Friday, May 22, 2009

Morgan Trail (Cleveland National Forest)


The Morgan Trail in a fun hike in the Cleveland National Forest that Ashley and I hiked on Friday May 22, 2009, from the trailhead on the South Main Divide all the way to the intersection with the Bear Canyon Loop. The weather was perfect during the hike and it felt great to be back hiking in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. The Morgan Trail goes right through the heart of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness and is a great hiking trail in the Santa Ana Mountain's Cleveland National Forest between Orange County and Riverside County.


Directions to Trailhead: To get to the Morgan Trail in the Cleveland National Forest, if you are going from Orange County take the Ortega Highway (74) going towards Riverside and make a right on the South Main Divide Road (Approximately 21 miles). The South Main Divide Road is just before Ortega Highway (74) heads down into Lake Elsinore. Continue on the South Main Divide Road for a mile or so and the trailhead is clearly marked on right. A Forest Adventure Pass is needed to park at the trailhead. There is also a Google Map below showing where the trailhead to hike the Morgan Trail in the Cleveland National Forest is located.

Description of Hike: The Morgan Trail is a great hiking trail for those looking to explore the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness which is located in the Cleveland National Forest. The Morgan Trail is fairly flat for most of the hike. Ashley and I would classify the Morgan Trail as an easy trail with one or two moderate sections along this hike between Orange County and Riverside County. The Morgan Trail hike, roundtrip from the trailhead to the Bear Canyon Trail and back, is 8.6 miles. There is very little elevation gain to the Morgan Trail hike, about 500 feet worth. The first section of the Morgan Trail near the trailhead at the South Main Divide Road has the potential for a lot of bugs, since it follows a stream, which still had water when we went on our. There was an abundance of wildlife along the Morgan Trail in the Cleveland National Forest. Ashley and I saw a couple of striped racers (snake), about 10 - 15 coastal horned lizards, 4 turkey vultures, and a couple of hawks while hiking on the Morgan Trail. The majority of the Morgan Trail ventures through the heart of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness so be prepared as this hike is in a remote section of the Cleveland National Forest.


Further thoughts: It was great for Ashley and I to finally get out hiking again in the Cleveland National Forest. I just finished my first year of law school and it felt great to get away for a little bit. Next time Ashley and I will stop at the Candy store when we do this hike along the Morgan Trail. It is only another mile further once you reach the Bear Canyon Trail to get to the candy store off of Ortega Highway. To go to the candy store once you reach the bear canyon trail, make a right and head toward Ortega Highway.

During our hike on the Morgan Trail, we might have heard a mountain lion or a bobcat in heat while we were out on the trail. All Ashley and I know is there was some type of cat out there that was making a lot of noise about a mile away from a section of the Morgan trail. We heard the noise midway during our return trip on our hike.

The Morgan Trail is a fun day hike in Southern California's Cleveland National Forest which is relatively flat. The temperature was great when Ashley and I hiked the Morgan Trail, but make sure to have plenty of water and have plenty of sunscreen if you go on this hike during a warm summer day. Additionally, bug spray is probably a must. If you go on this trail during a warm day in the summer, remember to bring plenty of water as there is little shade on portions of the hike. The trail starts out near a stream by the trailhead at the South Main Divide Road. In about a mile the trail leaves the stream and enters the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. A little bit after leaving the stream the trail crosses paths with the end of the Tenaja Falls Trail which ends at the Morgan Trail about 2 miles from the Morgan Trailhead at the South Main Divide Road.

Bottom-line is, the Morgan Trail is a great hike to do if you want to further explore the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. The Morgan Trail connects the South Main Divide Road with the Bear Canyon Loop, a trail that we have been on several times to go to the top of Sitton Peak. If you are looking to make this hike a little longer, you can make a right on the Bear Canyon Loop Trail when the Morgan Trail runs into it and head to the Candy Store off of Ortega Highway. The candy store off of Ortega Highway is only a mile from where the Morgan Trail runs into the Bear Canyon Loop Trail. This will add another 2 miles roundtrip to the hike with another 500 feet of elevation gain.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 500 ft. (Easy), Distance: 8.6 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 4 - 5 hours.

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