Hiking to Los Pinos Peak
We have been on a little bit of a travel freeze for the past couple of months, having to stay very close to home, because our cat (Zoe) broke her ankle and has needed a lot of extra care and attention. Last week she finally had her splint removed after 8 weeks (!), so we decided to go on a hike in Cleveland National Forest. Of course, this past weekend Southern California had an insane heat wave so we picked a peak to try and get a little above the heat without driving too far from our home.
The drive out to the trailhead took us past the Candy Store on Ortega Highway and up into the hills of Cleveland National Forest. The start of this trail is a fire road (Main Divide Truck Trail) that is accessible with a 4x4 vehicle. While we were getting set to head out, there was a truck and a Jeep letting air out of their tires and they headed up ahead of us. After walking the 1.7 miles up this fire road, we think we probably would’ve made it up just fine in our Subaru Crosstrek and shaved off that mileage and some elevation gain. This road is quite steep at points.
We typically plan and pack for a hike on the night before, but this time we did not and we ended up getting to the trail around 11:00am. We got stuck hiking in the heat of the day, which is definitely not recommended for this trail. There is almost no shade along the trail. We also ran into a lot of bugs all along the trail. Conveniently, our Cairn Subscription Box this past month included a BlackStrap Daily Tube face mask that worked exceptionally well keeping the bugs out of our faces and mouths and ears. It also protected our necks from getting burned by the sun.
Once you get up the fire road portion of the trail, you'll see a metal fence/barricade. You can hop over that and hear straight up the steep hill, or go a little to the right, and you'll find the real trail head. Both routes meet slightly up the hill. There will be a marker indicating the trail - “Los Pinos”. Once on the trail, it is easy to follow as there aren’t any splits or diversions. The views keep getting better and better the higher up you get, opening all the way just one mile later when you arrive at the peak. It stands at 4,513 feet, making it the 4th highest peak in Orange County.
The trail is quiet and not heavily trafficked. It's smooth in places, but steep and gravelly in others. Our first tip for anyone venturing out on this hike is to wear good boots and pack bug spray and sunscreen. If you're going when it's warm, this trail will be hot - take enough water. Trekking poles are a good idea, too!
We covered 2.7 miles out on this hike, and followed our path right back to the car (5.5 miles total). It was very hot for an October day, and the bugs drove us nuts, but the views were great and the trail was very easy to follow!