San Juan Loop Trail (Cleveland National Forest)

The San Juan Loop Trail is a fun short hike located in the Cleveland National Forest between Orange County and Riverside County. The San Juan Loop Trail goes by two local waterfalls in the Cleveland National Forest which are great sights to see during any year Southern California has gotten rain. The views along the San Juan Loop Trail offer sweeping views of the Santa Ana Mountains. This is a fun short day hike in Southern California. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook page

Directions to TrailheadIf you are driving to the San Juan Loop trailhead for access to hike the San Juan Loop Trail, heading from Orange County take the Ortega Highway (74) going towards Riverside. The parking lot for the San Juan Loop Trail is located directly across the street from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store located just off of Ortega Highway. A Forest Adventure Pass is needed to park at the San Juan Loop Trailhead. An Adventure Pass can be purchased across the street at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store.

Description of the HikeThe San Juan Loop Trail is a 2.2 mile loop with a 350 foot elevation gain. The hiking trail is well maintained and on weekends there are always other hikers out enjoying this hiking trail in the Cleveland National Forest. This trail goes through riparian habitat and is a great place to visit anytime after it rains in Southern California. Portions of the trail are exposed with little shade. However when near the San Juan Creek bed there are plenty of Coastal Oak trees to provide shade for hikers. There are two beautiful waterfalls on this hike between Orange County and Riverside County. The two waterfalls on this hike are about 5 minutes away from the north trailhead. The San Juan Loop Trail is a perfect hike to do with the whole family as it is not to strenuous.

Further Thoughts: This was a hike that Ashley was unable to join on because she had finals for Cal State Fullerton. I was able to go on this hike with my aunt who was visiting from out of town. The spring time is always a great time to visit the San Juan Loop Trail, especially after a good rainy season. The wildflowers along the San Juan Loop Trail were in full bloom and on display for all hikers to see while visiting this trail. There was plenty of rushing water flowing through the San Juan Creek and San Juan falls was beautiful. The amount of water along the San Juan Loop Trail means that you have a great chance of seeing local wildlife that visit the streams filled with water. 

Another benefit of this hike in the Cleveland National Forest is the close proximity to the Ortega Oaks Candy Store across the street. Ashley and I have always gotten a little snack whenever we do a hike in this area. Normally there are a lot of hikers (particularly families) on the San Juan Loop Trail, especially on the weekends, because of its short distance. The views the San Juan Loop Trail offers are amazing. You get great views of the Santa Ana Mountains and the valley the San Juan Creek has carved into the mountain. This is a great little hike especially when there is enough water to enjoy the two waterfalls. Bottom-line is the San Juan Loop Trail makes for some great hiking in Orange County and Riverside County.

Rating: Elevation Gain 350 ft. (Easy), Distance: 2.2 Miles Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 1 - 2 hours


May 16, 2011 (This Post)

View San Juan Loop Trail in a larger map


  1. Great hike! This is second time I have read about this candy store. I can't remember if it was here or on another blog...either way it has peaked my intrest. Candy and great can you go wrong!


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