Bag Los Pinos

Hiking to Los Pinos Peak in Cleveland National Forest Southern California

A peak all to yourself? Three words: Bag Los Pinos! This 4,500-foot peak in southeastern Orange County’s Cleveland National Forest is pleasantly private, perhaps because reaching it is a grind! But worth the workout when you peak at panoramas that’ll knock your boots off. The 5-mile out-and-back hike to Los Pinos Peak ascends Main Divide, a fire road of switchbacks that’s the center spine of the Santa Ana Mountains.

As you gain 1,000 feet in elevation, the views en route include the desert peaks of Mounts San Jacinto and San Gorgonio as well as the Orange County coast. Then come incredible views of Lake Elsinore. After 1.5 miles you’ll get to a four-way junction where you can head straight over or go around the pipe barrier and continue ascending along the unmarked Los Pinos Trail. The terrain becomes rocky, surrounded by manzanitas and the surprise sight of Coulter pines. It’s another mile of up-and-down until Los Pinos Peak. Your feat is made all the more official by a sign, rock piles, and a logbook. Round-the-compass views include Mount Baldy to the north, the Palomar Mountains to the south, and sometimes even Catalina Island in the west. Smile: Other than the soaring red-tailed hawks and darting scrub jays, it’s very likely you’ll be all alone up here. Peace of Los Pinos!

To get to the dirt parking area, from CA-74 go north on Main Divide Rd., which turns into Long Canyon Rd. Pass Blue Jay Campground and park at the next intersection, where Forest Route 3S04 begins and the upper portion of Main Divide Fire Road branches off sharply left and up. National Forest Adventure Pass required, which can be purchased at major sport stores or at the nearby Lookout Roadhouse. The hike begins on Main Divide Fire Road. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park waterfall hike in Sonoma Valley

    Sweet as Sugarloaf

    Right in the heart of wine country there’s plenty more than wine flowing right now, with an oft unheralded waterfall that has surged to an exuberant spectacle from all the recent rain.

    View
  2. Muiraculous Beauty

    Ready to make your non-California friends jealous? Have a bonfire at Muir Beach while watching the sunset. This is Northern California living at its most braggadocious.

    View
  3. From Town to Falls

    Mount Tam’s Cascade Falls is a bit under the radar, tucked back off a residential area in Mill Valley. Some people drive up to the tiny parking lot nearest to the falls. Do an easy 3-mile (round-trip) hike right from downtown Mill Valley, weaving through quiet streets and secret trails.

    View
  4. oak manor labyrinth

    Loma Alta's Hidden Labyrinth

    Oak Manor Labyrinth in Marin’s Loma Alta Open Space is a hidden gem with huge views. The 2-mile out-and-back hike to reach it is a bit steep in parts, but the payoff is a 360-degree joy to the wild (with a bit of cityscape).

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Best in Snow

    There’s snow better destination for outdoor fun and events. Plumas County is a northern Sierra Nevada dreamland, with vast outdoor spaces, places, and races! Snowshoe Lassen Volcanic National Park, downhill ski at charming Coppervale Resort, and have a blast at the quirky Longboard Races.

    View
  2. Hike from Point Fermin Park to Angels Gate Park

    Park it Here

    Do a 2.5-mile scenic hike from Point Fermin Park to Angels Gate Park in Los Angeles. It’s got big trees, big ocean views, and a food and beer bonus!

    View
  3. Skull On!

    Temescal Canyon not only has epic views, it's got a waterfall right now, one that only shows after big rains. Head out on this 4.6-mile loop.

    View
  4. Two people walking towards Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point Orange County

    Getting Salty

    Long walks on the beach are great, but what about long walks to the beach? This 7.7-mile (round-trip) to the beautiful Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point is one of the best in Orange County.

    View