Diamond Valley Lake: North Hills Trail to Vista Point
- Location: Use the parking lot for the Western Science Center, 2345 Searl Parkway, Hemet. From I-215, take the Highway 74 exit (15) and head east for 10.4 miles. Turn right onto Acacia Ave., go 0.7 mile and turn right onto Sanderson Ave. Go 2.1 mile and turn left on Domenigoni Parkway. Go 0.9 mile and turn right onto Searl Parkway. In 0.2 mile, turn into the science center parking lot and park in the dirt lot on the right. Alternately from the south, take I-215 to Newport Road (exit 10). Turn right and head east for a total of 11 miles, during which Newport Rd. becomes Domenigoni Parkway. Turn right onto Searl Parkway and park in the dirt lot near the science center. If you are coming from Orange County or western Riverside County, take I-15 to the Diamond Road/Railroad Canyon exit (73). Head east on Railroad Canyon, which becomes Newport Road and then Domenigoni Parkway, for a total of 19.3 miles before turning right onto Searl and entering the science center parking lot. Admission is $2 per person or $5 per equestrian. Children 12 and under are free. Payment is in cash with no change given.
- Agency: Diamond Valley Lake/Metro Water District of Southern California
- Distance: 5 miles
- Elevation gain: 800 feet
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Difficulty rating: PG
- Best season: November – May, best during peak wildflower season (usually March – April)
- Recommended gear: hiking poles sunblock sun hat
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Good
- Water: None
- Restrooms: Chemical toilets at trail head
- Camping: None
- More information: Wildflower guide here; trail map here; article about the flowers here; AllTrails report here
- Rating: 6
In the spring, the Wildflower Trail is the big draw for hikers visiting Diamond Valley Lake, but for a longer, slightly quieter trip, consider the North Hills Trail. The entire trail runs 6.3 miles, making it an option for a point to point hike if you can set up a shuttle on the western end of the lake, or for a very long round trip hike. The destination of the hike described in this post is a vista point with views of the lake, the surrounding suburbs and distant mountains – and a nice selection of springtime wildflowers.
From the parking area, head west on the signed North Hills Trail. The first mile is more or less level, paralleling Domenigoni Parkway. You’ll hear traffic noise, but the road is far enough so that it’s not too obtrusive. If flowers are in season, you’ll see clusters of California golden poppies, as well as lupine, owl’s clover and more. After a mile, the trail bends south, away from the road, making a gradual ascent. At 1.5 miles, you cross a service road leading to a water tank and the work begins. The trail climbs sharply past the water tank, rewarding you for your efforts with views of Old Saddleback and the Santa Anas to the west, San Gorgonio to the north and San Jacinto to the northeast.
The trail briefly levels out alongside a fence, where it passes a spur leading to the Lakeview Trail (on Mondays and Tuesdays, the Lakeview Trail, like the Wildflower Trail, is closed.) One last steep climb brings you to a Y-junction. To continue on the North Hills Trail head straight and downhill, but for this hike, bear left and climb to a vista point with a picnic table. The views here are impressive but for an even better panorama, make a short climb up a use trail to a 2,170-foot knoll. Here, you can see almost all of the lake, with the Palomar Mountains to the south and the Santa Rosas to the east.
After enjoying the view, retrace your steps. If the Lakeview and Wildflower Trails are open, you can make the hike into a loop, returning via the main entrance.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.