OverviewSitton Peak is located in the southern half of the Santa Ana Mountains in Southern California. Though not one of the higher peaks in the range, its summit provides excellent views out towards the Pacific Ocean (Catalina Island), the mountains of north San Diego, and great wintertime views of the higher San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountain ranges. On exceptionally clear days you can see San Clemente Island (60 miles away), and north to the Santa Monica Mountains. Geographically its on the northern edge of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, and (with the surrounding peaks & ridges) forms the divide between the San Mateo Creek and San Juan Creek watersheds in southern Orange County. If you get bored with the wintertime snow, ice, and cold and want to do some easy, fun, scenic trail hiking, this would be an excellent choice.
From a little research, it seems the the peak was named after Orange County's Sitton family of the late 1800s-early 1900s. The elder was a prominent farmer/rancher in the City of Orange, his son a businessman in the City of Fullerton who owned one of the areas first car dealerships (Willys and Overland vehicles). Both were well known for spending time hunting and fishing in the Santa Ana Mountains. The family's land in the city of Orange was eventually donated for the Albert Sitton Childrens' Home, which was later incorporated into the Orangewood Childrens Home and OC Family Law & Juvenile Justice Center
At the base of the peak are a few remains of a Bell 'Super Cobra' attack helicopter that crashed in November 1986. Neither crew member survived. The only large piece remaining at the site is part of an aluminum rotor blade.
Getting ThereThe trailhead to the peak is the Bear Canyon Trail located near the San Juan Loop parking area across from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store off the Ortega Highway (State Route 74) between San Juan Capistrano (Orange County) and Lake Elsinore (Riverside County). From San Juan Capistrano: exit Interstate 5 at Ortega Highway/SR74 and travel east 19.5 miles to the San Juan Loop parking area across from the Candy Store. From Lake Elsinore: From the west side of Lake Elsinore, turn onto SR74, then travel about 10 miles to the San Juan Loop parking area. The road rises steeply with great views of the Lake, crests just before the El Cariso area, then slowly goes down (westward) towards the Ortega Oaks area.
To get to the trailhead from the parking area simply cross the road to the Candy Store, then head westward down the road for 50 yards and you should see the "Bear Canyon Trailhead" sign (its big!).
Red TapeNo wilderness permit is required for hiking, but parking in the San Juan Loop Parking lot requires an Adventure Pass. These are available at the Ortega Oaks Candy Store, at local sporting goods stores, or at the El Cariso Ranger Station. $5/day or $30/year Citations are issued to violators.
CampingThis is a day hike-able peak. You can camp in the San Mateo Wilderness with a wilderness permit, but you'll have to bring in all your own water. If you want to car camp in the area, the Upper San Juan Campground is just downhill of the trailhead towards SJC. Back up towards El Cariso you can turn on Long Canyon Road (look for the "Ortega Hot Shots" sign)and stay at the Blue Jay Campground, or drive further up the road to the El Cariso campground near the ranger station (and right next to busy SR74). Check with the Cleveland Natl Forest (website or by phone) to make sure these are open - these campgrounds can close during winter months, but are occasionally open during the holiday periods (Bluejay was open during Christmas 2011, Upper San Juan was not).
The Blue Jay campground also provides easy access to the nearby Main Divide Truck Trail, which gives easy access to Los Pinos Peak (about a 2 hour RT hike), plus a route to Trabuco Peak (about 12 miles RT from the campground).
External LinksLink to Cobra Helicopter crash info (the 'blade' is still there):
MiscellaneousThere are no water sources along the trail to the peak, so bring all the water you'll need for the 11 mile hike.
The first section of the trail along Bear Canyon is known for dense brush, and includes poison oak. Learn what it looks like and avoid it if at all possible.
Wear some old long pants. It'll help you avoid the poison oak, plus they're great for the final scramble up through the dense brush to the peak in the last 1/4 mile.
Dogs (leashed) and horses are allowed on this trail. If you do bring either, remember they can be affected by poison oak just as easily as you, and also transfer it onto you from their fur/bodies. On one trip a friend brought his dog . . . they were not a pretty sight the next few days;
Since horses are allowed, watch out for their 'road apples' along the trail;
This peak is in low-altitude, temperate Southern California, so meeting a rattlesnake is a possibility even in the winter months;
DO NOT do this hike in mid-summer! Its freakin HOT! Mid-summer temps regularly exceed 100F in the daytime.
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