Monday, May 25, 2009

El Cariso Nature Trail (Cleveland National Forest)

On Monday May 25 Ashley and I made a quick trip to the Cleveland Nation Forest to hike the El Cariso Nature Trail. The El Cariso Nature Trail is fun short day hike in Southern California that is perfect for the whole family. It is a great hike located just off of Ortega Highway. There are also several places along the trail that make for great picnic locations. This hike offers great views of the Santa Ana Mountains and the surrounding wilderness area .

Directions to TrailheadIf you are interested in hiking the El Cariso Nature Trail in the Cleveland National Forest, going from Orange County, take the Ortega Highway (74) going towards Riverside and make a right into the Cleveland National Forest Visitor Center, which is close to the south main divide road. The turnout to the visitor center is just before the Ortega Highway starts to head down into the Lake Elsinore area. A map of the area can be found below via the Google map.

An alternate turnout option is to make a right on the south main divide and make an immediate left into the fire fighter memorial. From the memorial, walk down the south main divide road, to pick up the trail. A Forest Adventure Pass is needed for parking in both locations. There is also plenty of parking at both locations.

Description of HikeThe El Cariso Nature Trail hike is a short day hike Southern California as it is just over a mile in length to complete the entire loop. It is a nice trail with plenty of shade along a majority of the hike due to the abundance of pine trees in the area. The trail is a single track uneven dirt trail. Additionally, there are informational plaques along the hike with information describing the local plant and animal life found in the Southern California. The El Cariso Nature Trail hike has very little elevation gain and is not strenuous at all. Please use caution when crossing the south main divide road as it is a busy road. The trail goes through a section of the Cleveland National Forest where reforestation of pine trees has been very successful. It is amazing to walk through a pine forest in the backyard of Orange County at and elevation of about 3,000 feet. Remember to always be ready with your cameras as you could encounter wildlife at anytime while on this fun Southern California Day Hike

Further Thoughts: The El Cariso Nature Trail was a fun short hike in  the Santa Ana Mountains. It was relaxing and great for Ashley and I to get out and enjoy our local mountains. We were able to see the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial and learned about what happened there. 7 firefighters lost their lives on August 8, 1958 in a devastating wild fire a mile from where the memorial is actually located. The memorial is dedicated to all California Wildland Firefighters and is definitely worth a visit when you hike The El Cariso Nature Trail.

A notable place of interest to stop while on this hike is at the Cleveland National Forest El Cariso Visitor Center. The visitor center hours are Friday 12-5:30, Saturday 9-5:30, Sunday 9-4:30. The center is located next to the El Cariso fire station off of the Ortega Highway. At 32353 Ortega Highway Elsinore, CA 92530 Phone number 951-678-3700.  The visitor center has several exhibits that are worth checking out.

Another fun fact about this fun short day hike is that much of the area along the El Cariso Nature Trail is where reforestation has occurred from past wildfires. There are informational plaques explaining the reforestation process that has occurred near the firefighter memorial. Here is a link to the Penny Pines Program to further explain the process for those that are interested to learn more about how reforestation occurs in our local Southern California Mountains.

Rating: Elevation Gain: Minimal (Easy), Distance: 1.2 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 20 - 30 minutes.


May 25, 2009 (This Post)

View El Cariso Nature Trail in a larger map

1 comment:

  1. I'm rather disappointed that no one who blogs about the El Cariso Nature trail remembers to insert information about the plaque with the name of Walker Richardson who fathered Penny Pines there and "blazed" the nature trail. I and my brothers included, helped him many times up there planting and watering the trees, when he was the district ranger from c.1968 to 1973. It's a shame that he has been forgotten this way.


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.