Saturday, August 7, 2010

El Cariso Nature Trail (Cleveland National Forest)

The El Cariso Nature Trail in the Cleveland National Forest is a fun short hike that the whole family can do together. Ashley and I enjoyed this great day hike in Southern California.  It was our second time hiking on the El Cariso Nature Trail in the Santa Ana Mountains. This hike offers great views of the Santa Ana Mountains and the surrounding wilderness area. In addition to the great views of the local area the trail goes by an abandoned mine.

Directions to Trailhead: If 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 Hike: The El Cariso Nature Trail hike is a short day hike Southern California's Cleveland National Forest 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: This was a fun hike for Ashley and I, however portions of the trail were a little overgrown when we hiked the trail (hopefully that will be taken care of soon). The weather was great and the best thing about this hike is the abandoned mine you pass while hiking on the El Cariso Nature Trail. Remember, never to go into an abandon mine as they are extremely dangerous and you never know what you will encounter. However, take as much time as need to look into the mine from the trail and attempt to see what is inside the mine. There is no information as to what was mined from this area of the Cleveland National Forest, so if any of our readers have any information feel free to make a comment.

While on the hike we stopped and looked through the Cleveland National Forest Visitor Center. The Visitor Center is small, but it has a lot of information about the surrounding Santa Ana Mountains. You can also purchase a Forest Adventure Passes from here as well as obtain information about the local campgrounds in the Cleveland National Forest. 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.

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

August 7, 2010 (This Post)

View El Cariso Nature Trail 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.