Upper Black Star Canyon, Orange County, CA

KSOX Doppler via Beeks Place and Black Star Indian Village

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    • Location: Black Star Canyon Road, Silverado, northeastern Orange County. From Santiago Canyon Road, take the turnoff for Silverado Canyon Road (a total of 10.6 miles east of the 55 freeway via Chapman Avenue and Santiago Canyon Road and 13 miles north of the 5 Freeway via El Toro Road and Santiago Canyon Road) and go 0.1 mile to Black Star Canon Road. Bear right and follow Black Star Canyon Road 1.1 mile to a locked metal gate. Note that the area immediately next to the gate is off limits for parking.
    • Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Trabuco Ranger District; Mariposa Reserve; Orange County Parks & Recreation
    • Distance: 15.4 miles
    • Elevation gain: 2,350 feet
    • Difficulty Rating: R (Distance, elevation gain)
    • Suggested time: 7 hours
    • Best season: November – April
    • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution on warm days; unless your dog is in good condition and experienced with hiking, don’t plan on doing the entire route)
    • Cell phone reception: Good for the first mile and at the doppler; weak to none for most of the route in between
    • Water: None
    • Restrooms: None
    • Camping/backpacking: None (No established campsites; dispersed camping in the Trabuco Ranger District is only allowed in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness)
    • Recommended gear: Sun hat, sun block, hiking poles
    • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Summitpost page (Beeks Place) here
    • Rating: 8

Updated December 2018

For many hikers, communications antennas on a summit are at best a drawback and at worst a deal-breaker. However, there is one antenna that is actually a popular destination among So Cal hikers: the KSOX Doppler in the Santa Ana Mountains. Maybe it’s the facility’s amusing golf ball shape; maybe it’s the panoramic views that can be enjoyed on clear days; maybe it’s the site’s location, convenient to both Orange County and the Inland Empire. Beeks Place, the ruins of an early 20th century stone cabin, are located just below the doppler and are an added attraction. Hikers coming from Black Star Canyon in Orange County, as described in this post, also can visit the Black Star Canyon Indian Village site, a state landmark. To be sure, this is a hike that may test the patience of some, but for those looking for a long, leisurely trip with variety, the payoff is worth it. The hike’s distance and substantial elevation gain make it a great training trip. (If you have the means, you can set up a shuttle in Corona at the Skyline Trail Head for a 13.5-mile one way hike.)

Begin by heading north and then northeast on Black Star Canyon Road for 2.5 miles. This pleasant stretch climbs gradually through the shaded bottom of Black Star Canyon, passing several private residences and crossing the creek on three footbridges. At a hairpin turn, a new sign indicates the route to Black Star Canyon Falls. Ambitious hikers can take this detour – either by scrambling almost a mile each way to the waterfall or climbing out of the canyon on a use trail and rejoining the main route – but this write-up assumes you will be staying on the road.

The ascent becomes more noticeable at this point, picking up 850 feet in the next 2.5 miles to the village site (the first 2.5 miles only ascend 300 feet). As you climb, you get a good aerial view of Black Star Canyon and you will also see the white doppler on the ridge in the distance.

The village site, five miles from the start, is an ideal place for a break. Nothing remains from the village except for a few bedrock morteros, but the spot offers views both above and below and the shade of the oaks is welcome.

Beyond the village, the route briefly drops into an attractive sycamore-dotted meadow, reminiscent of the rolling terrain around Julian between the San Diego outskirts and the Cuyamaca Mountains. At 5.7 miles from the start, look for an unsigned but obvious trail on the right (there is a break in the fence and a metal cross). This unofficial but well traveled and easy to follow use trail shaves half a mile in each direction (due to its steepness, you may not save much time, but it provides some variety from the road). The 15.4 mile distance assumes that you will be taking this route. (You may have noticed a few other use trails earlier on the route, of varying difficulty, that can also be used to bypass sections of the road). The trail picks up almost 500 feet in 0.8 mile with several short but steep ascents as it follows the ridge.

Upon rejoining the road, continue uphill for another 0.8 mile to Main Divide. Here, you will enjoy views of Mt. Baldy to the north and San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Peaks to the east. Head right, reaching Beeks Place almost immediately. The site is the former vacation home of Joseph Beek (1880-1968), founder of the Balboa Island Ferry. Not much is left of the site but the stone cabin ruins set beneath the pines make for a good photo opportunity.

The Doppler is only 0.4 mile farther. A use trail leads to the base of the facility, where you enjoy views of the Inland Empire to the east and Orange County to the west while resting your legs for the long descent.

Black Star Canyon Indian Village Site, California
View of Black Star Canyon’s headwaters from the village site
Black Star Canyon Indian Village Site
Oaks at the village site
Black Star Canyon Indian Village Site
Morteros at the village site
Trail in upper Black Star Canyon, CA
Ascending the use trail
Main Divide, Santa Ana Mountains, CA
San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Peaks from Main Divide
Beeks Place, Orange County, CA
Cabin ruins, Beeks Place
KSOX Doppler, Santa Ana Mountains, CA
The doppler
View from KSOX Doppler radar tower, Santa Ana Mountains, CA
Mt. Baldy as seen from the doppler

Text and photography copyright 2018 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.

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