Explore the most popular birding trails in Cleveland National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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.

Good hike for warm days.
Mostly shade

hiking
10 days 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.

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?

on Big Laguna Trail

14 days 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
15 days 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
15 days ago

Nice trail, some steep areas that get a little exciting but mostly fairly tame driving. It’s hot and not a lot of shade but worth the ride for beginners.

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.

Nice tree cover on the earlier sections of the trail. Saw a decent amount of bikers and other hikers passing us in both directions on the trail. View at the top was very nice. Start early because it gets hot!

This was an awesome, but brutal hike!! Bring plenty of water/electrolytes, food/snacks and a bandana for the dust from trucks and motorcycles! I drank plenty of water on the way up but still ended up cramping pretty bad! We hit the trail head at 6:30am and it took us 9 hours! ✔️one off my bucket list! ✌

This is a very nice Trail. However your coordinates for the trailhead are wrong and your distance is wrong. The trailhead is farther east from the coordinates you list. Also the trail itself is closer to 6 Mi not 4. If you do the westfork as well as the East Fork. You will have 10 miles. There are beautiful views. I don't really understand the chairs at the top. I would rather just stand up on a natural rock.

Don't do this in the heat. Wait until cooler weather. Nearly had a heat incident because i also ran out of water (3L). Two rattlesnake encounters. The views at the peak were meh, but I went for the workout anyway. View of the trail is nice towards the peak tho.

Didn’t get to the falls (couldn’t get a $10 permit) but nice hike nonetheless

Great wide trail. Absolutely beautiful up in the Pine Tree areas. We were blessed with a cool morning, but not a shaded hike. Moderate hike, took longer than expected, as we did not have any parking at the trail head. Lots of friendly bikers, we missed the very top, but hiked 16 miles. We plan on a Fall Hike to make it. A must see.

hiking
22 days ago

Hiked this 4 Months ago, lots of loose dirt and rocks up West Horsethief, bring a walking stick, extra water, and sunscreen. Beautiful views and worth it! Switchbacks were hard, especially in the Sun! Will be back.

6/23/18. Brutal hike for me. Make sure to bring a lot of water. Drank 9 bottles round trip. Pack a bandana to cover your mouth from the dust left behind motorbikes and trucks. Enjoyed the first half. Dirt and very demanding the last half, but I am 67, lol.
Went slow and it took 9 hours, 41,000+ steps!
Hike on a cool day, no shade near the top.
Very inspired when we made it.

backpacking
22 days ago

This review is more about car accessibility, dogs, water availability, and insects (especially bees).

Went on a little backpacking trip from 6/23-6/25/18. It was 80-85 degrees during the day and full sun. I brought my two very fluffy dogs with me and went 3 miles down the hill to the creek. I left the main trail and followed the trail to the left (south, downstream) one mile. One mile downstream there is a large oak perfect for climbing and very shady to set up multiple tents. And alright yes a campfire ring, but please DO NOT start a fire! Also there is a stone dam and tower and small sandy beaches to enjoy. To get there go just beyond the campsite, up and over the rocks. At the top is a lone cactus, at that point head down and walk along the creek to avoid the very steep hill down directly to the dam and tower. I saw 3 hikers total on my entire trip so a very secluded trail!!

There is minimal shade along the first 3 miles till you hit the creek. It is best to complete this portion of the hike before 930-10a. The shade is optimal then as the hill is basically west facing. The first mile or so has partial shade at least every 0.1 miles, then no shade for 1 mile, then spotty shade till the creek. It is gently sloping downhill, but nothing strenuous at all even on the way up. Took me two hours to do the 4 miles to the campsite and just under 2.5 hours back to the car. I did stop whenever the dogs wanted to and for however long they wanted. Walked at a very average pace.

Water- No water until one mile downstream (4 miles total). Currently there are several pools of water varying from 20 feet in length to only a few; they are up to 4 feet deep and are not flowing. Please be conservative and conscientious when using water to avoid washing any sunscreen, bug spray, and dish water into the pools. It is also very easy to mistakenly scoop up tadpoles, frog eggs, and fish! Critters of every size and class are trying to make it in and around there!

Car accessibility- I have a 2005 Hyundai Accent so low clearance and very compact. I did not find the road leading to the trail head to be very bad at all! Took me 50 minutes to go up and down since due to my vehicle I have to be very careful and thoughtful about how I drive up there. Definitely having a narrow car that allows me to use the whole road to avoid bad areas was very helpful and a wider car with similar clearance may have more problems.

Dogs (previous ER/ICU vet nurse here)- Do not attempt this hike if it is above 85 degrees with your dog especially between 10a-2p!! Bring bare minimum 1 liter of water just for each dog (just for this 3 mile portion) and let them have a good rest in every bit of shade and free choice water at all times. After heat, your next biggest enemy is foxtails!! Right now it is peak season and the meadow the oak tree campsite is in is filled with them! Check frequently especially deep in the toes. Dogs have died from going septic from them embedding themselves. They will creep up into the eyes, ears, nose, prepubis, everywhere!! I spent at least 6 hours removing them total. Did pick off a few mostly dog ticks (not a large prevalence of tick borne dz in SoCal), they have 2 month (out of 3 month) old Scalibor collars but they go in the water a lot.

Insects- Yes expect a constant buzz. Once a swarm finds you walking along the creek, you've got new friends. They were tolerable, but certainly disrupt mediation. The mosquitoes are not too bad just annoying flies. Far from ruined the trip for me! I found Honest brand bug spray (mostly essential oils) worked fairly well but needed frequent application. If you care about bees as I do, due to a severe allergy, then its not perfect but it could be worse. I attract bees like crazy! So I still had a few stalkers, but no stings. Wildflowers are currently in bloom the first 0.5 miles and then along the creek where there is water. The ones along the creek seemed basically too pre-occupied to pay me attention. A few got a little interested, but not for long. I felt comfortable knocking into the flowers that crossed the path even if bees were busy working on the bush. The ones to be worried about are the swarms on the little white poms in the first 0.5 mile of the trail. There are just so many bees and I believe close to a hive that they are more protective and I had quite the stalker for a while that made me nervous (...and forget my hiking poles in the car!).

Things I was glad I brought or wished I had:
- Bug spray
- Visor > sunglasses
- Sunscreen
- Chapstick
- Hiking poles- lots of loose gravel and small rocks on the trail that poles help balance and stabilize you
- Comb to help remove foxtails from dogs
- Way to clean water

Things you don't need:
- sleeping pad- quite comfy on the bed of oak leaves, not worth the weight

hiking
23 days ago

Awesome hike. Took my kite with me to fly at the peak. Beautiful location. No shade so hat is recommended.

on Eagle Peak Trail

24 days ago

Love it

backpacking
24 days ago

This is a tough section of trail. After the first mile or two, the next eight to nine miles are mostly an uphill slog. Be careful with your water rationing. I did not find a campsite until mile 11.2 on the AllTrails gps app. Keep your eye out for a small clearing on your left through some bushes. It’s mostly flat scree, but toward the rear, in front of some bushes on the other side, there’s some dirt where I was able to stake out a couple of guy lines. My Tarptent Rainbow is free standing using trekking poles, so I only had to stake out two guy lines, one for the vestibule and one for added room at the rear of the tent. I only had about a liter and a half of water, out of 6 liters, left the next day to make it to Lake Morena. It wasn’t enough. Again, ration your water. Still learning the AllTrails app, and accidentally deleted the remaining recording from the campsite to Lake Morena. There was another campsite I saw further up the trail, but it wasn’t until about between miles 13 and 15, I believe. Hindsight being 20/20, I’d say the best options are to either plan to camp at about 11.2 miles or just go to Lake Morena in one day (about 20 miles even though the map says 18.7).

For the ladies, the site I found is behind some brush. You’re fairly shielded. The campsite opportunity at between miles 13 and 15 would allow you to camp much further off the trail and possibly be unseen from the trail. A note to everyone: PACE yourselves at the beginning of this hike. The uphill walk is deceptive in that it is gradual, but can be brutal if you attack it aggressively as I did. I’m aware of what a previous reviewer wrote. I disagree. I’m not trolling, however, my experience was that it was not mostly flat. Also, it does get easier after the first 10 miles, but there are two rather long and steep uphill portions towards the end. However, nothing like Mt. Baldy or Mt. Whitney. Enjoy!

Choose your own adventure rock climbing! Lots of paths and routes, the all go up, but they're not kidding when they tell you to stick to the very center of the ridge (nothing like starting up a chimney and coming eye level to a bolted anchor 5' to your right on the same rock).
Going down is balls. This would be WAY better as a through hike (leave a bike or 2nd car at the main El Cajon TH).
I saw ZERO rattlesnakes (hiked from 10:30am to 4:30pm), but I did see not one, not two, but THREE GOLDEN EAGLES soar over my head. Best part of the hike.
I brought 2L and ran out towards the end. Bring at least 3L. The only shade on the entire hike is under lunch rock.
The discomfort of feeling sweat run down your legs under your gaiters is worth the protection from the billions of foxtails and evil desert bushes towards the top.

This site has good beta: http://www.vistaseeker.com/2016/01/25/el-cajon-mountain-south-arete/

off road driving
24 days ago

Great intro hike for younger Boy Scouts. They had a blast going up and back. If you have a group you can email the observatory for a guided tour.

This was definitely a moderate hike. challenging towards the end but the view was really nice and worth the hike. only passed 3 people the whole way. if you like solitude there are a lot of options at the top for where you can plant yourself and sit for a few.

Love this hike! Good amount of parking, scenic mountains on the way down and decent work out on the way back. Wear a bathing suit and pack a lunch and hang near the water for a bit. I swam before hiking back to help beat the heat. There is zero shade besides down by the water so be smart. I went last week and there really was just a trickle vs a waterfall but definitely still worth the hike. Oh and get your permit - they checked mine at the tent before entering and then again after I had already done ~2 miles.

Beautiful views!

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