Hulda Crooks Park (South Hills Preserve)
If you like roller coasters, but don’t want to pay theme park admission prices, the Hulda Crooks Preserve is your kind of place. From a suburban park in Loma Linda, convenient to San Bernardino and Riverside, a wide network of trails ascend up to a ridge. The trails are popular with hikers, joggers, equestrians, dirt bikers and cyclists, so expect some company. The trails go up, down, along ridges, knife edges and in and out of canyons, all the while providing great views of the San Gabriel, San Jacinto and San Bernardino ranges. The terrain is almost completely exposed, so pick a cool, clear day for your visit; good visibility is important.
Dozens of trails cross the area, so it’s possible to do many different routes. The loop described here takes in some of the best scenery the preserve has to offer – including great views of San Gorgonio and Baldy – and provides a good workout. Route-finding may be a little tricky, but the park’s signage is decent, and the map (see link) should come in handy; you don’t have to do the exact route described here to enjoy Hulda Crooks.
From the parking area, head south on the paved road (the extension of Mountain View.) Bear left on a dirt road, pass a yellow metal gate and make your way up into the canyon. The lower portion of the park is covered with power lines, but as you climb higher, the views get better, so don’t let them bother you.
At 0.4 miles, you reach an intersection, where you’ll take a hard left on the Razor Ridge Trail. You rise out of the canyon, enjoying the first of many looks at San Gorgonio Mountain, San Bernardino Peak and Mt Baldy. If the weather is clear, you may even be able to see the western end of the San Gabriels and the Santa Monica Mountains. At 0.9 miles, stay straight as the Barberry Ridge Trail heads left. Soon, you come to another split, where you’ll bear left and follow around the side of a ridge. Take a hairpin turn to the right and climb the ridge, following its rolling contour.
At 1.6 miles, take a left on a short but steep trail that follows a knife’s edge, dropping sharply on both sides. Although the trail segment is less than a tenth of a mile, it can be quite hair-raising; there are places where the ridge is less than two feet wide. On the opposite side of this stretch, the Dragon’s Back trail heads southeast (left), continuing the roller-coaster like sequence of short (but sometimes steep) climbs and descents.
Stay straight, now on the Shotgun Ridge Trail, as several trails branch off to the left. At 2.8 miles from the start, you reach a four-way intersection, where you get a nice view of Reche Canyon and the back of Box Springs Mountain.
From the intersection, turn left (uphill; not the hard left that descends into private property). You’re now on the West Ridge Trail, which makes a short ascent, a descent, and another climb to the highest point in the park. From here, continue following the West Ridge Trail by heading left (the East Ridge trail, to the right, is also an option). At the next intersection, head right on the Cliff Side Cut-Off. The trail may look intimidating, as it cuts close to the side of the ridge and drops off sharply on the right, but it’s short and fairly easy to negotiate.
The cut-off rejoins the West Ridge Trail, continuing its crooked descent before reaching Canyon Road at 4.3 miles. Turn right and follow the trail to a four-way junction, where you’ll take a hard right and continue your gradual descent. The path follows a wash, crossing it couple of times. Finally, you reach the upper end of the parking lot.
In case you were wondering, Hulda Crooks (1896-1997) was longtime Loma Linda resident and an avid mountaineer. Her nickname “Grandma Whitney” came from her 23 ascents of that summit – including one at age 91.
Text and photography copyright 2013 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