Skyline Loops (Box Springs Mountain Park)
- Location: Box Springs Mountain Park, Moreno Valley. From the 60 Freeway, take the Frederick St./Pigeon Pass Road exit and head north (right if you’re coming from the east; left if from the west) for 3.9 miles. Just after the road bends to the west, stay straight to continue onto Box Springs Mountain Road. Go 1.3 miles on Box Springs Mountain Road (it becomes dirt after 0.6 miles, but it’s in good condition and won’t present an issue). Enter the park and pull into the lot signed for day use. Day use fees are $5 per vehicle and $2 for each pet.
- Agency: Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District
- Distance: 4.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Navigation, terrain, steepness, elevation gain)
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – May
- USGS topo maps: Riverside; San Bernardino South
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
- More information: Yelp page here; trail map here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
For a trail that never really escapes the sights and sounds nearby Riverside, the Skyline Loops in Box Springs Mountain Park have a surprisingly rugged feel–in particular the second loop. Although the area gets hot during the summer, a substantial portion of the route is on cool, north facing slopes, so with an early start, good hydration and a sun hat, this hike can be done in the warm weather. Highlights include city and mountain views, geology and springtime wildflowers.
From the parking area, head north on the dirt road, passing the top of the Two Trees Trail. Where the road bends (0.2 miles from the parking area), look for the beginning of the first Skyline Loop. You can hike it in either direction, but going clockwise allows you to save the best scenery for later.
Follow the trail along the side of a ridge. There’s an unfortunate amount of graffiti near the beginning, although it becomes less of a problem later in the hike. You get some nice views of downtown Riverside as you head northwest.
At 1.4 miles from the start, you reach the beginning of the Skyline 2 Loop. Although it’s shorter than the first one, it features more challenging terrain and navigation. You can head right to continue on the first Skyline Loop for a 3-mile trip, but if you’re feeling adventurous, head left to begin the Skyline 2 Loop. Expect to spend as much time on this one as the first loop, even though it’s only about half as long.
Follow the faint trail as it continues northwest, climbing over rocks and skirting the edge of the ridge a few times. You drop into a small valley, climb a hill and pass by an interesting rock with some small cave-like openings. The trail dips down to a saddle with nice views of Grand Terrace’s Blue Mountain. A steep, crooked descent brings you to the lowest point (1,909 feet) on the route, which also happens to be the northernmost. It’s also the approximate half way point of the hike at 2.2 miles.
You begin climbing, heading southeast, climbing around some large rocks. After a sharp right turn, the trail descends again, rejoining the first Skyline Trail at 3 miles.
Turn left and follow the trail uphill, climbing a little over 400 feet in the next mile. After passing a wooden fence, stay left at a junction with a false trail. Soon you reach the top of a ridge, where you can see the parking area and the beginning part of the loop, as well as the Two Trees Trail. Follow the Skyline Trail downhill back to the dirt road and retrace your steps to the parking lot.