- Location: South Main Divide Road, Cleveland National Forest. From Ortega Highway (74), head south on South Main Divide Road for 6 miles. Park in a large dirt turnout. From I-15 in Murrieta, take the Clinton Keith exit (68). Head south on Clinton Keith Rd. for 5.1 miles and continue onto Tenaja Rd. In another 1.7 miles, turn right to stay on Tenaja Rd. Follow it 4.2 miles and turn right on Cleveland Forest Road. Follow Cleveland Forest Road for a total of 14.6 miles to the parking area. On the way, Cleveland Forest Road becomes the Los Alamos Truck Trail and then South Main Divide. Much of the route is one-lane so exercise caution. Also note that the southern route may be closed in adverse weather conditions; check the link below for updates.
- Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Trabuco Ranger District (Some trails on this route are unofficial)
- Distance: 2 miles
- Elevation gain: 300 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Best season: October – June
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell phone reception: Good
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None
- Camping/backpacking: El Cariso is the nearest campground to Elsinore Peak. Blue Jay and Upper San Juan are also nearby. For more information about area camping, click here.
- Recommended gear: hiking poles
- More information: Map My Hike report here; SummitPost page here; description of Elsinore Peak (shorter route) here
- Rating: 6
Updated March 2019
Elsinore Peak (elevation 3,575) is one of the more prominent bumps in the southern end of the Santa Anas. Despite its easy approach via fire road and antennas on the summit, it is possible to make a short but surprisingly rugged loop hike by taking an unofficial use trail off the peak and returning via the Wildomar Truck Trail. In addition to views of Lake Elsinore, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto, the peak provides a bird’s eye view of Walker Canyon, which, thanks to the spring 2019 “superbloom” of California golden poppies has been in the news for both good and bad reasons. On weekends when people battle for parking off Lake Street, Elsinore provides a much more peaceful alternative.
Begin by crossing the white metal fence and starting up the fire road. A few dozen yards from the start, notice a faint use trail branching off to the right, by a downed “no bicycles” sign. This is the return route. Continue climbing up the fire road, ascending 200 feet in half a mile. After passing the antennas on the summit, you will enjoy wide-ranging views of Lake Elsinore, half a mile below.
A use trail drops sharply off the summit, loose in some spots. It curves around the southeast slope of Elsinore Peak, crossing a seasonal stream and then ascending to a meadow with views to the south, extending to the Cuyamaca Mountains of San Diego County on clear days. At 1.1 miles from the start, you reach an unsigned junction with the Wildomar Truck Trail, a single-track. You can extend your hike by heading left, but to complete the loop, make a hard right and head southwest.
The trail meanders through oak chaparral, taking in views of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness to the south. If visibility is particularly good, you may get a glimpse of the ocean. At 1.9 miles from the start, the trail rejoins the fire road, just east of the metal gate. Retrace your steps back to Main Divide Road.
Text and photography copyright 2019 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.