Saturday, June 14, 2008

San Juan Loop Trail and Chaquito Trail to Chaquito Falls (Cleveland National Forest)


Chaquito Falls is a less known waterfall located in the Cleveland National Forest near the boarder of both Orange County and Riverside County and is a great day hike in Southern California. In June of 2008, Ashley and I had the chance to hike the San Juan Loop as well as a hike to Chaquito Falls. We used the hike to Chaquito Falls as a training hike because we were both planning on hiking to the top of Saddleback Mountain (Santiago Peak in the Cleveland National Forrest) in the next couple of weeks. The hike to Chaquito Falls in the Cleveland National Forest is beautiful as the views along the hiking trial to Chaquito Falls are stunning. This is a fun hike in Southern California and is a must do hike to a waterfall in between Orange County and Riverside County. 

Directions to Trailhead: If you are driving to the San Juan Loop trailhead for access to hike to Chaquito Falls, heading from Orange County take the Ortega Highway (74) going towards Riverside. The parking lot for the San Juan Loop Trail is located directly across the street from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store located just off of Ortega Highway. Forest Adventure Pass is needed to park at the San Juan Loop Trailhead. An Adventure Pass can be purchased across the street at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store.

Description of Hike: The San Juan Loop trail is a 2.2 mile loop with approximately 350 feet of elevation gain. At about the half way mark the Chaquito Trail intersects the San Juan Loop Trail. The Chaquito trail is 6.4 miles in length one way with about 950 feet of elevation gainThe trails were well maintained when we did our hike to Chaquito Falls in the Santa Ana Mountains. These are both popular trails to hike and usually on weekends you will other hikers out hiking on these trails. The hike to Chaquito Falls along the San Juan Loop Trail and Chaquito Trail goes through pristine riparian habitat and is a great place to visit anytime after it rains in Southern California. Portions of the Chaquito Trail when you leave the riparian habitat are exposed with little shade. The Chaquito Trail leaves the San Juan Loop Trail and heads up to connect with the San Juan Trail and other trails in this portion of the Cleveland National Forest. The hike to Chaquito Falls is an out and back hike, meaning you will have to retrace your steps back on the Chaquito Trail to the San Juan Loop Trail to get back to the trailhead.


Further thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike on the San Juan Loop Trail to Chaquito Falls. This hike was a great training hike for our hike to the top of Saddleback Mountain we did a couple of weeks after this hike. We bought a yearlong Forest Adventure Pass from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store, since it is required to park cars at the trailheads located in the Cleveland National Forest. The Forest Adventure Pass is also good in the Angeles National Forest, the San Bernardino National Forest and the Los Padres National Forest.

We started off hiking on the San Juan Loop Trail around 11:30am. It is a 2.2 Mile loop with a 350 foot elevation gain. This is a popular trail and it is well maintained and the trails were marked very well. We ate lunch at one of the creeks by a little water fall. We were both surprised to find water still flowing through the streams in the Cleveland National Forest in late June. While on this hike, we saw several coast horned lizards, water crawlers, all sorts of water bugs, and tad poles  in the creek. We continued down the San Juan Loop Trail to the creek bed in the canyon. In the canyon there were many Coastal Live Oak trees as well as gorgeous dense foliage. Remember to watch out for Poison Oak while on this section of the hike.


At that point in the canyon, the Chaquito Trail intersects the San Juan Loop Trail and the hike to Chaquito Falls begins. The Chaquito trail is 6.4 miles in length one way. We hiked a little over half the distance of the trail and finished by where Chaquito Falls is located. Unfortunately, the falls did not have any water in them since it was the beginning of summer. On the hike on the Chaquito Trail we saw a large bird nest in one of the trees near the trail.

In all, Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike. The scenery was amazing and this hike gives you a true wilderness feel. There was plenty of shade with the Coastal Live Oak Trees in the Canyons and Riparian sections of the hike. If you hike this trail on a warm day, remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. It was a beautiful hike to Chaquito Falls and Ashley and I would both recommend this Orange County hike to others. One of the cool things about this hike is that when you finish your hike to Chaquito Falls you can cross Ortega highway and get cold drink and a snack from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store on the other side.

Rating: San Juan Loop Trail: Elevation Gain: 350 ft. (Easy), Distance: 2.2 Miles Roundtrip (Easy). San Juan Loop Trail to Chaquito Falls: Elevation Gain: 1,300 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 8.9 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

San Juan Loop trail Plus entire Chaquito Trail Roundtrip: Elevation Gain: approximately 1,400 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 15.2 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate - Strenuous).

Time to Complete Hike: San Juan Loop 1 - 2 hours. (San Juan Loop plus entire Chaquito Trail 7 - 8 hours.)

MORE TRAIL WRITE-UPS ON THE SAN JUAN LOOP TRAIL

June 14, 2008 (This Post)


Map of the San Juan Loop Trail
View San Juan Loop Trail in a larger map

Map of the San Juan Loop Trail plus a portion of the Chaquito Trail

View San Juan Loop Trail Plus Chaquito Loop in a larger map

2 comments:

  1. We did the hike out to the falls yesterday...there was plenty of water everywhere! In all honesty the waterfall at the trailhead was more impressive than Chaquito Falls but the hike out there is beautiful; lots of cool rock formations and plenty of wide open views of the surrounding mountains. There was also an abundance of wildflowers all along the trail. Beautiful hike ~ Thanks for recommendation!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello,

    My boyfriend and I were considering this hike for this Saturday, December 3rd. I am in search of a romantic hike with a breathtaking view. Any suggestions? Any advice would greatly be appreciated. :)
    -Kat

    ReplyDelete

Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.