Pacific Coast Trail: Combs Peak is a 4.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Anza, CA that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is accessible from March until November.
Directions from LA Basin: (To reach the northern end of this segment of the PCT) Take Interstate 15 south to Highway 79-Temecula. Travel Hwy. 79 east to Hwy. 371. Take Hwy. 371 east to Kirby Road, about 5 miles west of the junction of 371 and 74.
Very enjoyable hike that should be rated hard by alltrails "standards". The first 1.7ish miles is PCT. You'll see a small rock pile to your left on a winding section of the PCT at that distance which marks the trail up to the summit. I'm pretty sure the elevation gain was only about 1150 ft. Almost all of the elevation gain is in the last half mile. It is very steep and very slippery. Bring poles if you got 'em. Views are worth it!
This is a very nice, very uncrowded hike, with excellent views. There are two reasons I gave 4 instead of 5 stars. The first is that the road leading to the trailhead (Lost Valley Road) isn't paved, and unless you have a 4x4, it's not a lot of fun driving. [Note: This shouldn't dissuade anyone from driving here, we did just fine in a Volkswagen, but I wouldn't try something with a very low clearance.] The second is that while the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) part of the hike is in excellent shape and well-maintained, the "climber's trail" up to Combs Peak is a bit hard to find and a bit hard to follow. We passed the turnoff while walking the PCT, and had to back-track a bit. I didn't measure exactly where the turn-off is, but it's definitely between 1.75 and 2.00 miles from the trailhead, with 1.85 being my best guess. It's marked by a rock formation ("duck"), which leads to the climber's trail that zig-zags up the mountain. We were able to follow the ducks all the way up the mountain without any problems - there were a ton of ducks. Coming down, we lost the trail (it's harder to see going downhill than up because of the vegetation), but it wasn't a huge deal because we could see the PCT the whole time and just angled our descent towards the PCT. Walking up the footing was fine, but coming down there were a couple places where I wish the footing would have been better, as there are many smallish rocks that move around under your feet. All of this was well worth it, however, as the view from the top was spectacular, with views in all directions. Hot Springs Mountain and Lake Henshaw were easily viewable to the South, and many mountains including Mt San Jacinto were right there to the North. I thought the view from Combs Peak was better than that of Hot Springs Mountain, as it has less impediments. Also, assuming you don't get lost, the hike is fairly short (5 miles roundtrip, with just about 4 on the PCT), and very uncrowded (we saw nobody on the trail).