Thursday, January 18, 2018

San Mateo Peak (3,591') and Peak 3,064 (3,064')

     From afar, San Mateo Peak stands little more than a chaparral green-laced bump on the long hog-back ridge overlooking Lake Elsinore on the steep eastern escarpment of the Santa Ana Mountains.  Upon closer inspection though, the mountain manifests itself in natural splendor ringed at the trailhead by a community of old growth Coast Live Oaks, and scattered on the higher slopes are pristine examples of coastal chaparral including chamise, chaparral yucca, laurel sumac, and black sage.  It is a wilderness setting that is uncommon along the coastal ranges of Southern California, offering a glimpse into a world that used to be.      


Category: Moderate
Miles: 5
Elevation Gain: 1000'
Location: Cleveland National Forest, San Mateo Canyon Wilderness

The Hike: From the trailhead, cross the grassy field onto the un-named trail, and follow it south as it traverses through a majestic stand of oaks.  As the path takes a dramatic hairpin turn and crosses the stream-bed, look for the marked route to San Mateo Peak on your left-hand side.  The use-trail up the to the summit is obvious for the most part but overgrown in some places.  About a quarter of the way up, a spur trail leads to Peak 3064, obviously manifest by an odd collection of flags and linens lined atop.  Back on the path to the peak, the trail makes a few dips before passing a number of false summits to the actual highpoint, topped by a Class 3 boulder.  Enjoy the view atop the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, into Orange County and across to San Gorgonio Mountain, and return the way you came.   

Hiked 1/18/2018.  Riverside County, CA.  No Adventure Pass Required.  

San Mateo hill country

Roadside trailhead

Unnamed trail south

San Mateo Peak sign
Summit of Peak 3064

Odd dino markers

Summit Block

Inland Empire

Summit signage

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sylvan Meadows Loop: Santa Rosa Plateau

       It has become a running tradition in my expanding hiking career to begin each new year by making my first trip of the year within the lower Peninsular Ranges, which usually fare being made in the Santa Ana Mountains.  For the sixth consecutive year, this tradition has been fulfilled in the completion of a quite short, yet beautiful loop hike on the Santa Rosa Plateau; Sylvan Meadows.    

Category: Easy 
Miles: 5.10
Elevation Gain: 200'
Location: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve
Directions: HERE

The Hike: The trip begins at the Sylvan Meadows Trailhead, located just across the Hidden Meadows Trailhead just off of Tenaja Road above Murrieta.  The trip follow Sylvan Meadows Road as the main artery of the trip, and many variations, add-ons, and spur trails are available.  My suggestion is the take the dirt road towards the cut off to the Shivela Trail, which runs 1.15 miles southward before ending at a small dirt lot.  This small extension gives the traveler the opportunity to achieve far-reaching views across the plains of the plateau and up close and person with the vulnerable Englemann Oak.  After rejoining the main path, follow it as it loops throughout the meadows area and eventually back to the parking lot.  

Hiked 1/2/2018. Riverside County, CA  

Oak Woodlands

Sylvan Meadows during drought 

Far off Palomar Mountains

Englemann Oak Stands 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Estelle Mountain (2,767') from Walker Canyon Trailhead

      The highest point of the oft-overlooked Temescal Range, Estelle Mountain offers arguably the finest clear-day views of the immensity of Southern California's Inland Empire than any other place.  Perfectly positioned, and at an appropriate height, the peak overlooks the entire region from the Chino Hills in the west across the Santa Ana River floodplain, past the Riverside metro area, into the San Gorgonio Pass and down towards the Palomar Mountains above Temecula.  Additionally, the trek to the summit follows an enjoyable solitary dirt road through multiple canyons and above ridges, both of which host a surprising variety of biodiversity.  Conclusively, to journey to the top of Estelle Mountain showcases some of the best of the natural and visual beauty the lower ranges of the Inland Empire can offer.          

Category: Moderate 
Miles: 10
Elevation Gain: 1,800'
Location: Estelle Mountain Ecological Reserve, County of Riverside
Directions: HERE

The Hike: From the turnout off of the end of Lake Street, follow the well-maintained dirt road immediately up as it begins its ascent of the range.  In a few yards, you pass a gate indicating the entrance to this county natural preserve, along with concurrent regulations.  As the road travels further up the ridge, the grade lessens and overlooks a pleasant and rocky stream-bed.  After about one mile, the road passes into a riparian zone and travels in its immediate vicinity for quite awhile.  
   In contrast to the hardy and shrubby Brittlebush, Coyote Bush, and Sugar Sumac that brave the exposure of the hillsides, the ravine-laden plants, made up mainly of California Sycamore, Coast Live Oak, Fremont Cottonwood, and Laurel Sumac, grow to immense proportions.  The route soon gains a small ridge, before dropping abruptly towards a small bend in the ridge.  Here, the route again steepens as it climbs the remaining two miles to the summit, accompanied most of the time by the constant humming of above looming electrical towers.  Near the summit plateau, a sign welcomes the hiker into the Ecological Reserve before culminating at the benchmark in the midst of some rocky outcrops.  Enjoy the impressive viewshed, particularly down into the Lake Matthews basin directly below.  Return the way you came, with a note of some uphill sections on the return. 

Hiked 12/30/2017.  Riverside County, CA      

Temescal Valley (I-15) seen from trail

Going up the Temescal Mountains

Morning Glory in bloom

California Sycamore in Fall Color

Chamise Chaparral in canyon

Higher peaks of the Temescal Mountains


Sugar Sumac

Steeper section...

Nearing Reserve



West towards Sanitago Peak and the Santa Anas

South view

Lake Matthews from summit