Dagger Flat from Dillon Divide

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Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, Sunland, CA

View of Pacoima Canyon on the descent

Oaks in Pacoima Canyon on the way to Dagger Flat and Dutch Louie Flat

Sunlight through the oaks in the bottom of Pacoima Canyon

Dagger Flat from Dillon Divide

  • Location: Western San Gabriel Mountains near the San Fernando Valley.   From I-210 in Sunland, take the Foothill Blvd. exit and head northeast (turn right if you’re coming from the east; left if you’re coming from the west.)  Take a quick left on Osborne St. and follow it for a total of 7.2 miles (it becomes Little Tujunga Canyon Road along the way). Park on the right side of the road at a dirt turnout by a metal gate blocking off a fire road. From the 14 Freeway, take the Sand Canyon Road exit. Turn left on Soledad Canyon Road and take the first left on Sand Canyon Road. Follow it 10.5 miles (it becomes Little Tujunga Canyon Road on the way) to Dillon Divide and park on the left side of the road by the metal gate. 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: 5.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 800 feet
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map: Sunland
  • Recommended gear: insect repellentsun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Trails of the Angeles
  • More information: Trip description here; description from a Meetup here
  • Rating: 7
Mendenhall Ridge Road, Angeles National Forest

0:00 – Mendenhall Ridge Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From a not very promising start at a dirt turnout on the side of Little Tujunga Canyon Road, this hike quickly becomes one of the more enjoyable ones in the western corner of the San Gabriel Mountains. It explores scenic, secluded Pacoima Canyon, once a popular gold mining spot.

Beginning the descent into Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest, Sunland, CA

0:08 – Bear left at the junction, begin the descent (times are approximate)

Begin by following the Mendenhall Ridge Road (signed 3N32 on the gate, but listed on Google Maps as 4N35) up a slight incline for 0.3 miles. You get excellent views of Pacoima Canyon and Bear Divide on the left. At a Y-junction, take the left fork, which begins a steady descent. The abandoned fire road effectively becomes a single-track, weaving in and out of shade and groves of oaks and sycamores before arriving at the canyon bottom (1.7 miles.)

Head up canyon, crossing the stream bed a few times. If water levels are high, which is unlikely, navigation may be a little tricky, but you should expect to make pretty easy progress. Virtually all sights and sounds of civilization vanish as you follow the canyon.

Geology on the trail to Pacoima Canyon and Dagger Flat, Angeles National Forest

0:18 – Geology on the trail

At 2.6 miles, you reach Dutch Louie Flat, a former campground shaded by several stout oaks. Dutch Louie was an early 20th century prospector known as the “Hermit of the Pacoima.” He died without ever finding his fortune. There is supposedly a tunnel that he dug to divert creek water, making it easier for him to pan, but I wasn’t able to find it.

Oaks and sycamores in Pacoima Canyon on the way to Dagger Flat, Angeles National Forest

0:45 – Oaks and sycamores in Pacoima Canyon

Continuing along the stream bed, you reach a junction at 2.9 miles in a meadow known as Dagger Flat, named for a prospector who was stabbed here around the turn of the century. Here, a steep trail branches off to the left, climbing about 1,300 feet to Santa Clara Divide Road, while another trail continues straight, farther up into the canyon, where it soon deteriorates. Either of these are options if you want to extend the trip but for a moderate day hike, the junction in Dagger Flat makes a good turnaround point.

Dutch Louie Flat, Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest

1:05 – Dutch Louie Flat

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Dagger Flat, Pacoima Canyon, Angeles National Forest

1:15 – Dagger Flat

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Horn Canyon Trail to the Pines Campground (Ojai)

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Sunset on the Horn Canyon Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

Sunset over Ojai Valley from the Horn Canyon Trail

Pines Campground, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

Pines Campground

Horn Canyon Trail to the Pines Campground (Ojai)

    • Location: Thacher School, Los Padres National Forest foothills northeast of Ojai. From Highway 150, take Reeves Road (3.4 miles east of downtown Ojai; 14.4 miles northwest of Santa Paula) 1.1 miles to McAndrew Road. Turn left and follow McAndrew 1.1 miles to the Thacher School. Enter the grounds (the gate should be open during daylight hours) and follow the road, taking three consecutive right turns. After the third, the paved road becomes dirt. Follow it a short distance to a lot where you’ll see a wooden sign for the Horn Canyon Trail.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
    • Distance: 5 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,800 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3 hours
    • Best season:  October – May
    • USGS topo map: Ojai
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
    • More information: Trip descriptions here, here, here, here (inaccurately lists the distance as 3 miles round trip) and here; area trail map here
    • Rating: 8
Horn Canyon Trail Head, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

0:00 – Horn Canyon Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

For Thanksgiving, we present a hike that will surely help you burn off a scoop or two of mashed potatoes and gravy, also providing some excellent views in the bargain. Horn Canyon is one of the more rugged and scenic areas of the Ojai front country and the variety of sights on this hike make it worth the effort.

Stream crossing on the Horn Canyon Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

0:13 – Stream crossing (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the signed trail into the canyon, passing by a few turnoffs and entering an attractive grove of oaks. You cross the stream bed several times, make a few switchbacks and enter another wooded canyon, about 1.1 miles from the start. With the majority of climbing still ahead of you, this peaceful spot is a good place to rest up for the energy about to be exerted.

Woodland on the Horn Canyon Trail, Ojai, CA

0:29 – Woodland retreat before the steep climbing begins

After crossing the stream bed, the trail becomes noticeably steeper, with wooden beams forming “steps.” Soon you exit the shade of the canyon and make a few switchbacks. The good news is that as you climb, the views–both of the canyon below and Lake Casitas (and the ocean and Santa Cruz Island on clear days) are excellent.

At about 1.9 miles and 1,400 feet of elevation gain from the start of the hike, you make a sharp turn and briefly follow the north side of the ridge. It’s here that you’ll get a glimpse of your destination: a bunch of Coulter pines on a bench some 3,100 feet above sea level. After a couple of more switchbacks, the trail finally levels out, following a ridge between Manzanitas and chaparral, finally reaching the trail camp at 2.5 miles.

Climbing through hills on the Horn Canyon Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

0:42 – Climbing higher above Horn Canyon

The Pines Campground is very attractive, providing not only an elevated, shaded retreat but glimpses of the valley below and the ocean in the distance. Several benches carved from tree branches allow hikers to sit and rest and enjoy the serenity before negotiating the steep descent. For the adventurous, the Horn Canyon Trail continues beyond the camp, another steep 2.5 miles to Nordhoff Ridge Road.

Distant view of the Pines Campground, Horn Canyon Trail, Ojai, CA

0:58 – Pines Campground in the distance

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

View from the Pines Campground, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

1:30 – Looking southeast from the Pines Campground

Mission Creek Preserve

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Mission Creek, San Bernardino Mountains, CA

Water in the west fork of Mission Creek

Dirt road leading toward the mountains, Mission Creek Preserve

Heading toward the mountains, Mission Creek Preserve

Mission Creek Preserve

  • Location: Eastern San Bernardino Mountains, northwest of the Coachella Valley. From I-10, take Highway 62 northeast for 4.7 miles and turn left on Mission Creek Road (dirt but passable by all vehicles). Follow it 2.3 miles to its end at the entrance to the preserve. From the Yucca Valley/29 Palms area, follow Highway 62 southwest to Mission Creek Road, which is 16.2 miles past the junction with Highway 247. If you hit Pierson Blvd, you’ve come too far. Turn right on to the dirt road and follow it to its end.
  • Agency: Wildlands Conservancy
  • Distance: 7.4 miles
  • Elevation gain:  800 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance)
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Best season: October – April (8am – 5pm)
  • USGS topo map: Whitewater, Morongo Valley, Catclaw Flats
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • More information: Mission Creek Preserve home page here; trip descriptions here and here
  • Rating: 7
Trail head, Mission Creek Preserve, San Bernardino Mountains, CA

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

The 4,760-acre Mission Creek Preserve occupies an important transitional zone near the eastern base of the San Bernardino Mountains, offering as good a view of the range as can be found from almost anywhere in the desert. The preserve will be a crucial piece of the proposed Sand to Snow National Monument.

Cottonwod tree, Mission Creek Preserve, San Bernardino Mountains

0:25 – Cottonwood tree in the Painted Hills wetlands (times are approximate)

If you contact the preserve, you may be able to have them unlock the gate, allowing you to drive 1.6 miles to the Stone House and begin your hike from there (high clearance vehicles recommended). Otherwise, start at the lower trail head outside the gate.

Follow the wide dirt road, passing by the ruins of some stone cabins, and continue up canyon with the San Bernardino Mountains looming in the distance. At about a mile from the start, you pass an impressive cottonwood tree and make a sharp right turn, climbing out of the canyon. Soon after you reach the Stone House, where you can look at maps and other displays inside or enjoy a picnic beneath one of the shaded tables. You also can enjoy a wooden rocking chair on the porch of the house.

Stone house in the Mission Creek Preserve, San Bernardino Mountains, CA

0:41 – The stone house

Past the Stone House, the road ends and becomes a single-track trail, weaving in and out of the stream bed, following the trail arrows. At about 2 miles from the start, you reach the reserve boundary. You head up the west fork of Mission Creek, through an increasingly diverse landscape of cottonwoods, cholla, yuccas and more.

Trail in the Mission Creek Preserve, San Bernardino Mountains, CA

1:22 – Heading into the canyon on Mission Creek’s west fork

At 3.7 miles from the start, you reach the Pacific Crest Trail, the turnaround point for this hike. A popular alternative is, with a pre arranged shuttle, to continue south for 4 miles to the Whitewater Preserve. (People who do this route often do it start from Whitewater, which has less of a net elevation gain).

Mountains, sky and bushes in the Mission Creek Preserve, San Bernardino Mountains, CA

1:40 – Looking back from the Pacific Crest Trail

Note that as of this writing, water levels are low and the trail is easy to follow as it crosses the creek. However, if conditions make navigation difficult, keep in mind the following GPS coordinates : N 34 00.997, W 116 37.690 for the stone house; N 34 01.049, W 116 37.971 for the preserve boundary and N 34 01.493, W 116 39.556 for the junction with the P.C.T.

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Bear Divide Trail

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View from Bear Divide, western Angeles National Forest

Looking northwest from the top of Bear Divide

View from Santa Clara Divide Road, Angeles National Forest

View of the high desert from Santa Clara Divide Road

Bear Divide Trail

  • Location: Western Angeles National Forest between the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and Little Tujunga Canyon. From I-210 in Pacoima, take the Osborne St. exit. Cross the freeway on Foothill Blvd. and turn left on Osborne St. Follow it for 11.4 miles. (Osborne becomes Little Tujunga Canyon Road) to the Bear Divide Picnic Area. Turn left on Santa Clara Truck Trail and follow it 0.2 miles and park in a dirt turnout on the right side of the road. From the 14 Freeway, exit at Placerita Canyon Road and follow it east for 5 miles to its end at Sand Canyon Road. Turn right on Sand Canyon, which becomes Little Tujunga Canyon, and follow it 3 miles to the Bear Divide Picnic Area. Turn right on Santa Clarita Truck Trail and follow it 0.2 miles to the turnout on the right. The unsigned trail starts right next to the road. Though no signage indicates that a National Forest Service Adventure Pass is needed to park here, most of the trail heads in the area do require it so if you have one, consider bringing it to be safe. Click here to purchase one.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles River Ranger District
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, steepness)
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: San Fernando
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent
  • More information: Trip description here; video about the hike here
  • Rating: 7
Start of the Bear Divide Trail, Angeles National Forest

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

Considering its proximity to the Santa Clarita, Antelope and San Fernando Valleys–and its excellent views of them–it’s surprising this trail isn’t better known. Adding to the appeal are the tall pines and black oaks on the north facing slope, providing welcome shade from the Antelope Valley heat.

Bear Divide Trail leading through chaparral, Angeles National Forest

0:03 – Right turn on the Bear Divide Trail (times are approximate)

Bear Divide is a ridge that stretches westward from Little Tujunga Canyon, rising above the San Fernando Valley to the south and the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys to the north. The unsigned Bear Divide Trail starts off inauspiciously with a steep climb up a loose and rocky incline. At just over a tenth of a mile (and 150 vertical feet of climbing) it bends to the right where it enters the shade of chaparral. A steep trail continues straight; intrepid hikers can use this as an alternative ascent or descent, making the hike into a loop.

Oak growing out of the rocks on the Bear Divide Trail, Angeles National Forest

0:19 – “Ninja oak!”

The trail follows the north side of the ridge, providing excellent views of the Santa Clarita Valley. The steep ascent continues before finally leveling off at about 0.4 miles from the start. Soon after you enter an attractive grove of black oaks and Coulter pines. Keep an eye out for one rogue black oak in particular, growing nearly sideways from the rocky ridge.

Footbridge on the Bear Divide Trail, Angeles National Forest

0:28 – Footbridge

Shortly before a mile, you cross a footbridge and soon after you begin a steep set of switchbacks. Fortunately you’re still in the shade, making the 400-plus feet of elevation gain in less than a mile more tolerable. The majestic pines make it seem as if you’re higher up than your actual altitude of about 3,400 feet.

Looking north from Santa Clarita Truck Trail, Angeles National Forest

0:51 – Looking north from Santa Clara Truck Trail

At 1.5 miles, you rejoin Santa Clara Truck Trail. Bear right and follow it past the fire station. At a junction where Santa Clarita heads downhill and continues west, follow the left fork to a high point (about 4,000 feet above sea level) on the ridge with several communications antennas. Just before a fence blocks the road, a trail leads a short distance to a big, flat summit where you can enjoy a panoramic view. If visibility is good, expect to see Catalina Island, the Hollywood Hills, the Santa Monica Mountains, the Topatopa Mountains, the Liebre Mountains and more.

View of the San Fernando Valley from Santa Clara Truck Trail

1:01 – The San Fernando Valley from just past the fire station

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Looking southwest from the top of Bear Divide, Angeles National Forest

1:10 – Southwest view from the “summit” of Bear Divide


Grape Avenue Trail Loop (Crafton Hills)

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San Bernardino Peak as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa CA

San Bernardino Peak as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail

East Reservoir as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

East Reservoir as seen from the Grape Avenue Trail

 Grape Avenue Trail Loop (Crafton Hills)

  • Location: Crafton Hills near Yucaipa.  From I-10, take the Live Oak Canyon Road/Oak Glen Road exit and head northwest for 4.2 miles to Bryant St. Turn left and go 1.1 miles to Grape Avenue. Turn left and go 0.5 miles to an unsigned trail head on the left side of the road.
  • Agency:  Crafton Hills Open Space Conservancy
  • Distance:  4.5 miles
  • Elevation gain:  1,000 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October – April
  • Recommended gear: hiking polessun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • USGS topo map: Yucaipa
  • More information: Trip description here
  • Rating: 6
Grape Avenue Trail Head, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

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

This loop, which explores the eastern end of the Crafton Hills, is proof that a hike doesn’t have to go into the wilderness to feel rugged and wild. Although the sights and sounds of civilization are always at hand, this route’s dramatic mountain views (of San Bernardino Peak in particular), sharp switchbacks and up-close aerial perspectives on Highway 38 make it more visually interesting than many hikes that are more geographically remote.

Descending from a ridge on the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

0:09 – The trail descending from the ridge (times are approximate)

From Grape Avenue, take the unsigned trail into a patch of chaparral and climb to a ridge (0.3 miles). Follow it briefly and look for a trail leading downhill to the right. You drop down to a service road, cross it and pick up the trail which climbs to another ridge, providing views of the East Reservoir. The trail merges into a paved service road which you follow a short distance.

Right before the road curves sharply downhill, leave it and follow the trail to a junction (0.9 miles from the start). This is the beginning of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction. By hiking clockwise, as described here, you can knock off the majority of the climbing early on. (The left fork is signed for Zanja Peak; the right fork is signed as the 38 Loop due to its proximity to that highway).

Junction on the Grape Avenue Trail, Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

0:27 – Start of the loop

Bear left and head uphill, zigzagging your way across the eastern slope of the Crafton Hills. In addition to the imposing view of San Bernardino Peak and the Yucaipa Ridge, you also get an aerial view of the reservoir and in the distance, if visibility is good, you may even be able to pick out the Palomar Mountains of San Diego County.

Descending the Crafton Hills on the Grape Avenue Trail

0:54 – Starting the descent from the junction at the top of the loop

After almost a mile of steady climbing, you reach a junction (1.8 miles from the start). This is the high point of the loop. You can extend your trip to Zanja Peak by heading left, but to continue with the loop, take the right fork and begin your descent. On the way down, you get a good view of the eastern San Gabriel Mountains.

The twisting descent follows both sides of a ridge, dropping down into a canyon and coming out at the service road (3 miles). Turn right and follow the road briefly to pick up another trail, which climbs back up to the junction, completing the loop. From here, retrace your steps back to Grape Avenue.

The San Gabriel Mountains as seen from the north side of the Crafton Hills, Yucaipa, CA

1:00 – View of the San Gabriel Mountains

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

North side of the Crafton Hills on the Grape Avenue Trail, Yucaipa, CA

1:10 – Following the north side of the ridge

Pratt/Foothill Loop (Ojai)

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Panoramic view of the Los Padres National Forest from the Pratt Trail

View of the Topatopa Mountains and fall foliage from the Pratt Trail

Sunset from the Foothill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

Sunset from the Foothill Trail

Pratt/Foothill Loop (Ojai)

    • Location: Foothills north of Ojai. From Highway 101, take Highway 33 north for 13.2 miles to downtown Ojai. Follow Ojai Ave (Higway 150) for a mile and turn left on Signal St. Follow Signal St. for 0.5 miles to an intersection with Grand Avenue and bear left to stay on Signal Street. Follow it 0.4 miles more to the signed Los Padres National Forest trail head. Turn left and go 0.2 miles on a semi-paved road to a circular parking lot. From Highway 126 in Santa Paula, take Highway 150 northwest for 16.7 miles. Turn right on Signal St. and follow it to the trail head.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Ojai Ranger District
    • Distance: 5.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,450 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness)
    • Suggested time: 3 hours
    • Best season:  October – June
    • USGS topo maps: Matilija; Ojai
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock
    • Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Santa Barbara
    • More information: Area trail map here; Tripadvisor page here
    • Rating: 7
Pratt Trail Head, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

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

This challenging, scenic hike explores the foothills north of Ojai, providing excellent mountain and valley views. The lower portion of the Pratt Trail, which starts at a debris basin and weaves through several private properties and service roads, might not be all that inspiring, but once you get higher up, the scenery becomes well worth the effort.

Sign on the Pratt Trail, Los Padres National Forest

0:19 – Sign on the Pratt Trail (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the signed Pratt Trail as it makes its way past the debris basin and through a grove of eucalyptus trees. Much of the view is blocked by chaparral, although you do get an occasional glimpse of the valley below. After crossing two service roads, you merge onto Foothill Road and follow it a short distance to a gate (just under a mile from the start, and about 550 feet higher). Just beyond the gate is a water tank, and it’s here that the loop portion of the hike begins.

Sycamores on the Pratt Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

0:28 – Sycamores on the Pratt Trail just after the junction with the Foothill Trail

If the temperature is high, consider heading left on the more moderate Foothill Trail. If it’s a cool day and you want to get most of the elevation gain behind you quickly, continue on the Pratt Trail, as described here. The counter-clockwise route is good too if you get a late afternoon start; the sun will be hidden by Magic Mountain to the west of the Pratt Trail.

View from the Pratt Trail, Los Padres National Forest

1:00 – Looking west from the saddle

Continue your steady climb, staying straight as the Fuel Break Trail branches off to the right. At about 1.5 miles from the start, the trail briefly levels out as you enter a grove of oaks. Keep an eye out for a short trail leading to a picnic table beneath a sycamore.

The ascent resumes, reaching a saddle two miles from the start. You now get a nice view to the west, and the majority of the climbing is behind you. The Pratt Trail makes a hard right and continues uphill but your route descends, following the north slope of Magic Mountain. After a quarter mile, take a hard right and continue the descent, making an S-curve into oak-shaded Cozy Dell Canyon.

Oaks in the Los Padres National Forest

1:25 – Descending through the oaks in Cozy Dell Canyon

Leaving the woodland, make a hairpin left turn on the signed Foothill Trail (just over 3 miles from the start). You make a short but steep climb, gaining 250 feet in less than half a mile and arriving at a meadow. From here, the trail follows a basically level profile along the ridge, with a few glimpses of the valley to the south. One more ascent brings you to a saddle where you can see the higher peaks of the Topatopa range to the east.

Foothill Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Ojai, CA

1:37 – Hard left on the Foothill Trail

From here, you make a steep descent to a T-junction. Turn right on a connector trail leading back to the Pratt Trail and retrace your steps a mile down the hill to the parking lot.

View from the Foothill Trail, Los Padres National Forest

2:00 – Descent on the Foothill Trail toward the Pratt Trail

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Rock Mountain (Fallbrook)

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View from Rock Mountain, north San Diego County

Morning sun near the top of Rock Mountain

Looking north from Rock Mountain

Looking north from Rock Mountain

Rock Mountain (Fallbrook)

    • Location: North San Diego County, between Fallbrook and Temecula. From the Inland Empire, take I-15 to Rancho California Road in Temecula. Turn right and go 2.5 miles to Avenida del Oro. Turn left and go 0.3 miles to Sandia Creek Road. Turn left and go 7.3 miles and look for a small dirt parking lot and the trail head on the right (De Luz Heights Road = too far.) From the south, take I-15 to Old Highway 395. Turn left and go 0.2 miles to East Mission Road. Go 4.9 miles and turn right on Pico, which becomes De Luz and then Sandia Creek. In 4.2 miles, just after De Luz Heights Road, look for the trail head on the right. From Highway 76, 12.6 miles east of Oceanside, head north on South Mission Road. In 6.7 miles, turn right on West Mission Road and then almost immediately turn left on Pico. Follow it 4.2 miles to the trail head as described above.
    • Agency:  Fallbrook Land Conservancy
    • Distance: 1.2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 550 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 1 hour
    • Best season: October – May
    • Recomended gear: sun hat
    • USGS topo map: Temecula
    • More information:  All Trails page here; Flickr photo gallery here
    • Rating: 5
0:00 - Rock Mountain Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

0:00 – Rock Mountain Trail Head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This short but steep hike yields some panoramic views of north San Diego County and southern Riverside County. The hike sadly loses points due to graffiti (particularly on the summit) and trash, but the scramble up the rocks to the summit is still worth doing if you’re in the area. Expect to use your hands as much as your feet and allow extra time for the descent.

Following the trail up Rock Mountain, San Diego County

0:09 – Hard left at the junction (times are approximate)

From the parking lot, follow the signed trail up a wooden staircase. The first half of the hike is fairly easy going as the trail winds around the base of Rock Mountain. There are no shade trees but the slope faces west, so if you get off to an early start the sun will be blocked out.

At about a quarter mile, stay straight as a trail branches off to the right. Soon after, take a hairpin left turn and head west, soon arriving at a clearing (about 0.4 miles from the start) where an abandoned car sits.

Steep stretch of trail on Rock Mountain

0:12 – Steep climb after the abandoned car

From here, the hike becomes challenging. Head straight, climbing up a loose, rutted slope and continue your steep ascent for another tenth of a mile. The trail, sometimes faint but usually pretty obvious, appears to dip downhill and fade out at this point. Look for a use trail on the right, heading straight up through the sage scrub, soon arriving at a saddle where you get some striking aerial views of the landscape below. You also see the summit of Rock Mountain on your left.

Climbing through the brush on the way to Rock Mountain's summit

0:16 – Follow the “use trail” through the brush, about half a mile from the start

Head left and follow a thin ridge toward the peak and then pick your way up over the boulders to the summit. Your exact route may vary but you will generally stay on the south side of the peak, keeping it on your left.

View of Rock Mountain, San Diego County

0:20 – Rock Mountain’s summit, as seen from the saddle

On the top, you can sit on any of the jumble of boulders and enjoy an excellent view which on clear days may include the Palomar Mountains and the ocean. You also get a bird’s eye look at Sandia Creek Road, winding its way through the hills below. When you’re done enjoying the view head back down, respecting the steep and loose terrain on the descent.

View from just below the summit of Rock Mountain

0:22 – Looking south from the ridge below the summit

Text and photography copyright 2014 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.

Aerial view of the Fallbrook, CA area from Rock Mountain

0:25 – Looking down from the summit of Rock Mountain