Sunday, September 14, 2014

Elsinore Peak (Cleveland National Forest)

Last weekend, we had am opportunity to make it up to Elsinore Peak in the Cleveland National Forest to see some of the thunderstorms and tropical moisture that was effecting Southern California. Elsinore Peak stands at 3,575 feet and is a fun short hike in the Cleveland National Forest. It has prominent views from its summit, which makes it such a great location to see the greater Southern California area. For our detailed trail write-up on Elsinore Peak, click Here. It had rained in this section of the Cleveland National Forest on Sunday September 7, 2014 and puddles of water were readily visible on the drive to Elsinore Peak. It had stopped raining by the time we got to the trailhead.

This upcoming week, Southern California is expected to get another round of tropical moisture.  If you are looking for a fun short hike that will offer you amazing views of the influx of clouds this next week, you might want to hike to Elsinore Peak. Here are several pictures from last weekends hike. Obviously, if there is a thunderstorm wait until it passes before going hiking, however this area provides great views of the thunderstorms when they occur on the surrounding Southern California Mountains.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Silverado Canyon Wildfire (Cleveland National Forest)

As many of you know a wildfire broke out on Friday September 12, 2014 in the Cleveland National Forest's Silverado Canyon. The smoke from the fire was visible to many residents in Southern California. The approximate location of where the fire was is right near the hike to Bedford Peak. On Friday the fire blackened more than 1,600 acres in steep terrain, heavy brush and near triple-digit heat, forcing mandatory evacuations of about 30 homes in Silverado Canyon.
The fire grew quickly after starting at about 10:30 a.m., sweeping up the north side of Silverado Canyon, away from homes into the Cleveland National Forest. Firefighters spent the day on Friday digging lines, hoping to starve the blaze of fuel before it reached the top of a canyon ridge.

The fire was moving slowly by late Friday night as it crested the ridge. Coordinated water and fire-retardant drops ended when the sun went down on Friday. Crews were settling in to continue trying to contain the flames overnight, aided by one aircraft monitoring the progression from above. As of Saturday September 13, 2014 the fire is 10% contained and the smoke is generally not as visible/black like it was on Friday. It is hoped that increased humidity levels throughout this week will aide firefighters in battling the blaze. However, extremely hot temperatures are expected in the area at least through the middle of the upcoming week. Ashley and I are thankful for the efforts of the firefighters in battling this wildfire, which thankfully is not wind driven like the 2007 Santiago Fire that burned more than 30,000 acres of land in the Cleveland National Forest. For more information, please check out this Orange County Register article, by clicking Here, The two closer pictures of the fire are credited to the Orange County Register article.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Adventures and Hiking Near Julian, California

Over Memorial Day weekend Ashley and I went to Julian to celebrate Ashley's mom's belated birthday. For those of you that not visited Julian, California, you should really check this little town out. We usually get our pies and lunch from the Candied Apple Pastry Company and we usually have dinner at Ramano's Restaurant before we head home.

We additionally, took some time to do some hiking in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park over by Stonewall Mine and Stonewall Peak. Here are some pictures of some of the wildlife that we saw while visiting Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. We had the opportunity to see multiple deer, at least 100 wild turkeys, a coyote, and a bobcat. We have always enjoyed our time hiking in the San Diego Mountains and we try to make a day trip to Julian a couple times each year!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hike Sandstone Peak (Santa Monica Mountains)

A hike to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains is a must do for hiking enthusiasts in Los Angeles. At 3,111 feet, it is the tallest mountain in the Santa Monica Mountains and offers sweeping panoramic vistas of the greater Los Angeles area and the Pacific Coast Line. Ashley and I hiked to the summit of Sandstone Peak in June of this year and would highly recommend this hike to others. The hiking trails in this area of the Santa Monica Mountains are easy to follow and were well maintained. We also made the side journey to the Tri Peaks, which is a fun add on to this hike. This is a must do hike for hikers in Los Angeles. For more pictures, make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To hike to Sandstone Peak, there are two general options to get to the trailhead. From the Coast: Take the Pacific Coast Highway to the far west end of Malibu. Make a right onto Yerba Buena Road which is right near Neptune’s Net (which is a good place to eat) and drive up Yerba Buena for 5.5 miles to the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station. The trailhead is located 1 mile east of Circle X Ranch, so continue past the ranger station up Yerba Buena Road and turn left into the Sandstone Peak trailhead parking lot. From the 101: Exit onto Westlake Blvd from the 101 Freeway, and follow it south for several miles as it merges with Mulholland highway. Turn right onto Little Sycamore Canyon and it will become Yerba Buena Road as you cross the county line. Proceed on Yerba Buena Road for about 4 miles to trailhead (about a mile before you hit the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station). There is no cost for parking and there is a restroom at the trailhead and the Circle X Ranch Ranger Station.

Description of Hike: The Sandstone Peak Hike starts off pretty strenuous with a steep 1.5-mile hike to the summit of Sandstone Peak. This is the most challenging section of the hike, but the summit of Sandstone Peak offers commanding views of the pacific ocean and inland valleys. On clear days, you can also see Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island and to the east, Mount Baldy. Many of the rocky outcrops that rise out of the chaparral covered slopes were created some 13-16 million years ago through explosive volcanic activity. The last push to the summit is a little scramble and is a little steep.

Once you come back down from the summit, you continue on a long loop exploring the vast terrain of the Santa Monica Mountains taking the Backbone Trail to the Mishe Mokwa Trail. At the intersection of these two trails, you can take a short trip to the top of Tri Peaks, which is an exposed peak at just about 3,000 feet that offers amazing views. The Tri Peaks Trail is significantly more rugged and overgrown than the Mishe Mokwa or Backbone Trails. You should immediately notice the difference once you proceed to the Tri Peaks which adds 1 mile roundtrip to the hike.

After returning from the Tri Peaks Trail Continue on the Mishe Mokwa Trail and you will see notable sites such as split rock and balancing rock on your completion of the loop. The remainder of the hike is a gradual downhill hike for the remainder of the journey with a couple of uphill sections. For a printable map of the Sandstone Peak hike and general area in the Santa Monica Mountains, click Here.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really had a great time on our Sandstone Peak hike. This is a very popular hiking spot and the parking lot was virtually full when we arrived. We parked on an informal parking area just outside of the official trailhead parking location. This hike is very popular because it is packed with a wide variety of experiences and in reality has a little bit of everything, from rock formations, to riparian canyons, to epic coastal views.

Dispite the popularity of this hike, be on the lookout for wildlife because there is a wide variety of animals that inhabit this area. We were lucky enough to see a coyote while out on our hike in this area. The views from the summit are breathtaking and far-reaching on a clear day. Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains to the east, Los Padres National Forest to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, and the Channel Islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) to the west. Make sure to bring plenty of water if you are doing this hike during the summer because sections of the hike are exposed.

Rating: Without Tri Peak: Elevation Gain: 1,400 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 6.1 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate), With Tri Peak: Elevation Gain: 1,700 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 7.1 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 3 - 4.5 hours.

View Sandstone Peak in a larger map

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

OC Parks September 2014 Calendar of Events

Here are some highlights from the OC Parks September Calendar of events, if you are looking for hiking ideas or other outdoor events in the month of September, make sure to check out some of these great events!

OC Parks SEPTEMBER 2014 calendar of events

September 2, 13, 16, 27 – Modjeska House Tour 
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Docent-led tour of the historic house and grounds.
Location: 25151 Serrano Road, Lake Forest, CA 92630-2534
Contact: (949) 923–2230
Cost: $5 per person
Special Instructions: Advance reservations required, call (949) 923-2230. Directions provided with reservations. 

September 4 – Fitness Hike at Dilley 
8:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Raise your heart rate and your spirits on this strenuous, fast-paced, 5.5-mile hike over steep and uneven terrain (900-ft. elevation gain) with Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteers. 
Location: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Cost: $2 donation per person Parking: $3 per vehicle
Contact: (949) 923-2235
Special Instructions:  Ages 15 and up. Reservations required, sign-up online: James Dilley Preserve (405 South to 133 South to stoplight at 73 turn-off; make a U-turn, go 1 block. Dilley is on the right). For questions, call (949) 497-8324.

September 4 – Birds of Mason Regional Park 
9 – 10:45 a.m.
Join an OC Parks volunteer and experienced birdwatcher in a program about the birds of William R. Mason Regional Park. On an easy walk of ½ mile around Mason, we will view and discuss the different types of birds that visit the park during the late summer and early fall. We’ll talk about migratory birds and why the park is important to them. We’ll find out how to guess whether a songbird eats primarily insects or seeds. And we’ll listen for the songs of some of our common local birds.
Water, sunscreen, a hat, and comfortable shoes are recommended. Bring your binoculars to get better views of the birds!
Location: Mason Regional Park. 18712 University Drive, Irvine, CA 92612
Cost: No fee, Scout Leader provides badges.
Contact: (949) 923-2230
Special Instructions: Turn left at the stop sign after the entrance to the park in Parking Lot B. We will meet at the picnic table near the Ranger Office by the park entrance.

September 4, 11, 18, 25 – Tideland Tykes
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Join our preserve staff for a fun-filled parent and child experience that may include arts and crafts, story telling, hands-on activities or outdoor nature walks. Come prepared for an exciting outdoor experience!
Location: Upper Newport Bay. 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Cost: $5 per student Parking: Free
Contact: (949) 923-2290
Special Instructions: Ages 2 to 8 years recommended. Space is limited and registration is required. Please call (949) 923-2275, or email to register.

September 5 – Explore the Plants on the Trail to Barbara’s Lake
8 – 10:30 a.m.
Join us on a wonderful morning walk to Orange County’s only natural lake while learning about our native California plant life. This 2-mile leisurely hike will be led by Laguna Canyon Foundation volunteer naturalists.
Location: Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Cost: $2 donation per person Parking: $3 per vehicle
Contact: (949) 923-2235
Special Instructions:  Ages 8 and up. Online reservations required, sign-up online: Little Sycamore Canyon Staging Area/Nix Nature Center (west side of Laguna Canyon Road/SR-133, approximately 3.5-miles south of I-5/405). For questions, call (949) 497-8324.

September 5, 12, 26 – Wild Tales
10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Visit with Preserve staff for story-telling fun! After a story, learn more about the natural history of the Bay through crafts, hands-on activities and nature walks. Come prepared for an exciting outdoor experience!
Location: Upper Newport Bay. 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Cost: $5 per student Parking: Free
Contact: (949) 923-2290
Special Instructions: Ages 2 to 8 years. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Please call (949) 923-2275, or email to register.  

September 6, 20  – Redwood Hike
8:30 – 10 a.m.
Join OC Parks' trained staff on the first and third Saturday of the month for an easy 1.1-mile hike to the park's Coastal Redwood grove. You will use your 5 senses to engage with nature as you stroll to the Redwoods. You will also have an opportunity to learn about our native plants along the way. The hike begins each Saturday and Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. from the park's Nature Center. Don't forget to visit our Nature Center when you are there, too!
Location: Carbon Canyon Regional Park. 4442 Carbon Canyon Road, Brea, CA 92823
Cost: Free Parking: $5 per vehicle
Contact: (714) 973-3160
Special Instructions: All ages. Participants should remember water, sunscreen, hat, hiking shoes. Meet at Nature Center located at east end of the park. Reservations preferred, please call (714) 973-3160 or email

September 6, 13, 20, 27 – Nature Walk 
9 – 10:30 a.m.
Join our Naturalists on a nature walk and learn about Trabuco Canyon animals and nature. Light to moderate walk on mostly paved roads. Meet at the Nature Center just inside the main entrance of the park.
Location: O’Neill Regional Park. 30982 Trabuco Canyon Road, Trabuco Canyon, CA 92678
Cost: Free Parking: $5 per vehicle
Contact: (949) 923-2260
Special Instructions: All ages welcome. Event is conditional on the weather.

September 6, 20 – Beginning Archery Class
9 – 10 a.m.
Join Park Rangers and Volunteers for an introductory archery class at the brand new archery range at Mile Square Regional Park. This one-hour class will introduce participants to basics of the exciting sport of archery.
Location: Mile Square Regional Park. 16801 Euclid, Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Cost: Free Parking: $5 per vehicle
Contact: (714) 973-6600
Special Instructions: Participants must be at least 12 years old. Equipment is provided.  

September 6 – CPF Monthly Meeting 
9:30 – 11 a.m.
Interested in volunteering at Caspers Wilderness Park? Join the Caspers Park Foundation (CPF) for their monthly volunteer meeting held in the Caspers Wilderness Park Nature Center. This is a great opportunity to learn just what volunteers, do as well as meet others who love nature, the outdoors and preserving the park for all. 
General business meeting starts at 9:30 a.m., followed by an informative lecture presented by guest speakers at 10 a.m. September Guest Speaker: Allan White  - Space: Our Neighborhood and Beyond
Location: Caspers Wilderness Park. 33401 Ortega Highway, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Cost: Free Parking: Free
Contact: (949) 923-2210
Special Instructions: Ages 16 years and up. For more information call the park office at (949) 923-2210.

September 6, 13, 20, 27 – Guided Interpretive Hike
10 – 11 a.m.
Join our naturalists on a nature walk and learn about the local plants, animals and history of Irvine Park. Light to moderate walking on both paved paths and trails.
Location: Irvine Regional Park. 1 Irvine Park Road, Orange, CA 92869 Website:
Cost: Free Parking: $5 per vehicle 
Contact: (714) 973–6835
Special Instructions: All ages. Meet at the Nature Center near the OC Zoo in parking lot #19.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hike Mt. San Gorgonio South Fork Loop

Mt. San Gorgonio is the tallest mountain in Southern California at 11,502 feet and is a must do hike for any Southern California hiker. Recently, I had the chance to hike the South Fork Loop with a couple of buddies from work, Jon Kaplan and Kyle Carrolle. The South Fork Loop to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio was an absolutely beautiful hike with spectacular views of the greater Southern California area. The San Gorgonio Wilderness, where this hike is located, is the largest high-altitude wilderness area in Southern California and is a hiker's paradise. Bottom-line, this is a hike that should be on every avid Southern California hiker's to do list. For more pictures, make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To hike to the top of Mt. San Gorgonio via the South Fork Loop, you will start from the South Fork Trailhead. From Orange County, take the 91 freeway east towards Riverside. Stay on the 91 freeway which eventually becomes the 215 freeway. The 215 freeway eventually intersects with Interstate 10. At the 215 freeway and Interstate 10 interchange, take Interstate 10 going East toward Palm Springs. Exit from Interstate 10 on University which is in the City of Redlands. Make a left and follow University (You will pass through Redlands University) until you meet Highway 38. Take a right on Highway 38, going toward the San Bernardino Mountains. In several miles you will pass the Mill Creek Ranger Station (Where you obtain the additional wilderness permit if you have not gotten it early), continue up into the San Bernardino National Forest. Highway 38 will take you to the trailhead. Exit highway 38 onto Jenks Lake Road (This road is located before Barton Flats and can be easily passed if you are not looking out for it). Take Jenks Lake Road a couple of miles and the trailhead is on your left hand side. It is a large parking lot with a big sign indicating the South Fork Trailhead. (A Forest Adventure Pass is needed as well as a free Wilderness Permit for the San Gorgonio Wilderness).

Description of Hike: To day hike or overnight backpack in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, you must have an additional wilderness permit (The Permit is Free), in addition to the Forest Adventure Pass. You can
Follow this link for the permit. The link will direct you to the wilderness permit application. You can obtain the additional wilderness permit early from the Mill Creek Ranger Station which is the easiest way, or you will have to stop at the Mill Creek Ranger Station before you go hiking. Each trail in the San Gorgonio Wilderness has a set quota for the number of hikers allowed on each trail and once the quota is reached the Forest Service doesn't issue more wilderness permits for the trail. That is why I recommend you get your wilderness permit early for your hike to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio. You can obtain a permit up to 90 days before your hike.

Mt. San Gorgonio is located in the San Gorgonio Wilderness (approximately 58,969 Acres). The total length of the hike to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio via the South Fork Loop is 21 miles roundtrip with a 4,601 foot elevation gain. This loop is a popular trail to hike for many, but is not as popular as the vivian creek trail, bottom-line is you should expect to see other hikers while hiking the South Fork Loop.  The permit quota often fills up for this hike, especially during weekends during peak summer months, so get your free wilderness permit in advance. The hiking trail is well maintained and is usually in good condition. All trails along the South Fork Loop are well marked, except right by Dry Lake. This hike is very strenuous and only fit hikers should hike to the summit in one day. If you plan on doing this hike in one day, it is a good idea to train on other hikes like Mt. Baden Powell or Mt. San Jacinto in preparation for this hike.

From the South Fork Trailhead, you take the South Fork Hiking Trail which passes by Horse Meadows and then crosses into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The South Fork Trail goes to the South Fork Meadow, where you continue on the South Fork the trail to Dollar Lake. Once you get close to Dollar Lake, you will see signs for the Dollar Lake Trail. You can take a short side excursion of less than half a mile one way to see Dollar Lake which is located at approximately 9,300 feet. The side excursion is worth it during wet years when water is in Dollar Lake. After passing the turnout for Dollar Lake, continue another 0.7 miles on the South Fork Trail to Dollar Saddle. Dollar Lake Saddle is located at 9,960 feet and there is no camping or viable water sources past this point. From Dollar Saddle head toward the Summit of Mt. San Gorgonio which is approximately 5 miles from Dollar Saddle. This section of the hike from Dollar Saddle to the Summit of Mt. San Gorgonio is a steady uphill hike.

Once you hike to the top of Mt. San Gorgonio you will return via the Sky High Trail which will take you to Dry Lake. From Dry Lake, you will continue all the way down back to the South Fork Meadow and continue all the way back to the Trailhead. There is camping available at Dry Lake (Water is available almost year round at Lodge Pole Springs, except during extreme drought years), Trail Flats (No water available), Dollar Lake (Water available seasonally from lake and a spring to the extreme south of the lake, both typically run dry at some point during the year). The South Fork Loop is one of the most popular hiking routes to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio for hikers to use. In our opinion this is the most scenic rout to the top of Mt. San Gorgonio.

Further Thoughts: A map of the San Gorgonio Wilderness is always a good thing to bring along with you when hiking in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The San Gorgonio Wilderness Association Store has one for sale. For those who want to split the hike up into multiple days, which is recommended if you want to enjoy being out in the wilderness and because this hike is extremely difficult to complete in one day, several campgrounds are available. During the summer months always be on the watch for thunderstorms, in the past, Ashley and I have encountered several while hiking in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. For current weather conditions and forecasts for this area you want to check with the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association's website to find current trail conditions and weather forecasts. Click Here for a live webcam of San Gorgonio courtesy of

It took our group just under 12 hours to complete this loop in one day. Our time included a one hour stay at the top of Mt. San Gorgonio as well as multiple stops along the way. To really enjoy this hike, it would be recommended to split this hike up into a couple of days. Fit hikers will be able to do this hike in one day, however it is more enjoyable split up into multiple days.

There are several points of interest along this hike where you can have great pictures and/or views, notably Poop Out Hill just before the wilderness entrance, Dollar Lake, the Summit, Dry Lake, and the airplane wreckage along the Sky High Trail. On the Sky High Trail you will find an airplane wreck from 1953, where a military plane crashed into the side of Mt. San Gorgonio during a snow storm. Most of the wreckage is still there and sadly everyone on the plane was lost.

During the winter this area gets a lot of snow. For those that do this hike in the winter always make sure to check the weather conditions and information provided by the San Gorgonio Wilderness Association's Bulletin Board. If you are doing this hike in the winter you will likely need crampons, snow shoes, and good winter gear. Remember, snow can be present for many months of the year on the trail to the summit of San Gorgonio so make sure to check the conditions if you are doing this hike in late fall, the winter, or the spring. If you do this hike during the cold winter months make sure you are prepared with proper gear as only experienced hikers should do this hike during the winter.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 4,601 ft. (Strenuous), Distance: 21 Miles Roundtrip (Strenuous), Note: be on the watch for Altitude sickness since the height of Mt. San Gorgonio is 11,502 ft.

Time to Complete Hike: 9 - 12 hours.

Good Training Hikes: Mt. Baden-Powell, Mt. San Jacinto, Saddleback Mountain, Cucamonga Peak, Mt. Baldy.


South Fork Loop (This Post)

View San Gorgonio Loop in a larger map