Like neighboring Tin Mine Canyon, Hagador Canyon offers a hike that is wilder and more isolated than its suburban beginning would suggest. Inland Empire hikers won’t want to miss this fun excursion and O.C. residents will enjoy getting a different perspective on the Santa Ana Mountains. Hikers driving some distance to get here can easily add a trip to Tin Mine Canyon for a full day of trails.
Begin by following paved Skyline Drive south for 1/3 of a mile. Where the road takes a sharp right turn, hop a short railing and negotiate a short use trail, continuing south across a field, toward the mouth of Hagador Canyon. Three quarters of a mile from the beginning, past a wooden signpost and then a bench, the trail makes a right turn and heads into the narrows. Now the hike takes on a more rugged feel as the trail winds through the steep-walled canyon, the spine of the Santa Anas towering high above. The vegetation is primarily oak and sycamore, with a few black walnut trees, manzanitas and toyon bushes. The trail splits several times but always quickly rejoins itself. Multiple stream crossings may present challenges after heavy rains but most likely will not be difficult.
At about 1.4 miles from the start, just after passing a small spring, the trail begins a well-defined ascent up the south (left) wall of the canyon, meandering briefly through a meadow. It drops back down, crosses the streambed and reaches a split. Head left (the left route appears to be washed out at first, but it’s ultimately easier; the right fork will eventually become impassible, requiring a scramble out of the stream bed.) You drop into a grove of towering oaks reminiscent of the woodlands deep in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness farther south in the Santa Ana Mountains. The trail crosses the stream bed, skirts the north wall of the canyon and then crosses the bottom again.
As the trail continues deeper into the canyon, it starts becoming vaguer and more overgrown. There’s no official ending to the trail but for casual day hikers, a rocky clearing about two miles from the beginning makes a good turnaround point. By this point, any further progress would require significant bushwhacking and present possible navigation challenges. The jumble of rocks might not seem inviting at first but you can easily sit on one of the large ones and enjoy the solitude before retracing your steps.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.