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Cleveland National Forest is the southernmost National Forest in the state of California. The Forest encompasses 460,000 acres in divided into the Descanso, Palomar and Trabuco Ranger Districts and is in the counties of San Diego, Riverside, and Orange County. The U.S. Forest Service requires National Forest Adventure Pass for parking in many areas of the Cleveland National Forest. Popular activities include enjoying the picnic areas, hitting up the hiking trails up Laguna Mountain and Palomar Mountain, horseback riding, mountain biking. This is also a great place for camping. The Cleveland National Forest has campgrounds in the Descanso, Palomar, and Trabuco Ranger District as well as dispersed camping for a fee. Visitors can also take a drive along the Sunrise Scenic Highway and off roaders will enjoy the Corral Canyon and Wildomar Off-Highway Vehicle Areas. The forest makes a great weekend trip from Los Angeles or other Southern California cities and is a great way to take in the Santa Ana Mountains.

Very enjoyable hike. Wildflowers, butterflies, interesting bugs. Absolutely no one else on the trail on a weekday afternoon, so nice and isolated feeling. I wanted to stay and enjoy the incredible 360° view from the very top, but it was so incredibly windy, I thought I would be blown off the side of the mountain. Gorgeous.

mountain biking
8 days ago

It is a great trail but it’s definitely not for beginners. I’m a beginner so it was a terrible experience. I should’ve checked the difficulty first but I just trusted my husband. Get plenty of water if you’re planning to walk it. :)

A great hike with amazing views at the top on a clear day! Need to be in good condition.

Only negative is all the trucks and motorcycles. A very dusty trail due to that... otherwise it’s a great hike with great views... nice trees!

hiking
13 days ago

This hike is one of my favorites. Can’t beat the 360 degrees views at the top!

Hike this trail as a child many time brings back fond memories. Much more populated now!

off road driving
15 days ago

Fun trail. We took Indian Truck Trail and went right at the main divide up to Santiago Peak. Trail was easy in our stock Rubicon with about three rocky parts with erosion ruts but they were fun. Highly recommend for an afternoon that is close to home. Took us about three hours round trip.

many of the paths are closed and don't even connect....but I made it work and had a great time! bring plenty of water, I also saw a lot of mountain bikers.

backpacking
16 days ago

Don’t count on any water at the bottom of the hike in.

off road driving
19 days ago

Got my first 4x4 (2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee-High Altitude). While still getting familiar with off-roading my buddy and I followed each other (up then down) 7 miles each direction. Had a blast!! Great views and a nice upward windy trail to the top where you can have lunch overlooking the valleys. Some partial spots w/ jagged rocks but nothing any all-terrain tire can’t handle. Did it in 4WD high the whole way, but the majority could be done in 2WD in a truck or SUV with good clearance. Unfortunately I still had the stock (non all-terrain) tires on that day (July 2018) , the jagged rocks took a few half-inch chunks out of my stock tires (265/50/20) so I upgraded them last week to the Nitto Terra Grappler G2’s (same size) and wow...what a difference! Went back on the same trail w/ my wife last week and had the confidence to tackle it with ease. She wasn’t as enthusiastic about the windy and bumpy trail as my friend and I were (ha!), but kudos to her for being a trooper. Fun trail, will do it again in the near future.

19 days ago

Awesome trail. Gorgeous views.

hiking
19 days ago

This is by far probably one of my favorite hikes! The view from the peak is just spectacular! We hiked it later in the day in the heat so we had the trail and peak to ourselves. There is little to no shade on this trail so if you plan on hiking during the warmer months be sure to bring lots of water, sunscreen, a hat, and clothing to help shield you from the sun. It is a fairly short trail and the elevation gain is minimal making this an easy trail. The trail intersects with the PCT about 0.6 miles in so you can add more mileage to your hike if you choose. There are no bathrooms near the trailhead, but the visitor center isn't too far down the road. Saw lots of lizards, butterflies, dragonflies, and birds - did not see any snakes but I'm sure there were some around given the terrain.

off road driving
23 days ago

Good trail for beginners looking to get their feet wet with off-road adventures. I completed it in a stock 2018 Raptor. I used 4H just to give me a bit more stability, but it could have easily been done in 2WD. A truck this wide will get some pin striping and there are some tight turns but I didn't have any issues

The trail is not terribly challenging. You'll need more clearance than your typical car has, but any cross over should do just fine. RAV4's, CRV's, Ford Escapes, Subaru's shouldn't have a problem here, especially if you have AWD variants. There are protruding rocks and ruts so you'll want to mind your speed if you don't have a huge amount of ground clearance to avoid bottoming out. If you have something more capable like a SUV, Jeep or truck, you can carry a bit more speed without worrying about bottoming out.

There are virtually no side trails here, you get to a dead end and head back the way you came with no options to explore much of anything else. I personally find Otay Truck Trail quite a bit more enjoyable. It's longer, better views, and has tons of side trails, many of which can be pretty challenging.

Full Video here: https://youtu.be/yXLEDW6JnNs

hiking
26 days ago

A great hike... nice views and beautiful trees of many varieties. Some of the largest Acorns I’ve ever seen. For sure I’ll do again.

Great hike with an awesome waterfall to play around or near. Fun little "pool" area at the base of the falls to cool down in. Our dog loved it too. If u do bring your dog go early because of the heat....and plenty of water for you and your pooch. Hike back wasn't too bad, the last .5 mile back was probably the hardest. Only saw one snake..

Did this from the Penny Pines trailhead. About 8 miles in total, 4 hours. It was about 89° out, definitely hotter than expected, especially at an altitude where snow falls in the winter. Went through 2L of water easily, should’ve brought 3. Definitely one of the most scenic routes in all of Mount Laguna. I like Garnet Peak a little more because there’s no antennas or buildings, but Monument Peak is definitely a more epic vantage point as it’s a bit higher and more prominent. The sweeping views of the Anza Borrego desert down below are amazing. I look forward to doing this one again in the winter, when the sky is clearer and there’s snow on the ground.

The most difficult hike in San Diego. Great challenges come great rewards. The views are amazing just like they say. You wont be disappointed. It is very easy to loose the trail or try to go around an obstacle and end up on a cliff face or another impassable obstacle. This is more of a climb than a hike. Stay on the ridge line. The descent is harder then the climb, so give yourself plenty of time and bring at least 3 litres of water.

I highly recommend this hike but read the cautions below.
My fiancé and I went in April and had an amazing time. We are a young and fairly active couple and this trail was not extremely difficult but I can see how it’s difficult for others. I recommend to head out first thing in the morning as the afternoon sun is VERY hot and with the dry heat, it becomes unbearable. There’s barely no shade on the trail so when that sun is blazing, you’re completely exposed to the sun and heat. Come prepared with plenty of water and high energy food. We brought eight bottles of water each and went through 6 easily. The trail is a 1 person wide dirt trail with no barriers and minimal markers. I’m scared of heights and the trail made me uncomfortable at times when it was steep and if I fell I felt like it would be to my death of tumbling down the rocky side with minimal to no shrubs to stop my fall. Other areas of the trail were fine. As we got closer to the waterfalls, there was more shade and trees but larger rocks we had to climb over. We got to a point that we weren’t sure if we were on the right track as there wasn’t a distinct trail to follow nor markers, but then we would randomly find a ribbon on a branch.
At the end of the trail are the waterfalls, they are awesome. I would recommend to bring a swimsuit and a towel, freezing water but a great way to cool off. To get to the top waterfall you have to climb the rocks which are smooth and steep and only have a rope to help you up. Bring good gripping shoes and gloves (if you’re hands are on the sensitive side).
CAUTION!!!
So this trail is completely do able, but be SAFE. On our way we ran into a group in which one of the guys broke his leg and since there’s no signal, they had to carry him back to the car (in which there is still no signal in the parking lot and only signal after an hour drive back towards the highway). If you have a radio, I would recommend to bring a radio with you so you can call for help incase. The man broke his leg going down the old trail in which the rope was removed to prevent people from going down, sever accidents will entail if you try this. Do not rush down the ropes at the waterfall, I saw someone loose balance and almost flew into the tree and stones and would’ve broken his back or head if it wasn’t for his friend saving him from falling to his death. Like I said, be safe, go prepared, don’t be stupid, and you’ll survive without any issues.

Good hike for warm days.
Mostly shade

hiking
1 month ago

This trail is awesome! I hiked it going down from Blue Jay Campground, and stayed on the northern sections which tended to be more shaded. The path is very easy to see and navigate by foot, and I could see a ton of mountain bike tracks in the more rutted areas. I made it all the way down to the hard turn in the clearings south of the Mary Thomas bridge before I turned around and headed back up since it was approaching sunset. I will say that it is much harder to go back up than come down, but not impossible. No climbing necessary. This was my first time ever on this trail, and had never heard of it before camping at Blue Jay, but now I want to go back and do the whole thing!

One thing I will critique though, is that the intersections in the trail are not very well marked. There are some white spray paint markings with arrows along the trail and at the intersection, but they're not in a very easy to understand format. So have your wits about you and make cairns or leave non-permanent markers to show you which way you came if you're doing a shuttle/in-n-out run.

Cool lil trail but as of July 7 it is bone dry.

Hiking boots, 3 liters of water, hat, and snacks are a good idea. You should be prepared doing this hike. It's very hot, lack of shade, loose trail, unstable ground. This is not a place for kids or dogs. The ground is 110 degrees so this could kill your pup. We had to carry a dog off the mountain before. Lots of dogs die hiking in the heat.
This is one of my favorite hikes. The new trail is as a lot easier, but I prefer the original route with the ropes. There is a total of 5 ropes to help you up and down the steep ledges. I bring gloves because it is rough on my hands.

Beautiful views. Make sure to purchase a permit. One permit for 5 people. Bring plenty of water and food. Don't forget your hat and sunscreen lotion because there are no shades. It was easy on the way down to the water fall. Yet, on the way back was a challenging. There was a little snake in the water. Be careful. I was there last week, July 1st.

Help someone! If anyone could comment and direct me to The right trail head beginning for this trail, I would really appreciate it. Pardon my seeming noviceness LOL. I hike “hard to difficult” trails every week, and I’ve done the El Capitan side of this a couple of times, though not finishing it, going in at least 5 miles in and 5 miles back. I really want to do this south entrance trail. I parked just before the entrance of the reservoir and saw what looked like the beginning of the trail, though there are some little trails, each lead me to nowhere. I really want to do this side of the mountain it looks awesome. Anyone know exactly where to begin?

I am just starting to hike and agree it is a moderate hike. Only downside was the heat, can get really hot so make sure you take lots of water and are hydrated before. On our way down to waterfall sun was out so I was pretty drained getting there, but on our way back up sun wasn't as strong and I was able to make it up easily. Took us a little under 2 hours both ways. Good hike overall.

on Big Laguna Trail

1 month ago

If you want to smell pines, this is it!

Started out at the entrance by Campsite and headed to the other end of sunrise highway.

You can pick up more trails to add elevation and mileage to make this “moderate”. You are above 5000ft above sea level - very temperate weather.

Make sure to download maps - cell signal is non-existent.

hiking
1 month ago

i love the laguna area. especially this pct stretch up there. no where else in the county you can get the full appreciation of forested green mountain tops, with sweeping panoramic views tailing into the desert. go during a high pressure system because you can see clear across the salton sea to the chocolate mountains east of he city of pope. bring water and food, shelter too because you may not want to come down from there.

off road driving
1 month ago

Nice trail, some steep areas that get a little exciting but mostly fairly tame driving. It can get hot, so keep water close, totally worth the ride for the views.

March 26th 2018 the waterfalls were flowing and gorgeous everything green and birds are chirping

If you do this hike in the summer, start early, it gets very hot. Best to start by 6 am. Challenging hike but the view at the top is well worth it. Bring plenty of water, I drank almost 4 liters.

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