Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bear Canyon Loop (Cleveland National Forest)

This is a hike that Ashley and I have done in connection with hiking to Sitton Peak on a couple of occasions. However, doing the complete Bear Canyon Loop Hike is a great hike to do just standing alone. he Bear Canyon Loop is a great hike that offers amazing views of the Santa Ana Mountains. It is also a great place to see wildflowers during a wet rainy season in Southern California. If you are looking for a great hike in the Cleveland National Forest and the opportunity to see wildflowers after a rainy season this is the hike for you.

Directions to Trailhead:  To get to the Bear Canyon Loop Trailhead, coming from Orange County, take the 74 (Ortega Highway) going East toward Riverside. Park across the street from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store off of Ortega Hwy. The trailhead to hike the Bear Canyon Loop in the Cleveland National Forest is located right behind the Ortega Oaks Candy store. A map of the area can be found below in the Google map. You will need a Forest Adventure Pass to park at the Bear Canyon Loop Trailhead. One can be purchased at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store across Ortega Highway.

Description of Hike: The total distance of the Bear Canyon Loop Hike, is 6.8 miles roundtrip. The trail is well maintained and there is easy access to the trailhead as well as ample parking at the trailhead. From the trailhead you want to take the bear canyon trail to the 4 corners area (about 3.5 miles in where the Verdugo Trail, the Tenja Trail, Bear Ridge Trail and Bear Canyon Rrail meet). Once you hit the 4 corners area, you are halfway done and want to take the Bear Ridge Trail back to complete the loop. This is a popular entrance for hikers into the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness and you are likely to see others while out on this hike. The elevation gain is approximately 1,000 feet and it will take you between 2.5 - 4 hours to hike the Bear Canyon Loop depending on your pace. The trail is well marked with signs indicating the trail names.

Further Thoughts: The Bear Canyon Loop is a great trail to hike. Ashley and I have hiked in this area many times during our hikes to Sitton Peak. The San Mateo Canyon Wilderness in the Cleveland National Forest is one of our favorite hiking spots and we highly recommend this hiking here. The loop portion of the Bear Canyon Loop is absolutely beautiful. The canyon portion of the loop is spectacular and is a great place to capture amazing photographs of the scenery. Additionally, the Bear Canyon Ridge is a great place to observe spring wildflowers and an area where we have seen tarantulas in the fall.

The great thing about a hike in this area is that when you finish you can stop by the Ortega Oaks Candy Store and pick up a treat to celebrate a great hike in the Santa Ana Mountains. When starting out on the trail make sure to sign in at the trailhead registry. Also remember that this area has plenty of wildlife, make sure to bring your camera.

Note, if you are doing this hike in the summer make sure to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Additionally, the bugs can get pretty bad after a wet rainy season, so throw in the bug spray as well.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 6.8 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 2.5 - 4 hours.


March 7, 2010 (This Post)

View Bear Canyon Loop in a larger map


  1. Hi, guys-

    We just stumbled upon your blog, and really like what we see. Keep up the good work! ;)

    Happy hiking,
    Alexis & the Hi-Tec Crew

  2. Oh my gosh! Best blog ever. So glad to have found you.


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.