***No beginners please. Due to distance, pace and elevation gain, this is an intermediate hike. We hike together as a group. We wait at hill tops and junctions. If you are an exceptionally fast, or slow hiker, and cannot stay with the group, this may not be the hike for you.***
Distance / Time: 10 miles / 4-5 hours due to pace of group and stops
Total Elevation Gain: 2150'
7:00 AM. This hike will start at the designated time. Please arrive 10 minutes early to allow for parking and introductions.
About This Hike:
We begin this hike by taking the Bear Canyon Trail south from the Candy Store. After one mile of moderate ascent, we come to a trail junction in a patch of oak woodland. Go right (the Morgan Trail forks left) and begin climbing more steeply along a chaparral clothed slope. At about 2.0 miles, we reach a dirt road, The Old Verdugo Truck Trail, which to the right is now part of our Bear Canyon Trail. We can either cross the old road and go straight on a newer footpath, or go right on the road (the old road is a bit more scenic). We are now well inside the boundary of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, part of Cleveland National Forest.
By following the old road south, we will soon pass (at 2.7 miles) oak shaded Pigeon Spring, a seasonal trickle of water at the head of Bear Canyon. An old watering trough is here, with seeps nearby. Enjoy the shade-you won't find much more of it on the road ahead.
Continue south another half mile to reach a saddle called four corners (3.2 miles), where four old roads and the newer footpath join together. Swing right on the road that climbs northwest, a disused section of the Sitton Peak Road. After a steady ascent of about 300 vertical feet, you reach a flat area (4.0 miles) just below a boulder-studded ridge (3250 feet elevation) to the north. Easily climbed, the ridge summit offers a view somewhat similar to the one seen at Sitton Peak.
Beyond the flat area the road descends another 0.5 mile to a saddle just below Sitton Peak. From this saddle, we leave the road and follow a steep trail up through scattered Manzanita and chemise on the east slope of the peak.
The view from the top is especially impressive to the west. Here the foothills and western canyons of the Santa Ana's merge with the creeping suburbs of Orange County. Beyond lies the flat, blue ocean punctuated by the profile of Santa Catalina Island. Some 2000 feet below, toy like cars on the highway make their way down the sinuous course of San Juan Canyon. We can take a short break here for lunch/snacks, then we will return by the same path we came up.
From the 5 Fwy exit at Ortega Hwy and drive east 19.5 miles to a well marked parking lot on the left, across the street from the "Ortega Oaks Store" best known by hikers as, "The Candy Store". The sign at the entrance to the parking lot indicates it is the trailhead for the Bear Canyon Trail and the San Juan Loop. An "Adventure Pass" is required to park here.
Group organizer and assistant organizers assume no liability; hike at your own risk. By being a member of this group you hereby agree to assume all risks and liability related to or resulting from any group functions. You agree that neither you nor any third party will hold any of the group's leaders, officers, or representatives liable for any injury, loss, or damage to your own person or any members of your family, friends, acquaintances, children, pets, or property, arising directly or as a consequence from a group activity. You also agree that your membership of this group is based on an "at will" basis.
• What to bring
• Important to know