Black Star Canyon to Corona

Trailhead11893-, 12247 Black Star Canyon Rd, Silverado, CA 92676
Length: 13.1 miles point to point
Elevation Gain: 2750 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced for the length of the hike
Total time: 6 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Park at Skyline and arrange for a shuttle (a generous friend, a Lyft, Santa on his way to deliver presents…)

Last year I joined Lazy Ass Hiking on their annual Santa Hat hike which starts at Black Star Canyon in Silverado and ends in Corona. After completing the trek which is all on fire road, I said to myself “Welp, that’s one I never need to do again.”

Unfortunately my roommate who hadn’t done it before didn’t agree with me and coerced me into doing it again this year despite my reassurances to her that 13.1 miles of fire road is even worse than it sounds.

Annnnyway, to do this hike you’re going to want to park at the Skyline trail head in Corona at Foothill and Trudy way and then get a shuttle to take you to the trail head which is about 25 min away. You can probably get a Lyft there, or do what Lazy Ass Hiking does, and hire a pre-school van to drive you to the start.

From the trail head you’ll start walking down the fire road and try not to get shot by owners who are super mad that hikers dare walk past their property. This aggression is traditional for Black Star Canyon, as it’s rumored to be haunted by a land owner who was shot by another land owner due to grazing rights (they took grazing seriously in the 1800s). It’s also said to be haunted by Spanish conquistadors, and Native Americans.

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I mean, if you’re going to be haunted at least have some diversity, amiright?

Despite the possible murder by ghost or non-ghost, this is by far the most enjoyable part of the trail, as there are things to look at besides shrubs. As you continue along the fire road, you’ll come to the turn off for Black Star Falls, a.k.a. Instagram’s favorite photo op for girls in bikinis at waterfalls.

 

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Follow the guy in the Santa hat and hope he’s not a ghost.

Unless you want to go on an 8 mile hike to the falls and not end up in Corona, you’ll go to the left and continue up the fire trail for all eternity.

 

From this point you will have a fairly gentle climb along the fire road while you desperately look for anything interesting. At times you’ll see the ocean, Catalina and Orange County in the vistas behind you, but for the most part it’s shrub, grass, and some mildly interesting rock. Your next landmark will be the sign for the Mariposa Reserve

 

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Through this little dip, you’ll see some different landscape, which will be a welcome reprieve. I also suggest that you take some time to explore some of the side trails for a little more interesting scenery. In fact, just off to the right, fairly quickly after this sign, we saw a trail that lead do some Native American grinding stones:

 

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This was by far the coolest part of the hike.

After you get to the end of the preserve, you will begin your final 800 foot ascent up to Beek’s Place, former weekend home of Joseph Beek who developed much of Newport.

You’ll also get a pretty decent view of the Doppler tower by Beeks, which you should continually point out to your fellow hikers by going “Hey, it’s the Doppler!” They won’t get annoyed by that at all and they’ll think it’s super funny.

 

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Eventually you’ll end up at the ruins of the old home. From here you can climb the .5 miles to the Doppler. I’ve seen the Doppler several times in my life, so  on this trip I was like “Nah, I’m good, Bro.”

From here, continue down the fire trail to Skyline, and down the trail back to your car.

 

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And there you have it. You can brag to everyone that you walked from Silverado to Corona, and declare that you never have to to it again (until your roommate makes you do it next year).

Socal Six Pack of Peaks 2018

 

Hola IEers

Are you ready to CHANGE YOUR LIFE?!?

::runs off of stage, high-fives audience members::

Recently I was anointed (that’s right, anointed… there was a ceremony and everything!*) as an ambassador for the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge which means it’s my job to get you all signed up for this awesomeness.

If you’re looking to challenge yourself and take your hiking to the next level, the Socal Six Pack of Peaks is the way to do it. Through the challenge you will climb progressively higher peaks, starting with the one everyone loves to hate (despite what Jeff says), Mt. Wilson, and ending with the highest peak in So Cal, San Gorgonio. Here are the peaks in order:

Mt. Wilson 5710 ft. (15 miles; 4200 elevation gain)
Cucamonga Peak 8859 ft. (12 miles; 4300 elevation gain)
Mt. Baldy 10064 f t. (11.3 miles; 3900 elevation gain)
San Bernardino Peak 10649 ft. (17 miles; 4700 elevation gain)
San Jacinto 10834 ft. (11.5 miles 2500 elevation if you take the tram)
San Gorgonio 11, 503 (17.3 miles 5840 elevation gain)

All together a total of 87 miles and over 27,000 feet of elevation gain.

As you can see, I have only written up the cheater’s way for San J. (and yes, I’ve done it via Marion AND Cactus to Clouds, thankyouverymuch) because I’m very busy with my job that pays the bills, but I hope to have the Marion guide written soon. Probably not the Cactus to Clouds route, though, because I was so delusional by the end of it I have no idea how I got there.

Anyway, the Six Pack is a great challenge, and a pretty awesome training plan if you’re wanting to do something like Mt. Whitney or anything in the Sierras. Plus, if you participate in the actual challenge, you get a bunch of cool stuff, are invited to the finisher’s party, and help to raise money for Big City Mountaineers, an organization that takes city kids to the mountains.

If you’re interested in participating, go ahead and use this link to sign up today.

 

*there 100% was not a ceremony of any sort

 

 

 

San Bernardino Peak

TrailheadSan Bernardino Peak Divide Trail, Angelus Oaks, CA 92305
Length: 17 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 4700 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 9 hrs
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Dirt lot at the trailhead that fills up quickly on weekends. I was able to navigate it in my Hyundai Elantra but I also scraped up the side of my car trying to avoid a large hole which is definitely going to help the resale value.

NOTE: Effective 9/1/17 permits are no longer subjected to a quota. You don’t need to acquire a permit in advance; however, they do ask you to fill out a self permit from the Mill Creek Ranger Station in Mentone. Be sure to bring a pen with you or you have to use your snake bite sharpie like I did which doesn’t work well on carbon copy paper. You can also fill out the permit via PDF, email it in, and print a copy for yourself.

 

San B is probably my favorite trail of the Socal Six Pack for no other reason than the elevation gain is pretty gentle. The bummer part is that it’s 17 miles.

This was the last of the Six Pack that I needed to do this year for my three-peat and I decided to summit solo. Even though I’ve done gazillions of solo summits, this one gave me a bit of the heebies to do alone due to the length of the trek and the fact that I was beginning in the early morning which, as we all know, is prime time for murderin’.

The first mile of the hike are arguably the hardest. You gain a lot of elevation quickly as you climb switchback after switchback. These are the switchbacks you’ll hate on your way back because they seem never ending.

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After the switchbacks, you’ll curve around the west side of the mountain and then begin heading east again. Soon you will come to one of my favorite parts of the trail, the manzanita forest:

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This part of the trail is relatively flat and enjoyable. Keep heading along the trail and you’ll end up at a three way fork in the road with a sign and a random rusty wheelbarrow. Follow the middle trail towards Limber Pine:

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After this sign, you’re going to hike and hike and hike through a little valley area and then up switchbacks to Limber Pine Campground which is apparently one of the best places to camp and see a sunset IN THE WORLD. Or at least in the San Bernardino Mountains. You do still need a permit for overnight stays.

You’ll then get to the next benchmark, which is, haha, a bench. Get it? I’m very clever.

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Limber Pine Bench offers the best view on the hike, and is where I would stop and eat lunch if I’d bothered to eat lunch on my hike.

After the bench you’ll encounter a few more switchbacks until you get to a fairly flat area where you’ll come to the Washington Monument.

It took the third time on this trail for me to actually see the Washington Monument. I always thought it was the pile of rocks with a plaque on the trail. Not so! It’s actually a bigger pile of rocks that used to be a cabin about 300 feet off the trail! I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did get a picture of this view, so there’s that:

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After the Washington Monument you’re on the last leg of the trip. The trail once again begins to climb and the very last .1 miles is very steep because apparently you haven’t done enough already.

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The peak itself is much less impressive than you’ll see at Limber Pine bench, but it’s got an ammo box, so you know, cool. And there’s a sign which was donated by @sdhiker which, if you’re solo hiking like I was, makes it super fun to try to take a picture with.

 

After you’ve rested, go ahead and head back from whence you came.

I’m going to be honest with you in saying that this is a long trek back. Like, WAY long. The last mile especially. It’s switchback after switchback. And if you hike it solo, you’ll be looking for ways to entertain yourself. Like I did when I composed this little ditty:

This is the trail that doesn’t end
Yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started hiking it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue hiking it forever just because
This is the trail that doesn’t end…

I ended up getting back to my car at about 1:30, p.m., making my summit just over 7 hours. However when I hike solo I take breaks for no more than 30 seconds and spent just over 10 minutes at the peak trying to take a selfie with the sign.  I’m not joking. It took me 10 minutes to take a selfie with the sign. So if you do plan to hike this one, I suggest you plan for 9 hours or more.

Additionally, with the end of the permit quota, this trail is going to be very busy on weekends. When I spoke with the ranger, he said that both San B and San G parking lots are full by 7:00 a.m., so either get there early, or even better, go on a weekday. I only saw three people on the trail the entire time I was there.

‘Cause when you’re hiking, the last thing you want is to see people, amiright? How dare others be out there hiking in nature? That’s MY thing!

 

San Jacinto Via Tram

Trailhead: Palm Springs Tram
Length: 11.5 miles RT
Elevation Gain: 2500 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate (due to length)
Total time: 6 hrs
Dogs: Nope
Parking: Free, but $25 for the tram

Want to try your first peak but still need to work up to true peak bagging? Then San Jacinto is a great first trek for you.

The first tram ascends at 8:00 a.m. but you can arrive at 7:30 to purchase tickets. I’ve heard that the line is crazy, so you may want to get there even earlier to avoid the crowds. Please also note that this tram rotates your view as you go up, so if you’re afraid of heights this might not be your favorite thing ever.

Once you get to the top, you’ll head down a never ending, windy, paved road that is super fun to come back up when you’re tired. Head toward the right to the ranger station where you’ll fill out a permit to enter the San Jacinto wilderness. Keep the permit with you and you’ll return it in a mailbox on your way back.

The trail to the peak will be on your right. It’s fairly well marked except when you come to round valley and you come to a juncture with no sights that say “Peak this way, bro.” Stick to the right, and you’ll get there.

The trail meanders along with a relatively easy elevation gain. There are some spots where it does climb fairly quickly, but take heart, traveler, as it will calm back down again.

About 3 miles in you will reach Wellman Divide which has a preview of the sights you’ll have at the top.

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After Wellman Divide, you will enter the switchback section of the trail, which, again gains elevation fairly gently and offers great views of the valley below.

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The switchbacks on this section are quite long, but there are only two of them. It was at this time we also heard a search and rescue helicopter overhead that was blasting its siren above us. I later found out it was one of our friends from Instagram, who didn’t even offer us a ride. THANKS A LOT, ERIC.

Once you finish the switchback section, you’ll go to the right and meet up with Marion Trail, and you’ll only be .3 miles from the top. When you reach the end of this trail you’ll see a big rock heap that you get to climb for the rest of your summit. Once at the top, head to the left and you’ll see the San Jacinto sign, where if it’s like when Boo and I went, people decide to sit right by or walk through because they like to ruin your pictures.

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One of the best places to take in views is at the far side of the rock mound, which is a bit harder to get to which means you’ll have fewer people.

There are a lot of haters out there for people who do San J via the tram, including one at the top who got all judgy with me and Boo for not climbing Marion. I informed him that I’ve actually done the Marion trail four times, and climbed San J via Cactus to Clouds (one of the hardest day hikes in the US), so I’ve suffered quite enough on that mountain, and he can just mind his own business.

Also, it’s a 11 mile trek so it’s still a workout and a great option for people who are new to peaks as a first try.

Also, who asked you for your opinion, Mr. High and Mighty?

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And for more aggression, on the way back down, Boo and I ended up running into THE Marion for whom the trail was named. I mean, we assume it was her because when we passed her she passive aggressively threw up her arms and sighed in annoyance for reasons we didn’t quite understand. We figured that she must own the trail and our presence there must have annoyed her so I apologized, letting her know we didn’t realize she owned the trail.

Hopefully you won’t run into so many haughty people on your climb.

 

 

 

Gem Lake from Mosquito Flats (Sierras)

Trailhead: Mosquito Flats
Length: 10 miles RT  (we added more by visiting Morgan Pass & Chickenfoot Lake)
Elevation Gain: 1100 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced (only due to exposure & elevation)
Total time: 7 hrs for all
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Lots of parking at Mosquito Flats, but get there early.

Let me preface this by saying: YES I KNOW THIS ISN’T IN THE INLAND EMPIRE AND IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT MAKE YOUR OWN BLOG.

Great, now that we’ve got that out of the way.

I love the Sierras. I’ve been up there four times in the past year, which isn’t a lot except when you consider I’d never been prior to last August. My first experience was Kersarage Pass and Bishop Pass with Lazy Ass Hiking about a year ago. I was hooked after that… so hooked, in fact, that I’m still willing to camp to go there even though CAMPING IS THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD.

This time I went up with the Lazy Asses on Thursday where the first day we hiked in the Rock Creek Area to Third Lake. A beautiful trail that I may write about later.

The next day we headed out to the aptly named Mosquito Flats into Little Lakes Valley.

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Mosquito flats was gorgeous, but full of mosquitoes. I’d gotten bitten up pretty badly two days before at the hot springs we visited, so I was armed with bug spray and sun screen and was practically bathing in it hourly.

Anyway, after a quick orientation, we headed to the trail on the right to go into Little Lakes. When you have a group, only 15 people are allowed on the trail in each group, so we had to split into two. The trail quickly revealed itself to be incredibly scenic and beautiful.

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We passed several lakes along the way, including Hidden lake and long lake. There were also quite a few stream crossings.

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As we made our way up, there were some steeper parts of the trail, but nothing unmanageable. About 4 miles in we came to a post that used to have a sign on it (thanks, thieves of the Sierras!) and turned right. About a half of a mile from there, we came upon Gem Lake, and my was it purdy.

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After Gem lake, we made our way back down the trail and took a right at the post up to Morgan Pass. This was the steepest of the climbs at 600 feet, but because we were at elevation it was more like 1 million feet. There were also patches of snow on the trail which were slushy, and that’s always a good time when you didn’t bring microspikes or poles because you’re an idiot. #beprepared

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It was at Morgan Pass that I had a hard time and began to overheat from the exposure. While the climb isn’t particularly strenuous, two days of hiking trails at full exposure at high elevation was making my body go “WOAH LADY I AM NOT A MACHINE.”

I also *probably* shouldn’t have sat in the sun for an hour at Gem lake.  When I got to upper Morgan Lake, I crawled into what little shade I could find and worked to get my heart rate down. And to be honest, Morgan Lake wasn’t all that great looking in comparison to everything else and wasn’t really worth the detour.

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We then headed back down the trail and turned right at that now infamous post. About two miles in we made another right and headed to Chickenfoot Lake, where I sat in the sun some more because that’s always a solid plan when you’re dying.

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Some of the group jumped in the lake but I refrained because mosquitoes. A couple of the Lazy Asses pulled out inflatable rafts and floated around and made a lot of “dingy” jokes because every male I hang out with is perpetually 12 years old.

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After a bit there, we made our way back to Mosquito flats. The sun exposure was strong here and I just kept drinking fluids and cherishing any shade I could find. When we got back to the parking lot I sprayed, and sprayed again to avoid any more blood sucking incidents while we waited for the rest of the crew. On the way back we stopped off at Rock Creek where I took the best shower ever just to get out and spray myself with mosquito repellent again.

All in all this trek was worth the possibility of Zika (but probably not West Nile).  Hands down one of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever seen. If you make the trek, you won’t regret it.

Just be sure to bring bug spray… not sure if I mentioned it, but there were a lot of mosquitoes there.

 

 

 

Mt. Wilson via Chantry Flats

Trailhead: Santa Anita Canyon Rd, Sierra Madre, CA 91025
Length: 15
Elevation Gain: 4200 ft.
Difficulty: Advanced
Total time: 7.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Lot at trailhead, Adventure Pass needed, which you can buy at any sporting goods store. Also, get there at 6:00 a.m., otherwise you’ll have to either pay $20 for the “valet” camp parking or park on the road somewhere in Outer Mongolia and hike to the trail head.

 

Oh, Mt. Wilson. The most hated of all the Six Pack of Peaks. In fact, so hated, I created merchandise so that we all may express our hatred of this mountain.

What makes Mt. Wilson so bad?

So, so many things. There are the flies and mosquitoes. The switchbacks. The canopy all around that blocks any breeze from entering. The steady elevation gain towards the end of the summit. The hill you have to climb at the end of the descent. All of it. All of it is terrible.

Yet, for some reason only known to Jeff (SoCal Hiker), he makes us trudge up this thing every year for the Six Pack of Peaks.

The best time of year to do it is in winter or early spring, before the bugs take over the place. There aren’t words to express how many flies you’ll encounter on this trail in the summer. Which makes me super glad that I waited until July to do it this year.

Bring a mosquito net.

Or take a friend like Mike who the mosquitoes are super attracted to. Eight bug bites to my one! Decoy friends are the best!

Anyway, the trail starts by descending about 400 feet. Soon after you finish this hill, you will come to a junction by a set of restrooms where you can go to the left to continue up to Mt. Wilson, OR you can go to the right and visit Sturtevant Falls.

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From a previous trip

If you do take the Sturtevant Falls route, you will either have to backtrack to get to a main trail (the trail is by the giant tree that’s embedded in the rock… you’ll know what I mean when you see it)  or you’ll have to climb up a big hill to the left of the falls that I’m not sure is actually a trail. If you do choose to visit the falls, you’ll end up on a different trail than the one we took.

For the trip I took last week (yes, I’ve hiked this dumb peak numerous times), we skipped the falls and continued onward.

Follow this trail along for awhile and you’ll cross over the stream several times, and you may come across creatures, like salamanders. If you’re weird like Mike, you’ll pick one up.

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Eventually you will come to another juncture. You’ll want to make a sharp right to continue up to Mt. Wilson. Remember this juncture on the way back.

After this sharp right is where the pain begins with a steady, brutal, humidity-laced climb. It was at this juncture that I started cursing Mike for “letting me talk him into this.”

Once you get through the grueling switchbacks, you’ll come to a fire road. Keep to the right until you get to another fire road. Very quickly after this, you’ll see a trail off to the right. Follow that for about 20 minutes and you’ll end up at a parking lot.

Oh, yes, that’s right…

YOU CAN DRIVE TO THE TOP.

You don’t actually HAVE to climb to see this peak. You can drive there. Like a regular person who doesn’t like self torture.

The one saving grace of this mountain is the fact that there is a cafe at the top where you can get coffee, Gatorade, and various food items, including chili cheese Fritos. If you’re David, the head of Lazy Ass Hiking, you’ll think is a good idea to eat that just before you have to hike 7 miles back down.

Also note that the Cosmic Cafe does not open until 10 a.m. and is closed during the winter. When Mike and I went we got there too early and were devastated by the news.

While at the top I also suggest you roam around to look at the exhibits. There’s a big giant telescope that is cool. Plus, on the far side from the cafe you’ll get better views at the lookout there.

After you’ve had your fill of goods and sight seeing, head back down the way you came.

Here’s a pro tip: if you want to avoid climbing the 400 feet at the very end of the trek, you can take the higher road back. Remember the junction before the death march switchbacks started? Go to the right instead of to the left where you ascended. The right will still have a pretty steady hill going up for quite some ways, but at least it’s not at the end of 14 miles. And BONUS: fewer flies

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Parts of this road are exposed, but there are some nice shaded areas. You’ll also see the parking lot fairly early on this trail; however keep your enthusiasm bottled down because it’s going to take you longer to get there than you think.

The trail will let you off at a paved road. Continue down the road and you’ll see the sweet, precious camp on your left where you can get in your car, turn on the AC and swear you’ll never hike that stupid peak again, until next year when you talk yourself into doing the Six Pack all over again.

Sandstone Peak

Trailhead12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90265
Length: 6.25
Elevation Gain: 1075 ft.
Difficulty: Beginner/moderate
Total time: 3.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Parking: Parking at trail head (free)

Sandstone Peak is the tallest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, which is super adorable because it’s only 3,111 feet tall. Look at you go, little guy!

The trail is a loop with a fairly gradual incline, although there are a few ups and downs… just like life, amirite?

To take the longer route, go to the right when the trail splits off, unlike what we did, which was go left and then have to turn around. This seems to happen a lot when I happen to hike with this particular guide. Not sure why I keep letting him lead me into the wilderness.

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Most of the trail is completely exposed, so going early morning or late afternoon to catch the sunset is advised. While trekking along, you will likely see rock climbers on Echo Cliffs, which is a name that sounds like something that you’d see in The Princess Bride.  “As you wiiiiiiiissshhhhh!”

There is one spot about 2 miles in that offers some shade, but that’s about the only part on the trail that doesn’t leave you exposed.

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After this section, you’ll continue skirting around the mountain. Head down the backbone trail to continue to Sandstone. To get to the actual peak itself, you’ll be required to participate in a smidgen of rock scrambling, and climb some stairs, so get a few Buns of Steel workouts in before you go (J/K its not that bad and also does Buns of Steel even exist anymore?).

Sunset at the peak is quite a sight, especially when it’s windy and cold and you have to shield yourself behind a rock because you didn’t bring a jacket. Good times.

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Once you’re done and complete the loop, go back down the stairs and make a right when you reach the trail. I was told by my guide that you can also see glow worms on the trail at night, but I didn’t see any on our trek. Then again, he is also the one who says “I think we go this way” and is wrong soooo…

Enjoy!

 

Castle Rock & Bluff Lake Reserve

TrailheadBig Bear Blvd, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Length: 5.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1300 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate
Total time: 4 hours
Dogs: Wouldn’t recommend on this trail.
Parking: Parking at trail head on the side of the road (free)

The trailhead here goes right off the highway, right between two blind curves so have fun crossing that road.

Follow the trail up and you’ll end up on the right side of Castle Rock when you’ll see a split in the trail. Take the trail to the left at the split if you want to head to Bluff Lake, unlike what we did, which was go to the right and end up in a wash somewhere.

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The trail we should have taken

This was played off as an “accident” but I’m pretty sure the person I was with was checking out good locations to store a body.

We ended up backtracking and, yet again took a wrong trail (my pick this time) which ended up in us off roading until we got to the fire road. We meandered along that for a bit until we got to a fork, and made a left towards a locked gate and the ruins of a cabin that said “Private Property.”

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From AlltrailsBe sure before crossing into Bluff Lake Preserve you contact and get permission from The Wildlands Conservancy (909) 797-8507, there are rare plants and meadows here, be careful where you tread.

I’m not going to lie to you, we 100% did not get permission to go on the property (and didn’t realize we were supposed to). We crossed over some greenery to a rock that overlooked the lake. A very nice volunteer ranger politely told us we were in a restricted area, asked that we stay on the trails, and didn’t yell at us for being the bumbling, habitat-destroying jerks we were. He didn’t even kick us off the preserve and instead suggested to check out the Lodge Pine, which is a 450 year old tree that is over 100 feet tall (rare for that type of tree), and the amphitheater built by the YMCA that had a very bayou vibe.

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Bluff Lake is a very cool place with lots of interesting flowers (the ranger told us they change by the week) and rock formations. It’s well worth the visit.

From here, we back tracked and ended up on the correct trail. We made our way up Castle Rock, which required a bit of climbing, but has a great view of Big Bear Lake:

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While there is some elevation gain on this trail (and even more if you go the wrong way and have to climb back up), this is a fairly easy trek that has a lot of payoff. I’d recommend planning for a half day trip here. Castle Rock is a great place for a lunch or early dinner with a great view.

Learn more about Bluff Lake at the Wildlands Conservancy page.