Los Pinos Peak is a prominent peak located in the Santa Ana Mountains, part of the Peninsular Range of Southern California. Los Pinos Peak makes it onto the Lower Peak List of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club. Though not a big peak elevation wise, Los Pinos Peak does rank fifth in the range with 450 feet of prominence (after Santiago Peak, Trabuco Peak, Sitton Peak and Modjeska Peak. It is prominent above Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano and looms above the Ortega Highway. Los Pinos Peak is the southern most 4'er in the range, so the views from this peak are endless with views way down south, of the Pacific Ocean (Catalina and San Clemente Islands), San Jacinto Mountains, San Bernardino Mountains, San Gabriel Mountians and much more of Southern California.
Route InfoThere are three routes that can be used to access this peak: the Main Divide Road (shortest route), Trabuco Canyon Trail, and then the Los Pinos Peak Trail (longest route).
Main Divide Road- This is by far the easiest way to access this peak. The Main Divide Road begins just north of Blue Jay Campground along the North Main Divide Road (its a loop coming up from the Ortega Hwy). Main Divide Road is a dirt forest service road that traverses the entire range. The road going up is steep, but drivable and definitely hikable. You will keep going up until you reach a pass and there will be a gate and some teal looking posts to the left. A little further there are thick stands of pine trees. The Los Pinos Trail can then be accessed just past the teal posts (there is some biking spandax wrapped around one of the posts as of April 9th, 2009). A little trail snakes off to the left, follow this upwards!!! (downwards leads into Trabuco Canyon via the Trabuco Canyon Trail!!). Los Pinos Peak Trail then traverses the ridgeline and then reaches the actual peak. This route is around 8 miles roundtrip with 1140ft of elevation gain.
Trabuco Canyon Trail- This trail starts in Trabuco Canyon at the end of Trabuco Creek Road. This trail works it's way up through oak covered trails up the NW fast of Los Pinos Peak. From the start of the trail, its around 4 miles to the Main Divide Road. Right where the trail ends, the Los Pinos Peak Trail begins. Follow this up the ridge another for around a mile. Los Pinos Peak is furthest highpoint along the ridge (there is one false summit). Watch for poison oak! Its around 10 miles roundtrip with 2490ft of elevation gain.
Los Pinos Peak Trail- This trail begins in Hot Springs Canyon and works it's way of Los Pinos Peak's prominent West Ridge. This is a very popular trail for mountain bikers and takes LOTS of endurance. It is also very steep and has hardly any shade. Its about 14 miles roundtrip with 3620ft of elevation gain. Los Pinos Peak Trail on MBpost.
The Name "Los Pinos"
"Los Pinos" is Spanish for the pines, which can be found all over Los Pinos Peak's northern slope. However, these pine trees are not what helped the peak attain its name; the grouping of pine trees on it's southern face just below the summit is what gave this peak it's name. This grouping of trees is visiable from miles around and makes it easy to spot the true summit of Los Pinos Peak. This sight can best be seen from Blue Jay Campground. I know what your saying, "Pine trees?!?...in coastal mountains of Southern California?" However, it is true.
An Adventure Pass is necessary in order to park at the trailhead. You can purchase a $5 day pass or purchase a $30 year pass at local shops or at sporting good stores.
Also, the Cleveland National Forest periodically closes the forest roads to cars for maintenance or for other reasons. Forest road closures will only affect those depending upon the forest service roads for access. Main Divide Road is closed to cars quite often.
If you take Trabuco Canyon Trail, depending upon when you go, Trabuco Creek may be a driving issue. Avoid taking this trail during very wet periods, after and during storms.
There are three campgrounds in the vicinity of Los Pinos Peak that provide great access to the three main routes to the peak.
The first is Blue Jay Campground, which is located just SE of the peak. This campground has great access to the Main Divide Road (the shortest route to Los Pinos Peak). Also, the upper trailhead for the San Juan Trail (a big attraction for mountain bikers) begins at Blue Jay Campground.
The second ishref="http://www.ocparks.com/oneillpark/">O'Neil Regional Park, which is an oak tree covered campground in Trabuco Canyon maintained by Orange County. This campground is best for those who wish to take the Trabuco Canyon Trail to Los Pinos Peak.
The third is Upper San Juan Campground. This campground is located along the Ortega Highway and is about 6 miles away from the Los Pinos Peak Trailhead in Hot Springs Canyon.
To Trabuco Canyon from Orange County- (Directions taken from the SummitPost Holy Jim Trail Page by Scott M..)
If you are approaching from points north you should either exit the 55 freeway at Chapman and head east or Interstate 5 at Jamboree heading north. Where Jamboree and Chapman intersect in east Orange (gas and market) you will either go straight if coming from the 55 on Chapman or turn right if coming up Jamboree on to Santiago Canyon Road. Follow Santiago Canyon Road for just less than 13 miles to Live Oak Canyon Road. You will be turning left here. There is a popular road house for the "Harley crowd" here at this intersection known as Cook's Corner.
If approaching from the south exit off Interstate 5 at El Toro Road and go north for about 7.5 miles to this same intersection. You will be turning right here.
From Cook's Corner head east for about 4.4 miles to a fairly obvious wash. You will pass a small store on your left and O'Neill Park on your right. The store is your last chance for supplies. Adventure Passes may be available at the store.
Turn left up on the dirt road (Trabuco Creek Road) immediately after the wash and follow this rough road for 4.7 miles to the trailhead parking area. No services or piped water. The parking area is immediately after the Holy Jim Fire Station (unmanned). Be sure to display your Adventure Pass. Note: After heavy rains this road may be tough to negotiate since it crosses Trabuco Creek several times (no bridges). Other than these times 4WD is not normally required but high ground clearance is recommended. Passenger cars can make the trip with caution.
After the turn the parking for the Holy Jim Trail, Trabuco Creek Road continues on to the Trabuco Canyon Trail. The Trabuco Canyon Trail starts when Trabuco Creek Road Ends.
(Note:The 241 toll road makes a nice short cut over to Santiago Canyon Road if you are approaching from the Inland Empire on the 91 freeway. From the 91 head south on the 241 to Santiago Canyon Road. Head east for about 11 miles to Live Oak Canyon road. See directions given from there in previous paragraphs.)
To Main Divide Road from Lake Elsinore- If your heading North on the 15 Freeway, take a left onto Central Avenue (and a right if your heading South). Take a right on Collier Avenue. Then take a left on Riverside Drive and follow this for a long time (around 4 miles). It turns into Grand Avenue when the road curves around the West shore of Lake Elsinore. Then, take a right onto the Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74) and follow this for 5.1 miles until you crest a summit. Take a right onto North Main Divide Road and follow this for 3.8 miles until you see a big turnout on the right side. This is where Main Divide Road Starts. The gate may or may not be open. If it is, you can drive up Main Divide Road and save yourself some energy. If you go a mile further, you will reach Blue Jay Campground.
To the Los Pinos Peak Trailhead from San Juan Capistrano-If your heading North on the 5 Freeway, take a right (if your going South, take a left) onto the Ortega Hwy. Go 12.5 miles until you reach Hot Springs Canyon Road (its a dirt road). There is a ranger station just after the turn, so you can't miss it. Follow this road for 1.7 miles (past the San Juan Trailhead) until you see a large open turnout on the left side. Park here.
Thee SummitA few informational pictures of the summit
Cleveland National Forest- Trabuco Ranger District
Keith Fletcher, District Ranger
1147 East Sixth Street
Corona, CA 92879
Cleveland National Forest
Cleveland National Forest website
Current conditions of the forest service roads.
A list of established campground in the Cleveland National Forest.
Current Weather Conditions for Los Pinos Peak by NOAA