Big “C” Trail (Box Springs Mountain Park)
- Location: Northeast Riverside at the end of Big Springs Road, by Islander Park. From San Bernardino, Los Angeles or Orange County, take the 60/I-215 freeway to the 3rd St/Blaine St. exit. Turn left and follow 3rd, which immediately becomes Blaine, a mile to Watkins Drive. Turn right and go 0.8 miles to Big Springs Road. Turn left and drive 0.4 miles to the end of Big Springs Road and park where available on the south (right) side of the street. Note the parking restrictions. From the east, take the 60/I-215 freeway to Watkins Drive. Turn right and go 0.7 miles to Mt. Vernon. Bear right and go 0.6 miles to Big Springs Road. Turn right and drive 0.2 miles to the end of the road.
- Agency: Riverside County Regional Park & Open Space District
- Distance: 1.8 miles
- Elevation gain: 950 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Best season: October – June
- USGS topo maps: Riverside East
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Map My Hike report here; unflinching account of the vandalism on the trail here
- Rating: 5
You already know how to reach the big “M” on the south slope of Box Springs Mountain, so in this post, we’ll look at the short–but very steep–hike to the big “C” on the mountain’s west side. Sadly, there’s a lot of graffiti and trash, but on clear days hike provides one of the Inland Empire’s best 180-degree views.
This hike almost came in at PG-13 due to its unrelenting steepness, often loose and difficult terrain and tricky route-finding, but anyone who’s reasonably active and allows themselves enough time shouldn’t have a problem. Hiking poles will be a huge help. There is an actual Google Maps-recognized Big C trail, although many other routes have been blazed across the mountain’s western slope. Your exact route up and down may vary, but the trail’s popularity makes it hard to get too lost; when in doubt you shouldn’t have a problem finding other hikers to follow. With a western exposure, the hike can be done even on hot days with an early enough start and it’s also an excellent place to watch the sunset, although make sure you allow enough daylight to safely negotiate the steep slope.
Start just before the end of Big Springs Road by bearing left on a trail leading up to the railroad tracks. After crossing them you begin your ascent. Typically, you will choose between steep, eroded wash-like breaks and slightly less steep single-track. The first occurs on the east side of the railroad tracks. After the single-track reunites with the steeper route, the ascent continues, heading generally southeast. You can take advantage of a strip of grass running up the middle of the path which may help give you traction.
At about 0.3 miles, you reach another split where the trails briefly separate before rejoining. The left route is slightly less steep. You soon reach a ridge (about 0.5 miles) where the trail levels out briefly. Here you may be encouraged by a glimpse of the top half of the “C” off to your left.
At another split, you can choose between a steep but not too difficult climb up some rocks (left) or a single-track branching off to the right. The two trails meet just below the “C”. Make your final scramble up to the marker, where despite huge amounts of graffiti–some rather graphic in nature–you can enjoy an excellent view of the Santa Ana Mountains, the San Gabriels, and the Inland Valley. You get a nearly aerial perspective on the immediate neighborhood, some thousand feet below.
If you still have feeling in your legs, you can continue past the “C” to connect with other trails in Box Springs Mountain Park. It’s even possible to make it to the “M”, which is about three miles farther and 900 feet higher.
The “C” honors nearby University of California Riverside. Several UC campuses feature giant “C” markers. This “C” is the highest of all of them, at about 2,100 feet. It was completed in 1957 and at the time was the largest (132 feet tall by 70 feet wide) poured concrete block letter of its kind in the world.
Text and photography copyright 2014 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.