Monday, December 22, 2008

Sitton Peak Hike in the Snow (Cleveland National Forest)

On Saturday December 20th, Ashley, me and my buddy Mazi hiked to the top of Sitton Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. This was Ashley's third time to the peak, my second time, and Mazi's first time. For Ashley and I it is one of our favorite hikes in Southern California because the view at the summit of Sitton Peak is spectacular. This is a must do hike for any Orange County Hiker.

Directions to Trailhead: To hike to the top of Sitton Peak Via the Bear Canyon Loop: Park across the street from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store off of Ortega Hwy (Coming from Orange County take the Ortega Highway going East). The trailhead is located right behind the candy store, indicated with a sign for the Bear Canyon Trailhead. You want to take the bear canyon loop to the 4 corners area (about 3.5 miles in where the Verdugo Trail, the Tenja Trail, Bear Ridge Trail and Bear Canyon Trail meet). At that point there is a marker for the trail to Sitton Peak. Once you hit the 4 corners area, you have a little over a mile and a half to go, it is mostly uphill from there. The last climb up sitton peak is a fun one, a nice little scramble of less than a quarter mile. A map of the area can be found below in the Google map. You will need a Forest Adventure Pass to park at the trailhead. One can be purchased at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store across Ortega Highway.

Description of Hike: The total distance for our hike was about 10 miles with an elevation gain of approximately 2,200 ft. The hike was a little longer than usual since we completed the full Bear Canyon Loop. The full loop is composed of the Bear Ridge Trail and the Bear Canyon Trail. The hike is shorter if you do not complete the full Bear Canyon Loop and use the Bear Canyon Trail both ways. The best thing is that the trails are marked well and mileage is posted on the trail markers. The trail was in great shape and normally you will see other hikers on the trail because the climb to Sitton Peak is popular with Orange County Hikers. Sitton Peak is just over 3,200 feet in elevation and the hike is about 10 miles round trip without doing the full loop. Remember to sign in at the register for the trailhead. This is a great place to go hiking and is one of the main trailheads to enter the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. A Forest Adventure Pass is needed to park at the trailhead. One can be purchased at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store across the street.

Further Thoughts: We knew we would have to be quick up the mountain since this was one of the shortest days of the year with the sun setting at 4:45pm. We started hiking around 10:15am and we made it back to the car at a little after 4. The trail was in good condition and at about the 2000 foot level we began to see patches of snow on the trail to Sitton Peak. The temperatures were chilly and it was cold in some of the valleys were there was no sun. We had been receiving very cold weather as of late and a couple of cold storm systems had just passed through Southern California. The Santa Ana Mountains had received heavy snow and the snow levels had been down to 2,000 ft.

The first time Ashley and I hiked to Sitton Peak the temperature, when we began the hike, was 105 degrees F. The temperature when we were hiking this time was in the upper 40's, which was a big temperature change from June to December. Most of the north facing slopes on the hike to Sitton Peak still had snow on them and we posted a video of everyone hiking in the snow that is found in our Hiking Videos on the right side of our blog.

Also we found out that the Ortega Oaks Candy Store was changing ownership when he hiked there as it was closed for the Holidays. The trailhead to Sitton Peak starts by the candy store at the Bear Canyon Loop Trailhead. It was a great hike and it truly felt like Christmas with the snow and the ice on the trail. In all it was another great hike to Sitton Peak, especially since it felt like a winter wonderland.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 2,200 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 10.3 Miles Round Trip with full Bear Canyon loop (Moderate), 9.8 Miles Roundtrip without loop, only going through the valley (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 4.5 - 6 hours.


December 22, 2008 (This Post)

View Sitton Peak in a larger map

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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.