I went out with three friends on an early, drizzly Sunday morning for an inaugural counterclockwise run on this trail loop. Although the temperatures never reached 50 degrees, the constant effort kept us all sufficiently warm, except for the middle portion of the loop where we were up in the clouds and in near-constant contact with wet undergrowth. Water consumption, on the other hand, was WAY less than others experienced on sunny days!
It was a plenty challenging run that lived up to the "hard" classification, but the numerous scenic (mostly) foggy vistas and the company of friends made it all worthwhile.
Did it as the second half of the Agua Tibia loop with an Eagle Crag summit. This trail is second only to Dripping Springs for views and fun in San Diego. Can't say enough about how fun this is. The oak grove portion is amazing. Tough trail too, so bring some water.
Did this as a backpacking trip with Amelia. Up the Dripping Springs side and to a small camp site past the cutoff to Eagle Crag's summit. This trail may have the best views in SD. Eagle Crag's summit is spectacular. Beware that the Palomar Mcgee trail are quite overgrown and definitely a cross country route. No water on this trail either so be prepared.
Great hike! Over 20 miles- you have to cut through the camping area once you park. There is about 4 free parking spaces to the immediate right as you pull in. If you blink you might miss them. It took me about 8.5 hours total with breaks. I started at Dripping Springs trail, counterclockwise route about 6:30am. I used 4-5 liters of water.
Mile 1 - 7. Very steep ascension. This is probably the toughest start to a long hike I've had. I hiked a day after it rained so many cougar prints! No sun in the morning, so be prepared, but you will warm up fast. Great view points throughout this side of the hike. If you are after views and selfies, this is the way to go.
Mile 8 - a great resting point. Assess whether you should go back at this point. Great view of north county San Diego.
Somewhere around the halfway point there is a sign for Cutca trail? I couldn't find anything for this trail on any map. Don't go that way. Follow the wild horse trail parallel to the way you came.
Mile 8 - 14 was great for birding! Tons of tohees, finches, thrashers, jays, hawks, and mountain quail to scare the heck out of you on every corner! A few down trees to maneuvers around. The trail is super wide and super narrow in spots. Lots of contact with brush. Also, a strange fire pit in the middle of the trail??
Mile 14 - 20 by far the toughest part of the hike! Lots of sun and switchbacks!! I had to hook up my back up bladder about a mile in. Make sure you have plenty of water. More down trees and up and down elevation all the way back. Did I mention the switchbacks? Because they never end all the way to the trail head.
I may try hiking clockwise the next time. It seems like it may be easier. Enjoy!!
Hiked the Agua Tibia Wilderness today, just east of Temecula. About 21 miles, nearly 4,000 feet in elevation gain, just over 7 hours. My longest hike yet in terms of distance. Went from desert chaparral, to oak forest, to pine forest. The Coulter Pines had pine cones as big as my head! Went through 4.5 liters of water. Trail was in mostly good shape, but there were some significant sections where you have to bushwhack. A number of sections you have to crawl under or over multiple fallen trees. Was planning on taking the small use trail to agua tibia peak but I must've missed it and didn't want to backtrack. I did the loop clockwise. A good hike!
3rd November, 2016. Start time: 07:50
My first time on the Agua Tibia Full Loop Trail, which comprises of the Dripping Springs trail, the Palomar McGee trail & the Wild Horse trail.
All together, just over 32 km (around 20 miles) & really an excellent training loop for average to advanced level trail runners preparing for marathon distance..
I set out just before 7am, so was able to cover most of the upward elevation section on Dripping Springs before the sun came up. I suggest anyone intending to do the full loop in under 5 hours, while attempting to restrict weight by carrying less liquid, manages to cover at least 7 miles before sunrise, as a way to cut down on liquid intake. I took two 12 Fl Oz hand-held bottles, which was just enough for my sub 4 hour loop.
All three trails are clearly marked (but don't expect to see any signposts along the trails) & with the exception of the Palomar McGee trail, where you'll need to manoeuvre around a few fallen tree branches (and an odd trunk) as well as dealing with some stretches with "flowing undergrowth", you'll find you can run for the most part of the Agua Tibia Loop trail.
Depending on your running proficiency, I suggest medium to minimalist footwear cushioning. The trails are not particularly technical, so even standard road running shoes with a reasonable grip would be suffice.
Going back to my recommendation about marathon distance training - one of the attractions of this "longish" trail (for southern California area) is that for the first 7-8 miles there's a decent 3000+ foot elevation gain (if you run it in an anti-clockwise direction), which makes it ideal for training sustainable hill climbs, as it never really gets too steep at any single point.
The middle section trail (Palomar McGee) provides a flatter terrain with undulating terrain, until reaching Wild Horse trail. Still only half way there (just under two hours running by now), but the next 4-5 miles are downhill and such easy terrain that you'll find yourself speeding up considerably..don't get too carried away though (I did a bit!), as the final four miles seem to stretch for a lot longer, along a serpentine like trail which twists and winds around several valleys, before eventually returning to the Dripping Springs trail-head once again.
Running shoes: Inov8 Trailroc 245
Final time 3 hours 38 minutes.