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.

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Shoestring/Sandtrap/Limestone Ridge Loop (Limestone Canyon Regional Park)

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Old Saddleback seen from the Sandtrap Trail

Old Saddleback seen from the Sandtrap Trail

Oak on Limestone Canyon Road

Oak on Limestone Canyon Road

Shoestring/Sandtrap/Limestone Ridge Loop (Limestone Canyon Regional Park)

  • Location: Silverado, in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains.  From the 55 Freeway, take the Chapman Ave. exit and head east for a total of 7.7 miles (Chapman becomes Santiago Canyon Road en route).    Shortly past Irvine Lake, look for the Augustine Staging Area, turn right and park as directed in the lot.  From I-5, take El Toro Road and head northeast for a total of 14.2 miles (El Toro becomes Santiago Canyon Road).  The Augustine Staging Area is on the left, 1.8 miles past Silverado Canyon Road.
  • Agency: Irvine Ranch Company; Orange County Parks & Recreation
  • Distance: 10.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours
  • Best season:  September – June; accessible only during specific times (check Irvine Ranch Company link above for schedule)
  • USGS topo maps: “Santiago Peak”
  • Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
  • More information: Limestone Canyon info here; Everytrail report here; description of upcoming hike on Friday, December 5th here
  • Rating: 7
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 loop is a longer version of the popular Shoestring Loop in Limestone Canyon Wilderness Park.  Like the Shoestring, this hike can be done on Wilderness Access Days in Limestone Canyon or as part of one of several docent-led hikes scheduled through the year (it will be next offered on Friday, 11/14 and Friday, 12/5).  Click the Irvine Ranch Company link for available dates.  The full version described here is more than 10 miles long, but if you are hiking independently on a Wilderness Access Day, you can shorten the loop to just under 8 miles.  On the guided hikes, the volunteer docents may give the group the option of shortening the hike, but be prepared for the full route–almost all of which is exposed.

0:20 - Approaching the fire road from the Shoestring Trail (times are approximate, reflecting the pace of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy's hikes)

0:20 – Approaching the fire road from the Shoestring Trail (times are approximate, reflecting the pace of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s hikes)

Begin by heading toward the Hicks Haul Road.  Turn right and follow it for a short distance to the Shoestring Trail, a single-track.  Cross a wooden footbridge and follow the Shoestring Trail for about 0.7 miles as it parallels Santiago Canyon Road, making its way up and down a few short but steep hills.

0:41 - Morning mist on the Loma Ridge Jeep Trail

0:41 – Morning mist on the Loma Ridge Jeep Trail

At just under a mile from the start, turn left and begin an ascent on a fire road.  After about a mile of steady climbing, you reach the Loma Ridge Jeep Trail, where you get some good views to the southwest.  You follow this trail southeast for about 1.4 miles, making several more small ascents and descents, before reaching a junction with the paved Hicks Haul Road.  (This would be your return route on the 4.5 mile Shoestring Loop.)

1:12 - Right turn on the Hicks Haul Road toward East Loma Ridge

1:12 – Right turn on the Hicks Haul Road toward East Loma Ridge

To continue toward the Sandtrap Trail, bear right on the Hicks Haul Road and go a short distance to the East Loma Ridge Road.  It climbs for about a mile, taking in some excellent views in all directions, finally reaching a junction with the Sandtrap Trail.  Turn left and make a brief ascent to the highest point on the hike, just over 1,600 feet in elevation.  Enjoy some more views, which may extend to the San Gabriels if visibility is good, before beginning a steep descent.

1:33 - Looking north toward the San Gabriels from the start of the Sandtrap Trail

1:33 – Looking north toward the San Gabriels from the start of the Sandtrap Trail

The Sandtrap Trail follows a curving ridge that drops almost 700 feet in 1.4 miles.  At 6.3 miles, you reach a T-junction in oak-shaded Limestone Canyon.  If you want to end the hike here, turn left and follow Limestone Canyon Road about 1.4 miles back to the trailhead.  To extend the hike, turn right and follow the fire road up a gradual incline for a mile, enjoying a little bit of shade from sparsely spaced oaks and sycamores, to the Raptor Trail.

2:11 - Heading up Limestone Canyon Road at the bottom of the Sandtrap Trail

2:11 – Heading up Limestone Canyon Road at the bottom of the Sandtrap Trail

The single-track Raptor Trail crosses a footbridge and begins a rather steep climb, gaining 250 feet in half a mile.  At Limestone Ridge, turn left and follow the trail up and down some bumps, noting the characteristic sandstone geology of Black Star Canyon in the distance.  A steep descent brings you back into the canyon (9.2 miles from the start) where you bear right on Limestone Canyon Road and follow it just over a mile back to the parking lot.

2:40 - View from the top of the Raptor Trail, Limestone Ridge

2:40 – View from the top of the Raptor Trail, Limestone Ridge

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.

3:10 - View of Black Star Canyon's geology before the descent back into Limestone Canyon

3:10 – View of Black Star Canyon’s geology before the descent back into Limestone Canyon

Arroyo Burro Loop

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Dusk on the Arroyo Burro fire road, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

Sunlight through the trees on Arroyo Burro Road

View of the Santa Ynez River Valley, Arroyo Burro Road

View of the Santa Ynez River Valley, Arroyo Burro Road

Arroyo Burro Loop

    • Location: Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara. From Highway 101, take Highway 154 north for 7.8 miles to East Camino Cielo. Take a hard right and follow the winding road for 6.2 miles. Park in a large dirt turnout on the left side of the road.
    • Agency: Los Padres National Forest/Santa Barbara Ranger District
    • Distance: 7.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, distance, terrain)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season:  October – June
    • USGS topo maps: San Marcos Pass; Little Pine Mountain
    • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; sunblock
    • More information: Trip description (slightly different route) here; photos here
    • Rating: 8
Start of the Arroyo Burro Loop, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

0:00 – View from the trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Not to be confused with the section of the Arroyo Burro Trail in Santa Barbara’s front country, this hike explores the hills above the Santa Ynez River Valley, providing panoramic views and a good amount of shade from several thick oak groves. The loop, which is comprised of a single-track trail and a fire road, can be hiked in either direction, but since the single-track is far steeper, hiking the loop clockwise, as described here, allows for a more moderate ascent. This is a reverse hike, although it can also be done as a slightly longer conventional hike starting from Paradise Road in the valley below. With a car shuttle, it can also be done point-to-point.

Start of the Arroyo Burro Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

0:05 – Turnoff for the Arroyo Burro Trail (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the dirt road past a metal gate. You pass by a shooting range and  another gate before reaching a junction with an easy-to-miss trail on the left. This is the Arroyo Burro Trail, which takes a hard left away from the road and begins its largely shaded descent.

Stream crossing on the Arroyo Burro Trail, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

0:35 – Stream crossing

You drop steadily, crossing Arroyo Burro and its various tributaries several times, making your way in and out of oak woodlands. As you enjoy the shade and seclusion, keep an eye out for poison oak.

At about 2.5 miles from the start, you reach a T-junction. Head right, soon reaching a dirt road where you again stay right, passing a water tank and the upper end of White Oak Camp.

Trail junction in Arroyo Burro Canyon, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

1:10 – Turn right at the T junction at the bottom of the Arroyo Burro Trail

Arroyo Burro Road then begins its long climb back to the trail head. The ascent is steady but never too steep, providing ample time to enjoy the wide-ranging views of the valley. After about a mile of ascent (about 4 miles from the start), stay straight as a trail heading toward Matias Potrero Camp branches off to the left. Soon afterward you enter another attractive stand of oaks and the majority of the hike’s remainder is shaded.

Arroyo Burro Road, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

1:18 – Approaching Arroyo Burro Road; start of the ascent

More ascent brings you to the upper reaches of Arroyo Burro Road where you complete the loop and return to Camino Cielo. Arroyo Burro’s name likely comes from its history as a miners’ supply route and the burros that carried the equipment.

Oak woodland on Arroyo Burro Road, Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara

2:00 – Into the woods on the Arroyo Burro Road ascent

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.

2:25 - VIew from near the top of Arroyo Burro Road

2:25 – View from near the top of Arroyo Burro Road

Sonome Canyon Loop (Chino Hills State Park)

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View of the Chino Hills from the Sonome Canyon Loop

View of Gilman Peak and Carbon Canyon from Olinda Drive

Two oak trees, Chino HIlls Stat Park

Oaks on the La Vida Trail, Chino Hills State park

Sonome Canyon Loop (Chino Hills State Park)

    • Location: Olinda Village, Carbon Canyon, northeast Orange County. From the 57 Freeway, take the Lambert Rd. exit and head east for 4.4 miles (Lambert becomes Carbon Canyon Road/Highway 142 en route). Turn left on Olinda Place and almost immediately take another left onto Lilac Lane. Follow Lilac half a mile to its end. From Chino Hills Parkway, take Highway 142/Carbon Canyon Road southwest for 5.8 miles and turn right on Olinda Place, then immediately left onto Lilac.
    • Agency: Chino Hills State Park
    • Distance: 4.2 miles
    • Elevation gain: 950 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG
    • Suggested time: 2 hours
    • Best season: October – May; trail is open from 8am to 5 pm
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
    • USGS topo map: Yorba Linda
    • More information: Trail map here; Chino Hills Park homepage here
    • Rating: 5
Start of the Sonome Canyon Loop, Chino Hills State Park

0:00 – Trail head at the end of Lilac Lane (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This loop explores the lightly visited corner of Chino Hills State Park that sits north of Carbon Canyon Road. Some hikers might be turned off by the fact that a substantial portion of the hike is on paved streets and that the trails have little shade, but the loop provides a good workout conveniently located to north Orange County and the Inland Empire, with panoramic views of the area. With the Bane Canyon entrance to the park closed until April of 2015, this hike makes a nice alternative, especially for hikers who feel as if they’ve run out of trails to explore in this area.

Steep ascent on the Sonome Canyon Loop, Chino HIlls State Park

0:09 – Steep ascent under the telephone lines (times are approximate)

The hike can be done in either direction and with over a mile of the route using residential streets, there are several possible starting points. Hiking clockwise from the end of Lilac Lane as described here is advantageous in that it breaks up the longest ascent of the hike and bypasses the thankless task of a steep, exposed climb on paved Olinda Drive. If you are hiking in the late afternoon, you can plan to time your hike so that you are off park lands by 5pm, finishing the route on the residential streets.

La Vida Trail, Chino HIlls State Park

0:21 – Bear right at the top of the ridge onto the La Vida Trail

From the end of Lilac, follow the trail into the park. The route is signed as the Lilac Trail on the park map but as the Sonome Canyon Trail at the park entrance. It ascends steadily, making a sharp right turn at about 0.3 miles and climbing a ridge beneath telephone lines. Make your way uphill, following either the winding path or the steep fire break. At about 0.7 miles from the start (450 vertical feet), the trail levels out. Look for a dirt path branching off to the right (La Vida Trail on the map) and take it.

Sonome Canyon, Chino HIlls State Park

0:49 – Entering Sonome Canyon

You now begin a mile-long descent into Sonome Canyon, a tributary of Carbon Canyon. This stretch of the trail is enjoyably quiet, you are on the north side of the ridge which blocks out much of the sounds of civilization. If visibility is good, you can see the San Gabriels poking above the opposite side of the canyon.

Oaks in Sonome Canyon, Chino Hills State Park

0:53 – Oaks in Sonome Canyon, shortly before the big ascent

At 1.7 miles, you reach the bottom of Sonome Canyon. The trail stays level until the two mile mark, when it makes a hairpin right turn and begins a steady ascent to another ridge (2.5 miles). Here, you reach a T-junction with paved Olinda Drive, where can enjoy a panoramic view to the south including the Chino Hills, Santa Ana Mountains and Orange County’s coastal plain.

View from Olinda Drive, Chino HIlls State Park

1:10 – Looking east from Olinda Drive after climbing out of the canyon

Head downhill on Olinda Drive which is open only to service vehicles, enjoying an aerial perspective on Carbon Canyon. After 0.6 miles, the road leaves the park and becomes residential. It continues its steep descent for another half mile before reaching a junction with Olinda Place, by the fire station. Turn right, go a short distance on Olinda and turn right again on Lilac. Follow it uphill, gradually gaining 100 feet of elevation on the way back to your starting point.

Brea Fire Station, Olinda

1:35 – Brea Fire Station (turn right onto Olinda Place)

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.

Michael Antonovich Regional Park at Joughin Ranch

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View of the Santa Susana Mountains from Michael Antonovich Regional Park, San Fernando Valley, CA

Looking west from the fire road, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

Oak woodlands, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

Oaks in a tributary of Brown’s Canyon, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

Michael Antonovich Regional Park at Joughin Ranch

  • 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 1.2 miles to a small turnout on the left side of the road, marked with a green Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy sign.
  • Agency: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Michael Antonovich Regional Park
  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty rating: PG
  • Best season:  September – May
  • USGS topo map: “Oat Mountain”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
  • More information: Everytrail report here
  • Rating: 5
Michael Antonovich Regional Park trail head

0:00 – Trail head on Brown’s Canyon Road (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This park’s name may be a mouthful, but it helps distinguish it from the nearby Michael Antonovich Open Space and the Michael Antonovich Trail of San Dimas. This loop explores the lower area of the regional park, which is also home to Oat Mountain.

Trail junction, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:10 – Hard left at the four-way junction (times are approximate)

From the parking area, follow the paved road uphill for about 0.4 miles to a four-way junction. This is the start of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction. Hiking it clockwise, as described below, allows you to visit the most scenic part last. The trail on your right leads to a dead end; the vague looking path straight ahead is your return route. Take a hard left and continue climbing uphill. The trail soon becomes a single-track and arrives at a flat.

Single track trail leading into a canyon, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:16 – Follow the single track at the junction

Look for a narrow path heading straight ahead into the canyon. You climb for about 0.3 miles more up the steep and sometimes claustrophobic trail, finally reaching a fire road, listed on some maps as the Curacao Trail, about a mile from the start.

View from the hills above Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:25 – View from the fire road at the top of the ascent (head right)

Turn right and follow the trail along a ridge. The landscape is dominated by Rocky Peak to the west and Oat Mountain to the north; on the way you get aerial views of Browns Canyon and Ybarra Canyon.

After an undulating mile along the ridge, look for a narrow single-track on the right, heading back into the canyon. (Shortly beyond this point, the fire road is blocked by private property). The trail drops, steeply at first, into the tributary of Brown’s Canyon, leveling out at the bottom, making its way in and out of pockets of oaks. At about 2.6 miles, note the curious presence of a solitary pine tree.

Descending into the canyon, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

0:50 – Right turn to descend into the canyon

Shortly beyond the pine, the trail widens into a semblance of a fire road before returning to the intersection, completing the loop. Retrace your steps down the hill back to the parking area on Browns Canyon Road.

Pine tree, Michael Antonovich Regional Park

1:05 – Lone pine in the canyon

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.

McDermont and Sycamore Trails (Chino Hills State Park)

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Panoramic view of Chino Hills State Park from the North Ridge Trail

View from the North Ridge Trail shortly before the junction with the Sycamore Trail

Oaks in Telegraph Canyon, Chino Hills State Park

Oaks in Telegraph Canyon

McDermont and Sycamore Trails (Chino Hills State Park)

    • Location: Yorba Linda.  From the 57 freeway, take Orangethorpe exit and head east for 4.2 miles.  Turn left on Kellogg, go 1.8 miles and turn right on Yorba Linda Blvd.  Go 0.3 miles and turn left on Fairmont.  Go 1.6 miles and turn left on Rim Crest.  Follow Rim Crest to its end and park on the corner of Blue Gum and Rim Crest.  From the Riverside area, take the 91 freeway to Yorba Linda Blvd.  Go northwest on Yorba Linda Blvd. for 2.4 miles, and turn right on Village Center.  Go a mile and turn left on Fairmont.  Go 0.3 miles and turn right on Rim Crest.
    • Agency:  Chino Hills State Park (home page here)
    • Distance: 8 miles
    • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
    • Best season: October – May
    • USGS topo map:  Yorba Linda
    • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
    • More information: Trail map here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
    • Rating: 6
Trail head on Rim Crest Drive, Chino Hills State Park

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

This loop explores some of the lightly traveled high country in the middle sector of Chino Hills State Park.  To be sure, the views and scenery aren’t as varied or attractive as they are on more popular destinations such as Gilman Peak or Water Canyon–expect power lines and barbed wire–but the hike still offers a solid workout from the conveniently located (and free) Rim Crest trailhead.  On clear days, the vistas from the North Ridge Trail include Old Saddleback, the Orange County coastal plains, the ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and more.

Sycamore Trail and Telegraph Canyon, Chino HIlls State Park

0:40 – Junction with the Sycamore Trail (times are approximate)

From Rim Crest, follow the Easy Street trail half a mile as it drops into Telegraph Canyon.  Turn right and head east, gradually uphill on Telegraph Canyon, Chino Hills State Park’s main artery, passing the turnoffs for Gilman Peak and the Little Canyon Trail.  As you ascend, the terrain becomes more pleasantly shaded, both from oaks and sycamores.

Picnic table in Telegraph Canyon

0:57 – Picnic table in Telegraph Canyon

At 1.6 miles, you reach a Y-junction with the Sycamore Trail.  This is the start of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction.  By going counter-clockwise, as described here, you can continue your moderate ascent in the shade of the canyon.  At 2.3 miles, you pass by a picnic table; this is a nice place to rest for a few minutes before continuing east.

At 2.9 miles, you reach the McDermont Trail, a fire road which leaves the friendly confines of the canyon.  The next mile or so is the most thankless section of the hike, as the McDermont Trail heads sharply uphill on exposed terrain.  The grade levels out after about half a mile and the trail bends east, reaching a T-junction (3.8 miles from the start).  Turn left and make another steep but short climb on a connector trail, bringing you to North Ridge.  Here you get a panoramic view of Telegraph Canyon with San Juan Hill, the highest point in the park, to the south.

McDermont Trail, Chino Hills State Park

1:15 – Start of the McDermont Trail

Turn left and head west on North Ridge, following the trail through several ups and downs, taking in views on both sides.  At 5.2 miles, turn left on the Sycamore Trail, which heads back toward Telegraph Canyon.  A group of oak trees makes for a nice rest spot on the descent.  The trail makes an S-curve, passes by a rusted water tank and drops back into Telegraph Canyon, where it completes the loop at 6.4 miles.  Retrace your steps on the Telegraph Canyon and Easy Street Trails back to your starting point.

North Ridge Trail, Chino Hills State Park

1:45 – Left turn on the North Ridge Trail

As a variation, you can make the lower portion of this hike into a loop by using the South Ridge and Little Canyon Trails either on your way out or in.  This adds about 100 feet of elevation gain.

Oak tree on the Sycamore Trail, Chino Hills State Park

2:20 – Oak tree on the Sycamore 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.

Warner Springs to Eagle Rock via Pacific Crest Trail

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Eagle Rock, northeast San Diego County

Appropriately named Eagle Rock

Panorama from the Pacific Crest Trail, northeast San Diego County

Lone tree on the Pacific Crest Trail on the way back from Eagle Rock

Warner Springs to Eagle Rock via Pacific Crest Trail

  • Location: Across from Cal Fire Station 52, 31049 Highway 79, Warner Springs. The location is 38.7 miles east of Interstate 15, 6.8 miles north of Highway 76 and 13.8 miles north of Highway 78. Park in the narrow dirt turnout across from the fire station by the Pacific Crest Trail decal.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Palomar Ranger District
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 700 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: October – June
  • USGS topo map: Warner Springs
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; insect repellent
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here
  • Rating: 8
Pacific Crest Trail head on highway 79, San Diego County

0:00 – Trail head on Highway 79 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Everything enjoyable about inland San Diego County hiking can be found on this stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail. The destination is Eagle Rock, 3.3 miles from Warner Springs, but even just a short stroll is worthwhile. Scenic highlights include geology, open fields, shaded canyons and a who’s who of San Diego mountains.

Fence on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County

0:10 – Gate before the junction with the CR&H Trail (Times are approximate)

From the turnout across from the fire station, carefully cross Highway 79 and enter the metal gate, signed as a Pacific Crest Trail access point. It drops down to a stream bed and heads east, passing the fire station and school before reaching another gate and a junction with the California Riding & Hiking Trail. The CR&H Trail heads left; the P.C.T. heads straight, entering an attractive canyon filled with oaks, sycamores and willows.

Oak woodlands, Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County

0:27 – Woodlands on the Pacific Crest Trail

You follow the P.C.T. generally east for a very pleasant mile plus, weaving in and out of woodlands, before emerging at a meadow. Here, you can see Hot Springs Mountain, the tallest point in San Diego County, dominating the landscape to the north. You begin climbing, reaching the top of a ridge at about 2 miles from the start. On the way up, keep an eye out for the Palomar Mountain Observatory perched high on the hills to the west, resembling a golf ball.

Meadow and mountains on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County, CA

0:37 – Meadow with distant mountains

On the opposite side of the ridge, the landscape becomes more desert-like, with manzanita trees and even a few cholla and prickly pear cacti. You gradually descend into a valley, taking in views of the Vulcan Mountains on the way and then make another climb to a saddle, where you can see Eagle Rock in the distance. The P.C.T. makes another descent before climbing gradually to a spur leading to the giant granite formation.

View from the top of a ridge on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County

0:47- View from the top of the ridge

From the back side, Eagle Rock’s resemblance to its namesake is quite striking. In addition, the views in all directions are outstanding, making this a perfect spot to sit and enjoy some solitude before heading back.

Manzanita on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Diego County, CA

0:51 – Manzanita on the Pacific Crest 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.

View from Eagle Rock, San Diego County, CA

1:20 – View from Eagle Rock