Mt. Pinos (Los Padres National Forest)
Not to be confused with Orange County’s Los Pinos Peak, Mt. Pinos is the highest point in Ventura County at 8,847 feet. It’s also the highest point in the Transverse Ranges west of the Tejon Pass. This makes it a popular recreational spot for skiers, astronomers and during the summer hikers. While an antenna installation prevents the view from the summit to be a true 360 degree panorama, the vistas are still impressive and the tall pines and alpine meadows on the way up are as much a part of this trip’s appeal. The drive through Cuddy Valley and Lake of the Woods is a highlight as well; the high country here is as different as one could imagine from the hot and dry Cajon Pass below, although it’s only 21 miles from I-5 and just over an hour from the San Fernando Valley. The peak is one of the tallest in Southern California that can be reached with a fairly easy hike. The only potential challenge of the 1.8 mile route is its altitude; hikers sensitive to altitude might want to take a few minutes to acclimate themselves before starting.
From the parking area, follow the dirt road (9N24) signed for Mt. Pinos, passing by a metal gate. The trail ascends through an attractive woodland of pines, passing by a large granite boulder at 0.4 miles that brings to mind similar geology near Big Bear Lake.
At 0.9 miles, you leave the woods and enter a wide, pine-dotted meadow which resembles the fields of the high country of the San Bernardino, San Jacinto and Laguna Mountains. While still a fire road, the trail feels more like a single-track. At about 1.2 miles, you get your first glimpse of the antenna on the summit. The trail then dips into another grove of pines before re-emerging with the peak straight ahead.
After entering the pines once more, the trail reaches a split (1.7 miles). Bear right and make the last few steps to the summit where you can enjoy excellent views to the east and north including the Central Valley and the lower Sierras.
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.