Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Elsinore Peak (Cleveland National Forest)

Recently, we had the chance to take a quick venture out to hike in the Cleveland National Forest and hike to the top of Elsinore Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains. While only 3,575 feet, Elsinore Peak has tremendous prominence for such a small peak and provides visitors with sweeping views on clear days. Rarely do you find such a short hike, with such amazing views. This is a fun short day hike between Orange County and Riverside County. The hike to the top of Elsinore Peak is truly a mostly unknown gem for hikers to discover. Additionally, the parking area and the peak is a great place to watch summer thunderstorms far away on other Southern California Mountains. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the trailhead to hike to Elsinore Peak in the Cleveland National Forest, coming from Orange County, take the Ortega Highway (74) going towards Riverside. You are going to stay on the Ortega Highway and make a right onto the South Main Divide Road. The turn off onto the South Main Divide Road is just past the mountain town of El Cariso Village and is just before you begin going down the Ortega Highway to Lake Elsinore. Follow the South Main Divide Road for approximately 6 miles. You should be able to see Elsinore Peak before you get to the trailhead parking area, it is the peak with the radio equipment on top of it. Once the South Main Divide Road narrows into a one lane mountain road, you are roughly a mile from the parking area. There is a gate that prevents entrance to the summit, so it is advisable to park at the bottom and not drive up closer on the pull out to the peak. Note: Sometimes the Forest Service Closes the South Main Divide road due to snow or other weather conditions. If there has been recent snow in the Santa Ana Mountains check with the forest service to inquire about road closures.

Description of Hike: The hike to the top of Elsinor Peak is a fun short day hike to one of the more less known peaks in the Santa Ana Mountains. Elsinore Peak stands at 3,575 feet and is easily accessible compared to other prominent peaks. This is an out and back trail on an uneven dirt trail/maintenance road. To reach other prominent peaks offering similar views generally requires miles of hiking, while this one is only a mile roundtrip. The hike offers absolutely fabulous views. If you are looking for a more challenging hike, then this is not the one for you. But if you are looking for a short hike with tremendous views of Southern California at the top, this is a great one.

From Elsinore Peak's summit, you can see Mt. Baldy (along with the San Gabriel Mountains), San Gorgonio (along with the San Berardino Mountains), San Jacinto (along with the San Jacinto Mountains), Santiago Peak (along with most of the Santa Ana Mountains), Toro Peak, Hot Springs Mountain, the Palomar Mountains, Cuyamaca Peak, the Laguna Mountains, the Inland Empire, the Pacific Ocean, San Clemente Island and Catalina Island. Bottom-line is this Southern California Hike offers amazing views from the summit and is well worth the trip.

The one negative to this hike is the radio equipment that is on the summit of Elsinore Peak. Also, since you are in the Cleveland National Forest, you will need to have a Forest Adventure Pass displayed in order to park at the trailhead.

Further Thoughts: The best time to hike to Elsinore Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains is when there is great visibility, like after a rainstorm or wind event in Southern California. This was one of those times as Southern California was in the middle of the summer monsoon season and this was shortly after a thunderstorm dissipated over the Santa Ana Mountains. The Santa Ana Mountains probably got 1 - 2 inches of rain in sections of the range. 

During the hike we got to see another thunderstorm begin to roll in south of us from the Palomar District of the Cleveland National Forest. It was really neat to be able to see the flashes of lightining and be able to hear the faint ruble of thunder. A general rule of thumb of when to take shelter while hiking near a thunderstorm is the 30/30 rule. If it takes less than 30 seconds to hear thunder after seeing the flash, lightning is near enough to pose a threat, which means it is time to take shelter and/or move away from an exposed area. The other part of the 30/30 rule is to wait 30 minutes to resume outdoor activities after it takes less than 30 second to hear thunder after seeing the flash of lighting. 

The hike to the summit of Elsinore Peak follows a dirt/gravel service road to the top. It is a very easy grade and is a great hike for the whole family to do together. Halfway up the mountain, you start to see amazing landmarks like the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. The views only get better the closer you get to the top. You will also notice that there are several side trails that branch out from the main road to the summit of Elsinore Peak. If you want to make the hike longer, you can hike these, but keep in mind the trails do not necessarily lead back to the trail you are on.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 250 ft. (Easy), Distance: 1 Mile Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 30 - 45 minutes.


September 18, 2012 (This Post)

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