Los Pinos Trail

Cleveland National Forest, California

Elevation Gain6,924ft
Trailhead Elevation4,182ft
Elevation Min/Max975/4525ft
Elevation Start/End4182/4182ft

Los Pinos Trail

Los Pinos Trail is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Orange County, California. It is within Cleveland National Forest. It is 7.8 miles long and begins at 4,182 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 15.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 6,924 feet. Near the trailhead there is parking. Los Pinos Peak (elevation 4,455 feet) can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Trabuco Canyon Trail.

Los Pinos Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"This hike follows the shortest access route from the North Main Divide Road. The road up to the peak can be driven, but it is not recommended, as it is a steep, narrow, and winding road. The trail includes a strenuous ascent, but from atop the peak are sweeping 360-degree vistas from the mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The panoramic views span to the San Jacinto, San Bernardino, and San Gabriel Mountains; Catalina Island; and San Clemente Island."
Afoot & Afield: Orange County (Wilderness Press)
Jerry Schad and David Money Harris
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"If you are planning a bicycle shuttle, consider doing this trip in reverse, hiking up the ridge and mountain biking down the magnificent and technical San Juan Trail. Only the most skilled bikers should attempt to ride Los Pinos Ridge."
Best Easy Day Hikes: Orange County (Falcon Guides)
Randy Vogel
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"This trail takes you to the top of Los Pinos Peak, a wild and high point in the Santa Ana Mountains. Fantastic 360-degree views ranging from the Pacific Ocean to the San Bernardino, San Gabriel, and San Jacinto Mountains await on clear winter days. At 4,510 feet, Los Pinos Peak is the fourth-highest summit in the Santa Ana Mountains, yet it is one of the wildest and least visited of the range’s high points. Despite its elevation, Los Pinos lies within easy reach of the more determined hiker, who will be rewarded with one of the best vistas in Southern California. On clear days you can look westward across miles of mountains, foothills, and valleys to the Pacific Ocean. To the east lies Lake Elsinore, with the high peaks of the San Jacinto and San Gabriel Mountains rising in the distance. In spring, wildflowers, green hillsides, and the snowcapped peaks of distant mountains are common sights. Summer can be brutally hot, and winter storms may bring a light covering of snow to Los Pinos."

Los Pinos Trail Trip Reports

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I should have read the comments first, as I was very confused by the lack of a gate after the turn off of (and onto?) Main Divide. Never saw a gate after turning off the paved road, and ended up at the saddle, which by the way was totally unmarked. Look for a big open area with several metal off-road fences surrounding it if you want to go to the saddle. Frankly, parking down below and hiking up would have made for a much longer, much more difficult hike, but wouldn't be all that pleasant, as it is totally exposed and basically just up a road you could just as easily drive. The last 1.1 miles (each way) from the saddle was a great hike, though considerably shorter than we intended. Trail was narrow, with lots of loose rocks, and had several (relatively short) steep sections, so be sure you have proper footwear.

If you have sure-footed kids, it is a good one for them, as it isn't really too long or too hard and has a great view from the peak--or at least it should be. We couldn't see anything on the OC side because of low clouds.

Look for snakes! At the peak, while relaxing next to the surveyor's mark and the peak log, a large rattlesnake crawled right up behind my wife and went right under the rock she was sitting on! Lots of big boulders strewn around the peak, so be sure to watch yourself, your kids, and your dog closely while you are up there!
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Following the trail guide we arrived at the iron gate which is now located at the intersection of Long Canyon Road and Main Divide Truck trail. Parking here adds about 1/2 mile to the overall hike. The first mile and a half is uphill on a on a rock strewn fire road. We saw beuatiful views of Lake Elsinore far below. The snow-covered peaks of San Jacinto and Mount San Gorgonio rose above the distant eastern horizon.
Los Pinos Trail starts just south of Trabuco Trail on the west side of a large gravel clearing. The trail leads upward and westward following a ridgeline that has desert plants growing on the left (south) and a pine forest growing on the right (north). At breaks in the pine trees we saw breathtaking views of Santiago Peak with the snow-caps of Big Bear directly behind it. A nice hike for a weekend morning.
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I would say the first half on fire road wasn't very scenic, second half was good with fantastic ridge-to views but loose rock/steep trails are challenging; I'd recommend the other longer route I guess, the 9 mile one, if it is all on a nice trail.
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Trail is good for beginners. Most of the trail is narrow so your group needs to walk on a single line. Area was very dry so that means there was no water. I think we went beyond the estimated length, about 6 miles. 75% of the trail is very rocky. So I was surprise to see quite of few Mountain Bikers pass us and need to watch for those bikers! Move to the side when you see the bikers coming. Anyway, So I would consider this easy to moderate. Not much scenery.

Los Pinos Trail Photos

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Trail Information

Cleveland National Forest
Nearby City
Cleveland National Forest
Local Contacts
Cleveland National Forest Visitor Map
Local Maps

Trail Log