over and around fallen tree trunks, before the trail levels out shortly before the summit.

1:08 - Flat area before the final ascent

1:08 – Flat area before the final ascent

An easy to climb pile of boulders is the true high point of Delamar Mountain, providing some nice views of Holcomb Valley and the San Gabriels to the west, but the best views are found farther south. Forging your way across the ridge, you reach another pile of boulders, from which you get some great views of Big Bear Lake.  After resting to make sure your legs are fresh for the steep descent, return via the same route.

1:20 - View of Holcomb Valley from the first summit

1:20 – View of Holcomb Valley from the first summit

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:25 - View of Big Bear Lake from the southern summit

1:25 – View of Big Bear Lake from the southern summit

Champion Lodgepole Pine via Castle Rock Trail and Bluff Lake

3 Comments

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

South shore of Bluff Lake

South shore of Bluff Lake

View of Big Bear Lake through the trees south of Castle Rock

View of Big Bear Lake through the trees south of Castle Rock

Champion Lodgepole Pine via Castle Rock Trail and Bluff Lake

        • Location:  Southwest corner of Big Bear Lake.  From the 210 Freeway, take Highway 330 northeast for 15 miles to Highway 18 at Running Springs.  Head east on Highway 18 for 12.4 miles to the intersection with Highway 38 at the western end of Big Bear Lake.  Stay right and drive 1.2 miles to a turnout on the left side of the road.  If you reach Talbot Drive, you’ve come too far.  No adventure pass or other permits are required, but it’s advisable to check the links listed below for up to date trail and access information.
        • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Big Bear Discovery Center & Wildlands Conservancy (Bluff Lake)
        • Distance: 6 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
        • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (terrain, steepness, navigation, altitude)
        • Suggested time: 3 hours
        • Best season: May –  November
        • USGS topo map: Big Bear Lake
        • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellentsunblock; hiking poles
        • More information:  here; article about the trails (including Siberia Creek) here; San Bernardino National Forest trail description here; Bluff Lake page here
        • Rating: 8
0:00 - Heading west toward the trail head from the parking area on Highway 18 (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Heading west toward the trail head from the parking area on Highway 18 (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

This hike allows you to visit two of the San Bernardino National Forest’s famous landmarks: Castle Rock and the 110-foot Champion Lodgepole Pine.  As part of the bargain, you can also visit beautiful Bluff Lake and enjoy some alpine vistas.

0:02 - Beginning of the Castle Rock Trail, south side of Highway 18 (times are approximate)

0:02 – Beginning of the Castle Rock Trail, south side of Highway 18 (times are approximate)

The lodgepole can also be reached with a short, half-mile hike from forest road 2N11, which is a good option for hikers with kids (and a high clearance vehicle for the dirt road.) The route from Highway 18 is challenging, right from the beginning–requiring a crossing of the road–and presents some navigational obstacles, but it’s also very scenically rewarding. Ideally, use a GPS-enabled device to keep yourself oriented.

0:15 - Following the trail through the rocks

0:15 – Following the trail through the rocks

From the turnout on Highway 18 (GPS coordinates N34 14.202, W116 57.704) head west and cross the road when safe, picking up the trail just past the “Big Bear Lake City Limits” sign. The trail begins its steep ascent, not allowing much time for acclimation to the high altitude (6,700 feet). You climb through a thick forest of pines and oaks. There are a few spots where the trail is ambiguous, but the route continues uphill, and splits usually rejoin each other quickly.

0:25 - Bark "trail duck" pointing down toward the stream bed (bear left)

0:25 – Bark “trail duck” pointing down toward the stream bed (bear left)

At about a quarter mile, before making a sharp right turn, a pair of benches allows you to sit and catch your breath. The trail continues, threading its way through some boulders (again, it becomes ambiguous at times, so your route might not be exact, but there are several “trail” signs guiding the way, so if you go for a while without seeing one, backtrack.)

0:35 - Spur to Castle Rock, where the main trail continues south and heads uphill

0:35 – Spur to Castle Rock, where the main trail continues south and heads uphill

You reach a split where a trail spur heads right toward Castle Rock. You can take this detour if you want, but to keep on the main trail, head left, slightly downhill toward a stream bed.  (As of this writing, a large piece of bark placed on a rock points downhill, apparently left as a sort of trail duck.)  After crossing it, you see another spur heading right, signed for Castle Rock. This will take you to the back side of the rock, which is easier to climb than the front, although still recommended only for those with experience.  Castle Rock’s coordinates are N34 13.872, W116 57.694.

0:50 - Through the split log

0:50 – Through the split log

The Castle Rock trail continues uphill, making a few switchbacks, taking in some nice views of the rock and the lake. Mercifully, it starts leveling out at this point as you make your way through a pleasant forest of Jeffrey pines and firs. You pass through a split log, departing briefly from the “official” trail which has become somewhat overgrown (but still passable), and at about 1.6 miles from the start, you reach Forest Road 2N10. Turn right and go a short distance to a four-way junction (N34 13.399, W116 57.740).

1:10 - Entrance to Bluff Lake Preserve

1:14 – Entrance to Bluff Lake Preserve

Here, turn left and follow the dirt road, watching out for the occasional car. You soon reach another junction where you turn right, following the signs to the Bluff Lake Preserve. You reach it in half a mile (2.5 miles from the start), pass through the gate and continue following the path around the south side of the lake, passing a picnic area and a private camp facility.

1:20 - Bluff Mesa Trail turnoff, south side of Bluff Lake

1:21 – Bluff Mesa Trail turnoff, south side of Bluff Lake

At a clearing, you get a great view of the lake. The dirt road continues around the shore, but to get to the lodgepole, turn left and follow the single-track Bluff Mesa Trail (not signed), heading south, climbing over a fallen log. You leave the Bluff Lake Reserve property and head back into the national forest, heading downhill to an unsigned T-junction. Turn left and follow the trail into a meadow, where you will soon see the fence bordering the Champion Lodgepole Pine (N34.21876, W116.97386).

1:25 - Turn left to continue toward the pine

1:25 – Turn left to continue toward the pine

An information plaque provides statistics about the giant tree: it is over 400 years old and has a trunk circumference of almost 20 feet. This is the turnaround point for the hike, although you can continue by heading south to road 2N11 and make a loop by following it back to 2N10.

1:30 - Champion Lodgepole Pine

1:30 – Champion Lodgepole Pine

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Mt. Islip (North Approach)

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Trees near the summit of Mt. Islip

Trees near the summit of Mt. Islip

View of the high desert from below Little Jimmy Trail Camp

View of the high desert from the P.C.T. below Little Jimmy Trail Camp

Mt. Islip (North Approach)

        • Location:  Angeles National Forest.  From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2) northeast for 41 miles.  Just past marker 65.5, park at a dirt turnout on the side of the road (about a mile and a half past Islip Saddle).  From Highway 138, take Highway 2 west for 23.2 miles and the parking area will be on the left side of the road, shortly before Islip Saddle.  A United States Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
        • Agency: Angeles National Forest
        • Distance:  6 miles
        • Elevation gain: 1,250 feet
        • Suggested time: 3 hours
        • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (Altitude,  elevation gain)
        • Best season: May – November
        • USGS topo map: Crystal Lake
        • Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
        • More information: Trip reports here and here; Everytrail report here
        • Rating: 8

You already know how to get to Mt. Islip from Crystal Lake, so in this post we’ll look at the northern route. The approach from Highway 2 is shorter and easier than from the south, but it is still a challenging workout; hikers sensitive to altitude will want to keep in mind that the trail head is at about 7,000 feet.  While the views aren’t quite as dramatic, there is still some nice scenery that makes it well worth the trip.

0:00 - Trail head on Angeles Crest Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

0:00 – Trail head on Angeles Crest Highway (click thumbnails to see the full sized version)

From the highway, look for a dirt road heading uphill. Pass the yellow gate and begin walking up the fire road, making a steady ascent through the pines to reach a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (0.6 miles.)

0:15 - Junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (times are approximate)

0:15 – Junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (times are approximate)

Turn left on the P.C.T. (the right fork heads back down to Islip Saddle, an alternative starting point for the hike.) You head through a pleasant forest of sugar pines with a few glimpses of the road below and the high desert to the north. At 1.7 miles, you reach the Little Jimmy Trail Camp.

0:42 - Following the trail through Little Jimmy Camp

0:42 – Following the trail through Little Jimmy Camp

After the first group of picnic tables, look for a path heading sharply to the right; the P.C.T. continues south toward Windy Gap. Head through the campsite, past the outhouses, and look for the signed trail heading uphill. Follow it past some more picnic tables, reaching a Y-junction (2 miles.)

0:45 - Following the trail out of Little Jimmy Trail Camp

0:45 – Following the trail out of Little Jimmy Trail Camp

Here, bear right and continue uphill. At this point, you are sharing the route with the southern approach, and as you climb, you get great views of Hawkins Ridge to the east and Crystal Lake to the south. As you follow the ridge, you’ll see the cone of Islip’s summit.

1:00 - Bear right at the junction

1:00 – Bear right at the junction

Finally you reach the spur leading to the peak. Bear right and make the last few switchbacks to the summit, where you will pass an abandoned stone cabin before reaching the very top. On Islip’s summit, enjoy a 360-degree view of the San Gabriels, the L.A. basin and the high desert.

1:18 - Spur to the summit

1:18 – Spur to the summit

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:25 - Looking southwest from Mt. Islip

1:25 – Looking southwest from Mt. Islip


Cahuilla Mountain

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Looking north from just below Cahuilla Mountain's summit

Looking north from just below Cahuilla Mountain’s summit

Pines and manzanitas near Cahuilla Mountain's summit

Pines and manzanitas near Cahuilla Mountain’s summit

Cahuilla Mountain

    • Location: East of Temecula, south of the San Jacinto Mountains.  From I-15, take Highway 79 southeast for 17 miles to Highway 371.  Turn left and head northeast for 11.2 miles.  Shortly after the casino, turn left on Cary Road, signed for Cahuilla Mountain.  Follow the road 3.6 miles (it changes names several times, finally becoming Tripp Flats Road) and turn left on a dirt road, Forest Road 7S04.  The road is in fairly good shape, but there are a few bumps to watch for.  At 0.8 miles, turn left at an intersection and follow the road another 1.6 miles to the Cahuilla Mountain trail head, near some overhead power lines.  From Highway 74, take Highway 371 southwest for 9.5 miles to Cary Road and follow the directions above.  The GPS coordinates of the trailhead are N33 35.783, W116 46.823.  Although the trail is on San Bernardino National Forest land, at no point is any requirement of an Adventure Pass mentioned.
    • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Idyllwild Ranger Station
    • Distance: 6 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3hours
    • Best season: October – June
    • USGS topo map: Cahuilla Mountain
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; insect repellentsunblock
    • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
    • More information: Forest Service page here; Trip description here; Everytrail report here; Sierra Club page here
    • Rating: 9
0:00 - Trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This one may be a bit off the beaten path, but it’s well worth the trip.  Cahuilla Mountain stands between the Palomar and San Jacinto ranges, only a little over an hour’s drive from Riverside and Palm Springs, and doable as a day trip from San Diego, Orange County or L.A.  While it may appear to be located in a desert wasteland, the mountain’s high elevation (5,635 feet) helps it support a variety of trees and plants; with an early start and good sun protection, the trip can be done in the warm months.  The views, which include the San Bernardino, Santa Ana, San Jacinto, Santa Rosa and Palomar ranges, are great.    If you are approaching from the southwest via Highway 371, you will see the long ridge of the mountain from a good distance out.  The trail ends at the southern peak, probably the highest of several bumps on the ridge, although it has been speculated that another bump farther south may be a shade taller.

0:24 - View of the Santa Rosa Mountains and Anza Valley (times are approximate)

0:24 – View of the Santa Rosa Mountains and Anza Valley (times are approximate)

From the dirt lot, follow the trail past the information board and up the north slope of the mountain. You get some nice views of the San Jacintos and distant Santa Rosas, and the Anza Valley below. After traversing the rim of a deep canyon, you enter a pleasant woodland of pines and oaks at 1.4 miles, where you can sit and enjoy the shade. This is the approximate half way point.

0:42 - Looking back at Thomas Mountain as the trail enters woodland

0:42 – Looking back at Thomas Mountain as the trail enters woodland

The trail continues its ascent, reaching a scenic meadow and saddle at about two miles. Here, you can look back and get great views to the east, and the summit itself comes into view. The trail then descends onto the west slope of the mountain, providing great views of the Temecula Valley. After entering another grove of trees, you reach a junction at 2.5 miles. The right fork leads to a spring (marked by an actual metal spring) and the left fork leads to the summit.

1:00 - Looking east from the saddle

1:00 – Looking east from the saddle

The final ascent takes you through another meadow and past more trees before arriving at the summit ridge. You get a great view first to the south and then to the north before climbing to the top. The trees prevent the summit from being a true 360-degree view, but you can still get some impressive vistas in all directions.

1:02 - Descending into the woodlands past the saddle

1:02 – Descending into the woodlands past the saddle

In case you were wondering, the mountain’s name, like that of the local tribe, is pronounced “ka-WEE-uh.”  The mountain is also notable for the historical events that took place around it, which inspired the famous 19th century novel “Ramona.”

1:15 - The spring (turn left)

1:15 – The spring (turn left)

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

1:30 - Looking south from the summit

1:30 – Looking south from the summit


Whitehorse Canyon/Los Robles Loop from Triunfo Park

Leave a comment

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

View of Boney Mountain and Sandstone Peak from the Whitehorse Canyon Trail

View of Boney Mountain and Sandstone Peak from the Whitehorse Canyon Trail

Oak tree on the Los Robles Trail near Triunfo Community Park

Oak tree on the Los Robles Trail near Triunfo Community Park

Whitehorse Canyon/Los Robles Loop from Triunfo Park

      • Location: Triunfo Community Park, Westlake Village.  From Los Angeles, take Highway 101 to Highway 23 south/Westlake Blvd.  Turn left and go 1.1 miles to Triunfo Canyon Road.  Turn right and go 0.4 miles to Tamarack St.  Turn left and drive to the second parking lot, just before the  end of the street.  From Ventura, take Highway 101 to Hampshire Road.  Turn right and go 0.6 miles to Triunfo Canyon Road.  Turn right and go 0.6 miles to Tamarack St.  Turn right and drive to the second parking lot.
      • Agency: Conejo Open Space Foundation
      • Distance: 5.8 miles
      • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Distance, elevation gain)
      • Suggested time: 3 hours
      • Best season:  October – May
      • USGS topo map: Thousand Oaks
      • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
      • More information: here; Everytrail report here
      • Rating: 6

Leaving from Triunfo Community Park (not to be confused with nearby Triunfo Creek Park), this hike offers a challenging workout with a nice variety of scenery, including the Santa Monica and Santa Susana Mountains. If the air is clear, you may see as far as the Topa Topa mountains north of Ojai. The route is almost entirely exposed, so plan accordingly.

0:00 - Trail head leading from the parking lot at the western end of Triunfo Park (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Trail head leading from the parking lot at the western end of Triunfo Park (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Look for a trail leading out of the second parking lot’s southwest corner. You pass a sign for the Los Robles Trail and an information board. The trail passes by a few oak trees (don’t get used to them), makes a sharp left turn and begins making some switchbacks, climbing the north side of the ridge, with some good views of the Thousand Oaks area.

0:01 - Information board (times are approximate)

0:01 – Information board (times are approximate)

At 0.8 miles, bear right and follow the trail to a dirt fire road (1.1 miles.) Turn left and almost immediately bear right to continue on the fire road (the Los Robles Trail) and head downhill.

0:19 - Junction (bear right)

0:19 – Junction (bear right)

This section of the trail, which follows power lines and suffers from the noise of the highway, is one of the less appealing parts of the hike, but the gentle downhill grade is easy enough. After 0.9 miles (2 miles from the start) you make a sharp left and begin climbing again.

0:26 - Head left and then right (downhill) on the fire road beneath the power lines

0:26 – Head left and then right (downhill) on the fire road beneath the power lines

At 2.4 miles, you reach a saddle where you get nice views of Sandstone Peak and Boney Mountain to the south. Turn left on the single-track Whitehorse Canyon Trail, which descends steeply. You head south, following the main trail as a few side trails branch off. After contouring back to the north, you approach a steep ascent (3.1 miles.) Just before the steepest part of the ascent, turn right on an obscure trail. You pass underneath an interesting geological outcrop and soon return to the fire road.

1:00 - View of the Santa Monica Mountains from the junction with the Whitehorse Canyon Trail (head left)

1:00 – View of the Santa Monica Mountains from the junction with the Whitehorse Canyon Trail (head left)

Head left, reaching the top of the outcrop seen earlier from below. Here, you bear right and head north. Stay left at a Y-junction and soon you reach the base of a steep ascent (3.9 miles.) After climbing over 100 feet, you reach the top of a ridge. You pass two high points, providing nice views of the eastern Santa Monica Mountains, including Castro Peak, Ladyface and Mitten Mountain.

1:20 - Bear right on the side trail before the steep ascent

1:20 – Bear right on the side trail before the steep ascent

After the second “peak”, the highest point in the hike at 1,440 feet, you descend to an intersection where you can climb a staircase and sit on a bench and enjoy the panorama.

1:32 - Turn right and head north toward the ridge

1:32 – Turn right and head north toward the ridge

Back at the intersection, head northeast and follow the trail downhill to the intersection, completing the loop. Look for the sign for Triunfo Park and follow the trail 1.1 miles back to the starting point.

1:50 - Following the ridge

1:50 – Following the ridge

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

2:10 - View from the bench just before the descent to complete the loop

2:10 – View from the bench just before the descent to complete the loop


Valley Forge Trail Camp from Red Box via Gabrielino Trail

2 Comments

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Stream crossing just before the Valley Forge Campground

Stream crossing just before the Valley Forge Campground

Old and new growth on the Gabrielino Trail between Red Box and Valley Forge Trail Camp

Old and new growth on the Gabrielino Trail between Red Box and Valley Forge Trail Camp

Valley Forge Trail Camp from Red Box via Gabrielino Trail

    • Location: Red Box Picnic Area, Angeles National Forest.  From I-210 in La Canada, take the Angeles Crest Highway northeast for 14 miles and park at the Red Box Picnic Area, at the junction with the road to Mt. Wilson.  From the high desert, take the Angeles Forest Highway south to Big Tujunga Canyon Road.  Turn left and go 9 miles to the Angeles Crest Highway.  Turn right and go 4.3 miles to Red Box, which will be on the left.  A National Forest Service Adventure Pass ($5 per day or $30 for the year) is required for parking here. Click here to purchase.
    • Agency: Angeles National Forest/Los Angeles River Ranger District
    • Distance: 4.8  miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
    • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
    • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain)
    • Best season:  Year-round (depending on conditions)
    • USGS topo maps: Chilao Flat, Mt. Wilson
    • Recommended gear: insect repellent
    • More information: Red Box trail head information here; Valley Forge Campground information here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 7
0:00 - Beginning of the hike, at Red Box Picnic Area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Beginning of the hike, at Red Box Picnic Area (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This is an enjoyable reverse hike in the front country of the Angeles National Forest, leaving from the popular Red Box picnic area and descending to the Valley Forge Trail Camp, via the Gabrielino Trail.  While it lacks the dramatic scenery and variety of the nearby Devil’s Canyon and Shortcut Saddle hikes, it offers a good workout in a secluded part of the Angeles National Forest.  The Station Fire damage is obvious, but new growth can also be seen.  A seasonal stream and a nice variety of plant life, including pines, sycamoers, black oaks and manzanitas, adds to the appeal.

0:21 - Crossing the service road; trail picks up on the other side (times are approximate)

0:21 – Crossing the service road; trail picks up on the other side (times are approximate)

From the signed Red Box trailhead information board, descend the stone staircase to the Gabrielino Trail and head left. You follow the highway for 0.2 miles, with some nice views of Mt. Baldy to the east, before descending into the canyon on some switchbacks. Beneath the shade of some black oaks, the descent continues, roughly following the stream bed of the San Gabriel River’s west fork’s upper reaches.

0:31 -First stream crossing

0:31 -First stream crossing

At 0.7 miles, you reach a dirt road where you pick up the trail on the opposite side. Soon after you pass Camp Hi-Hill, an outdoor education facility. The trail makes a hairpin turn to the left and a sign reads “Valley Forge Trail Camp.” That doesn’t mean you’ve arrived; the bottom of the sign, indicating a distance of 1.5 miles, is missing. After passing the broken sign, continue toward the stream, making the first of several crossings.

0:49 - Continuing past the cabin on the Gabrielino Trail

0:49 – Continuing past the cabin on the Gabrielino Trail

At 1.7 miles, you come to a private cabin in a clearing. Continue following the trail, making another stream crossing and passing two more cabins. At 2.2 miles, you reach a split. The Valley Forge Trail heads uphill, leading to Mt. Wilson Road, three miles away. To reach the trail camp, however, bear left and make a few switchbacks down to the creek. On the opposite side is the trail camp, where you can sit on a picnic bench and enjoy the sound of the stream and the shade of the trees.

1:07 - Bear left and descend to the trail camp

1:07 – Bear left and descend to the trail camp

You can return via the same route, or to make a loop, you can use the service road just beyond the camp.  If you want to extend the hike, you can make it into a loop by taking the Valley Forge Trail up to Mt. Wilson Road and descending back to Red Box; you can also continue following the Gabrielino Trail to the West Fork Trail Camp and take the Silver Moccasin Trail up to the Angeles Crest Highway, an option if you’ve arranged for a shuttle.

1:12 - Welcome to Valley Forge Trail Camp

1:12 – Welcome to Valley Forge Trail Camp

Text and photography copyright 2013 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.