Cajon Pass to Cleghorn Road via Pacific Crest Trail

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Panoramic view of the San Gabriel Mountains from the Pacific Crest Trail, San Bernardino County, CA
Looking west across Cajon Pass toward the San Gabriels from the Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail winding its way through the western San Bernardino Mountains, California
Looking down at the Pacific Crest Trail from the ridge

Cajon Pass to Cleghorn Road via Pacific Crest Trail

      • Location: Cajon Pass, San Bernardino County. From I-15, take the Highway 138 exit and head east (turn right if you’re coming from the south; left if from the north). Make an immediate right turn on Wagon Train Road and follow it 0.6 miles to its end. The signed Pacific Crest Trail head is on the east side of the road.
      • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Arrowhead Ranger Station
      • Distance: 7.4 miles
      • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
      • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
      • Suggested time: 4 hours
      • Best season: October – May
      • USGS topo map: Cajon
      • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock
      • More information: Everytrail report here; description of this section from a through-hiker’s blog here; description of the Crowder Canyon section on Summitpost here
      • Rating: 6
Pacific Crest Trail heading east from Cajon Pass, San Bernardino County, CA
0:00 – Start of the hike (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

The stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail that descends the western slope of the San Bernardino Mountains isn’t known for many popular day hikes, due to its lack of recognizable peaks or landmarks such as Deep Creek Hot Springs. However, for the curious day hiker or traveler wanting to stretch their legs on the drive to and from Vegas, the P.C.T. provides some nice eye candy in the miles immediately east of the Cajon Pass. The 7.4 mile round trip to and from Cleghorn Road as described here provides a good workout with varied scenery. Though there is an abundance of power lines and noise from the nearby roads, the hike is a worthwhile way to spend a morning or afternoon. Keep in mind that there is virtually no shade on the entire route.

Eastbound on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Bernardino County, CA
0:14 – Leaving the canyon (times are approximate)

From the road, follow the signed P.C.T. as it makes its way through narrow Crowder Canyon, following the pleasant sounds of a seasonal stream.  After 0.6 miles, the trail leaves the canyon, climbs to a meadow and makes the first of four crossings with dirt service roads. After the fourth (1.5 miles), the trail begins to climb more steeply, reaching a saddle at 2 miles where you get a panoramic view to the east. You may notice orange and yellow Burlington Northern & Santa Fe trains on the tracks that parallel the freeway.

View of a train in the Cajon Pass from the Pacific Crest Trail, San Bernardino County, CA
0:54 – Eastbound view of a distant train from the saddle, about two miles from the start

The trail follows a ridge, occasionally getting quite close to the edge. At 3 miles, you reach a large bowl where erosion has caused the slope to drop off, leaving behind pink and brown layers that resemble the Sinks of Limestone Canyon in Orange County. The trail then rises steeply around the upper end of the depression before dropping back to its east side. At 3.3 miles, you get arguably the most impressive view on the hike: the sinkhole dropping immediately in front of you with Mt. Baldy, Telegraph Peak and the eastern end of the San Gabriels in the distance. At this point you are above the majority of the power lines, so they don’t block your view as they do on the lower portion of the trail.

Erosion-caused depression on the Pacific Crest Trail, San Bernardino County, CA
1:14 – First view of the erosion-caused “bowl”

The next 0.4 miles don’t offer much new in the way of scenery, but for those who like seeing things through to the end, you can make your way through a meadow to meet Cleghorn Road. On the return, when the power lines don’t block the way, the views of the San Gabriels are quite impressive.

Looking west toward the San Gabriel Mountains from the Pacific Crest Trail, San Bernardino County, CA
1:24 – Westbound view of the San Gabriels from the opposite side of the bowl

Text and photography copyright 2015 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.

Pacific Crest Trail at Cleghorn Road, San Bernardino County, CA
1:35 – Turnaround point at Cleghorn Road

2 comments

  1. The access point mentioned is private property with easement access for Direct tv only….its a locked gate on private property going thru someone’s residential property and trespassing is not appreciated by the home owner.
    Access this trail from Brentwood and Two Tunnel Ridge to easily park and hike the entrance

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