Text and photography copyright 2011 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. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Los Pinos Peak
- Location: Santa Ana Mountains in eastern Orange County. From I-5 in San Jaun Capistrano, take highway 74 north for 22 miles and look for unisgned Long Canyon Road (the first significant street after the “S” curve north of the Candy Store). Go left and head 3.4 miles to a turnout where the North Main Divide Fire Road branches off to the left. (the road is single-lane in spots so be careful). From Lake Elsinore, take highway 74 for 6.5 miles and take a right on Long Canyon Road and go 4.1 miles to the turnout. 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 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,300 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, elevation gain)
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo maps: “Alberhill”
- Recommended gear: sunblock; sun hat
- Recommended guidebook: Day Hikes Around Orange County
- More information: here
- Rating: 8
The amusingly named Los Pinos Peak is the fourth tallest in Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains, at 4,520 feet. It offers a good workout and great views of Baldy, San Gorgonio, San Jacinto and Lake Elsinore – similar to its taller neighbors to the northwest, Modjeska and Santiago.
From the parking area, head uphill on the fire road, past a metal gate. The path climbs steadily for 1.5 miles, taking in nice views of the ocean on the left and the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio ranges and on the right.
You arrive at Munhall Saddle (elevation 4,198), and look for two trails heading off to the right. Take the left route, and almost immediately, look for another trail branching off to the left, signed for Los Pinos (if you find yourself heading downhill, you’ve missed it.) The trail heads uphill through a forest of pines and manzanitas before joining the exposed Los Pinos Ridge. There is virtually no shade on this (or the fire road) portion of the trail, so plan accordingly.
After a short climb, you arrive at a false summit (4,489 feet). The trail descends, taking in great views of Santiago Peak and Mt. Baldy to the right, climbs briefly, makes another short descent and makes a final push to the true summit.
From here, you get a nearly 360 degree view, including the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains, the ocean, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the Inland Empire and more. If anything, the views are even better on the way back, when San Gorgonio and San Jacinto appear directly in front of you.