Harford Springs Reserve
- Location: Riverside County, near Lake Mathews, on Gavilan Road. From the 91 Freeway in Riverside, take the La Sierra exit. Go southeast for 3.2 miles and turn left on El Sobrante. Go 5.8 miles and turn left on Cajalco Road. Go 0.3 miles and turn right on Gavilan. Go 2 miles and look for a small dirt parking lot on the left, just before Idaleona Road. From I-215, take the Ramona Expressway exit. Head west for 6.7 miles (Ramona becomes Cajalco Expressway and then Cajalco Road). Turn left on Gavilan.
- Agency: Riverside County Parks
- Distance: 2.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 300 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: All year, 8am to sunset (hot during the summer)
- USGS topo map: Steele Peak
- Recommended gear: Personal GPS navigation unit; sun hat
- More information: Yelp review here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 5
South of Riverside and north of Perris and Lake Elsinore, near Lake Mathews, hikers can explore the little-known Harford Springs Reserve. The sizable (325 acres) park has a surprisingly remote feel, despite being just a short drive from Corona and Riverside.
There is no formal trail system here, although several trails have been “adopted” by local entities, and there are signs designating this that provide help with navigation. The basic layout of the reserve is Gavilan Road on the west side, Idaleona Road on the south side and Piedras Road (dirt, and private) on the east side. An un-named fire road cuts across the park diagonally, southwest to northeast. The route described here doesn’t have to be followed exactly. If you keep track of where you are going, and ideally use some kind of GPS navigation, you shouldn’t have too many problems. When in doubt, use the sound of traffic on Gavilan to help you out.
From the small parking area on Gavilan, head east on the main trail, past a stable. Soon, you come to a split. Head right, into a marshy area. (This trail is signed as being “adopted” by Henderson Stables.) You cross a small footbridge and stay right again at another junction, heading uphill.
You pass by lots of rock piles that can be fun to explore, and countless juniper trees. On your right, if the weather is clear, you can get nice views of the Santa Anas. Soon you join a trail signed “RAGLM”, which gives way to “Riverside Junior Equestrians.” Take a sharp left, cross another trail and soon you arrive at the fire road. Head left (right brings you south to Idaleona) and soon, you’ll take a right on a single-track signed “Rising Star Pony Club.” This leads you through a pleasantly wooded area that may remind some of the nearby Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. Your next trail is “Allstar Ranch Arabian Horses”, which brings you to Piedras Road.
Just before you get to the road, head left on another parallel trail, which ends up curving back toward the west. You make a short climb and descent, staying right as a vague trail branches off to the left. Heading north, you make another climb and then meet up with the fire road. Here, you’ll turn right and almost immediately take a left on a well-defined single track. Stay left at the next two junctions, and right at the two after that. On the way, you’ll pass by a cholla cactus bush, some interesting rock formations, and what appear to be some stone ruins.
Eventually, you’ll make your way back into the marshy area of the western end of the park, and you meet up with the original trail. Head right and return to the parking lot.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be followed exactly. If you’re concerned about navigation, stick to the fire roads, leave trail-ducks, do an out-and-back route instead of the loop, or use GPS. Despite the minimal signage (and some litter and broken glass), Harford Springs is a unique and enjoyable place to hike in an area not known for much outdoor activity. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
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. 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.