What an awesome and challenging hike. The actual trailhead is on Robinson Ranch Road, not at the GPS location on Meander Lane. You can't miss it! It is street parking only. Also, from the trailhead to Los Pinos Peak it is about 14 miles, not the 9.5 listed above. Four of us used a GPS to track the miles and we were all within a few tenths of each other. Except for mine. I had 15 miles, but I did some extra hiking along the way.
The elevation on the Los Pinos Peak sign at read it was 4500'. This was pretty close to our GPS trackers. With that said, the challenge on this hike, aside from the distance, was the total elevation gain and some of the very steep ascents and descents.
My total elevation gain was 5697'. That tells you there are a lot of elevation gains and losses (ups and downs) throughout this hike. Some parts of the climb are very strenuous and require some rock scrambling. Coming down is just as difficult as going up so be aware.
I did this hike with an advanced level group of hikers and I would not recommend anyone do it solo. Mainly, because of the distance and the potential for injury due to the challenging ups and downs.
Early on in the hike we saw lots of hikers. All of them only hiking up about 2 miles to the Flag and then turning back. Seems that is a popular hike and I would consider it moderate. Beyond that, we saw no one hiking on the trail.
At the peak there was a large group that came up the Los Pinos Peak Trail. They were headed to the camp ground for the night and then on to other peaks.
If you want the challenge and you are up for a strenuous hike this it. Just make sure you have others with you and you know what you are getting into. Bring lots of water. I carry 6 litters on most of my hikes. The conditions for us were cool, but I still drank about 3.5 litters. Bring lots of energy snacks and a lunch. This hike will drain your reserves! Happy Trails and Safe Hiking!
Favorite trail in the Santa Ana's. There is a great place to stop for a bite/recharge just under halfway to Los Pinos Peak. Look for large rock outcrop (Large angular bloulders of light grey metamorphosed limestone... fairly rotten rock so I wouldn't try to get too crazy climbing the face of it) to left of trail, it is obscured by some bushes but if you crawl up on on the rocks there is an excellent view of Santiago Peak and upper Trabuco Canyon/ Holy Jim Canyon. Watch for rattlesnakes... I've seen a few on the ridge.
You can also descend to Yeager Mesa from this trail but the trail down is obscured and you have to be looking for it... not even mentioning poison oak and other things that have overgrown the little used trail.
Hormuzd K. on Los Pinos Peak - Via Bell View Canyon
This is a barely used pretty unknown trail. You really feel like you are in the wilderness on this one. The trail is very steep at places. Hiking poles are recommended.