Horsethief Canyon Trail

EASY 22 reviews
#23 of 85 trails in

Horsethief Canyon Trail is a 3.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Alpine, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

3.3 miles 547 feet Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

This is a great, short hike down to a small swimming hole surrounded by rocks. There is some shade on the trail, but not much. When we were there (early June 2012) the water at the deepest came up to my neck. When you look on google maps Satellite view, the pool is dried out so it doesn't look like there is water year round. The hike started from a parking lot, down a dirt road and then you make a right onto the trail that takes you down about 400 ft to the water. Be sure to bring water for the hike out, as there is little shade and it's all up. However, as soon as you feel like you've had enough, you're already at the top and it's a flat walk back to the car. Pack a picnic and plan to hang out! The water feels great and there are plenty of rocks to sun yourself on. Enjoy!

7 days ago

Fun hike but the signage for this trail v Espinoza trail was slightly confusing. The only reason we knew we were on the right track is because of other messages left here (thanks)! We parked in the dirt parking lot. There are two trail areas- for this one follow the brown gated road way. A few minutes down there's a small sign on the right for the trail head. It's easy to miss! Easy going down but strenuous on way back (only about .5 mile up hill).

We had a fairly odd experience because as soon as we got down to the water hole, about two dozen gunshots went off. We screamed to notify the shooters that people and dog are nearby but they kept shooting. We promptly left and called to leave message with the ranger office. You never know who you will meet on a trail! It was a bummer to hike down there only to miss the water.

hiking
13 days ago

hiking
16 days ago

wonderful family friendly hike!!

hiking
23 days ago

This hike is gorgeous!! Start in the parking lot and walk down the gated dirt road. The trail starts off to the right once you have walked a little ways down. Missed it the first time and walked about a mile too far on accident. The actual road if you keep walking has stunning views and makes for a great walk. Once we made it back to the trail, the first half is all downhill (uphill the way back!) then flattens out a bit. Ends at a relaxing and scenic watering hole and stream! Hiked this after a rainstorm so there was a lot of water. Went in 58 degree weather and it was perfect.

26 days ago

hiking
1 month ago

great hike to get away from everything. was a little disappointed to get to the end of the trail and not see any running water, but still was a great hike.

5 months ago

Went with my girlfriend and 14 yr old sister. End of July isn't a smart idea. 91 degrees of hot wind and heat. Depending on the position of the sun, you can find a few shady trees. Even with a liter of water per person it was difficult going up the mountain. The bottom trek is nice, beautiful manzanita trees on the slope. We were cautious around rocks in the day, rattlesnakes tend to hide in shade and under rocks to escape the sun. When we made it to Pine Creek, it was a sad sight, the bed is completely dried up. I hope this was just a summer thing, looking forward to the winter, maybe the water will return.

hiking
7 months ago

This is a great hike to hit after work. It's just a couple miles from my house and If you need to just get out and clear the head then it's a great spot. You not dealing with a bunch of people on the trail which for me is the biggest thing. Go in the rainy season and there's a great watering hole to kick back at! Also climb up the canyon a bit and there's a bunch of great rock formations to climb around on and explore. There's also a geocache hidden! Good luck!!!!!

7 months ago

Perfect afternoon hike. relaxing on the way down, decent hills on the way back up.

7 months ago

9 months ago

I enjoyed this trail very much. Headed out about 10 am. We stopped at the little fire substation to check conditions and my dad being my dad, wanted to let someone know where we were. Safety first :)
Some loose rocks on the way down which made us happy for our hiking sticks. Beautiful smells and breezes and flowers galore. I was so happy to see the water!!! There was even a tiny waterfall. We didn't go much beyond this because my mom was scared of mountain lions and felt like we were told remote. Gotta love the parentals. I'm so thankful to have them so I accommodate. We saw some ladies on horseback and that was it. No other souls in sight.
The hike back up wasn't too bad. It was getting warm and I am not a fan of hills but hey that's part of the experience when you gotta go downhill to get the reward.

9 months ago

great trail nicely maintained the creek and pond was flu due to recent rains looks like a great spot for an overnighter. joined secret trail went for about hour and a half then turned around. want to go all the way to pine valley before it gets too hot. .

hiking
1 year ago

This was good beginner hike. It was mostly downhill until you reach the water. The hike back was all uphill, but short in distance.

1 year ago

Nice

hiking
1 year ago

Enjoyable hike and scenery

trail running
1 year ago

dry, hot, dusty and loose rocks/gravel. be careful.

01 May 2015
depending on how you want to run/walk this trail, it can be very easy or very demanding. the first time i did this trail i read the reviews and had the impression that it would be way too easy for my fitness level. so before i left the parking lot i grabbed a big rock to carry down to the creek. i estimated the rock was 35~40lbs. after about 15min i swear that rock was ~60lbs. i took my time and was very careful while going down hill. i had to drop and re-position the rock about 12-15 times (with very strict technique). i didn't quit and after 45min i made it to the creek. i was so exhausted i decided to leave that evil rock at the creek and run back up to the parking lot (20min). fun hike, will do it again.

10May 2015
so for a whole week i obsessed about that rock that i carried down to the creek. it started with me telling a couple of people about it at the mayweather/pacquiao fight (02May) and what a great workout it was. the next weekend i drove from coronado --> alpine for MY rock.
it just so happened that southern california got 2 days of rain (that we desperately needed) before i went back. i ran down to the creek frantically searching for MY rock... it was gone. erosion took my rock. the creek had swelled 3 times the size it was the week before. land-creep had allowed the brush and small trees on either side of the small creek to fall down-slope and the vegetation quadrupled in density. i searched for that rock for 30+min with no luck.
a little sad and very angry i searched for a new rock. after 10min i found a suitable size and shape for a companion uphill. 1.5hrs later i made it to the parking lot with my new rock. i brought it home and put it on my bathroom scale. GREAT workout!

hiking
1 year ago

Easy down, but tougher coming up. Short hike out to a dried up pool. When you reach the bottom of the valley and the trail splits left and right, follow the main trail right to the pool area.

hiking
2 years ago

easy hike, unfortunately the creek was dried up when we went but still a fun day. because no one was around i let my dog free roam which was nice. he loved it. we decided to rock climb a bit and follow the creek up to see if there was any water left. we found some fowl smelling stagnant water and saw a few baby gardener snakes.. quick easy hike. will be coming back only a few mins from my house.

3 years ago

Did this Jan 1 and went back for more Jan 2. At about 3.5 miles in you have to bushwack heavily. Ran a 7 mile out and back (cut over to 'Secret Trail') and hikes 9.5 out and back the next day. Ankles and shins paid a heavy price, but the trail is marked to clearing.

camping
3 years ago

Fairly easy trail to begin a new hobby of backpacking. Started at the trailhead at about 2pm to what is mostly a descent the first half of the way. We went down the Espinoza trail which followed along the dried creek. South alongside of the creek in the shaded grassy area is where we set up camp. We didn't see any easy way to get to that side without going through some brush. But we did our best to not disturb the area. We were (three of us) in complete solitude for the night. Hardly saw any animals except a rabbit and a couple of birds. Thankfully no rattlesnakes or mountain lions. Not too much bugs either. No mosquitoes, but that maybe due to the creek being dried up.

Woke up the next morning and headed on a day hike north along Pine Valley Creek to get to the watering hole. It was unfortunately dried up. Took a few pictures on the huge rocks. Found one that looked like a head of a dog and another the imprint of a face.

Aside from my training in the marines, which is a completely different type of experience, I don't have much to compare this trip to. It was easy enough for 3 first time backpackers. You can't really get lost. I'd recommend this trail for beginners.