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San Juan Trail to Sugarloaf Peak

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Cleveland National Forest

San Juan Trail to Sugarloaf Peak is a 12.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near San Juan Capistrano, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 12.4 miles Elevation Gain: 2,509 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

hiking

mountain biking

nature trips

bird watching

views

wild flowers

Nice views, poor trail condition (bikes), biting flies.

Amazing views the hike is easy not that hard. No shade so it’s better to hike early. I enjoyed it a lot!

Great trail, wish it went to the top of Sugarloaf. So many bugs when the sun came out.

Great hike. The trail is rutted but not nearly as bad as other reviewers described. Only saw a few mountain bikers and they were courteous. Starts out with switchbacks then eventually climbs onto a ridge till the peak. To get to the peak is a steep climb off trail, look for the cairn on the left side of the trail for that trail. Beautiful wildflowers right now too. 12.6 miles total

hiking
washed out
3 months ago

Some cool views but never on top of a mountain. Very rutted in March 2020. Lots of mountain bikes Sunday morning. Need a $5 adventure pass.

Lots of Mtn bikes but all riders were nice and respectful.

hiking
no shade
4 months ago

lovely trail. start early. we began at 6am and I think we should have set out earlier very little shade. great views and a not to challenging intermediate hike finding the top was fun.

Pros: Outstanding Summit, Great Views. Cons: Poor Trail Condition that is Single Track, Rocky, Slippery, and Eroded with Numerous Deep Ruts.

mountain biking
over grown
6 months ago

6 months ago

If you haven't hike this trail its a must. I rate it #1 as a real hiking experience its very narrow has an ever changing landscape. Lots of ridgeline climbing. I rate it also #1 for the best views from the base to the peak. The last scramble to the peak is tough , look for the carin on the left about the 6 mile mark.

running
over grown
scramble
8 months ago

The trail overall was amazing easy “local” hike we didn’t see as many mountain bikers as previous reviews stated but we also started at 6am to beat the heat, we finished around 11:30 with a 15 minute break at the top of sugarloaf peak. To find the peak look for the carien just past where the trail splits off. You will have to bushwhacked a little bit totally worth it when you make it to the peak!! 5 out of 5

hiking
Fri May 31 2019

Uphill hike not a death march just continuous Deep ruts hard to navigate Hardly any directional signs You need a recreation parking permit

hiking
bugs
no shade
off trail
over grown
rocky
Fri Apr 26 2019

hiking
Sun Mar 24 2019

Beautiful trail. The view at the top is worth the trek!

hiking
washed out
Tue Mar 05 2019

Fun hike to a challenging peak. Finding the trail to the peak of Old Sugarloaf is a bit of a hunt in itself.

hiking
no shade
Sun Jan 27 2019

This trail is not for hikers. I was clearly the only one who thought it might be because I didn't see a single other hiker. This may be a great trail for biking, I have no idea, but the cyclists were out in force. I didn't get hit once, I consider this an accomplishment. Getting to the trail is easy, you need an Adventure Pass to park. The distance and grade wasn't too difficult. The trail was very easy to follow. The final mile was rocky and fun to hike. Ok, the cons: Almost no shade The first mile was mostly switchbacks So many mountain bikers coming down full speed, some places where you have nowhere to let them pass The trail was mostly loose dirt on hard ground, like a bad softball field. You will slip, a lot. Probably even fall a few times. There are many deep ruts that are only four inches wide. Most are unavoidable. A step on the side of the rut will make you fall. So you're stuck walking like you're on a tightrope. Some parts of the trail are partially washed out so you need to run across them to avoid sliding down into a ravine. Easy with the momentum of a bike, harder on foot. One of the bikers suggested hiking South of Ortega highway where bikes aren't allowed.

hiking
Tue Nov 20 2018

11/17/18 A note about "Sugarloaf Peak" - It looks pretty and like there would be cool views, but the San Juan trail does not actually reach the top of the peak. Rather, it connects to another trail. Still satisfying. However, if you like a real climactic "I've arrived" moment at the end of your hike, this may not be the one for you. Reaching the hike requires a turn-off of Ortega Highway, past a Fire station and about 0.4-0.6 miles along a dirt road. I drive an old, small sedan and still made it just fine--but you'll want to make sure your tires are properly inflated just in case. After the dirt, you reach a paved road again for a little ways longer and then the parking location next to the bathroom & trailhead is readily apparent. The trail itself is nice, it's a steady incline the whole way. There are a TON of mountain bikers which poses 2 problems. 1.) The potential of getting mowed down around a blind corner 2.) The trail is significantly carved out, presumably from excessive mountain bike traffic, creating a little ravine on the trail. It's not the trail for the faint-of-ankled. All that said, it is a beautiful trail with repeated and diverse views of the surrounding mountains, Orange County, and the Pacific. I definitely recommend, so long as you are prepared to dodge the mountain bikers.

hiking
Sun Dec 31 2017

Well marked trail and great views! I took my dog and really enjoyed it. My only complaint is the courtesy of the cyclists on this trail. It seemed like every five minutes I have to find a spot to wait off the trail for a herd of bikers to pass. It took away from the overall experience, but I’m sure during the week this trail would be deserted.

hiking
Sun Dec 17 2017

Nice trail, easy to navigate. If you are hiking, watch out for the bicyclists.

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