***This hike is not for beginners. Due to distance, pace and elevation gain, this hike is rated intermediate. We will hike together as a group at a moderate pace. We will stop at hilltops and junctions in order to keep the group together. If you are an unusually fast, or slow hiker, or have trouble staying with a group, this may not be the hike for you.***
Distance / Time: 14-15 miles / 6-6 1/2 hours (Depending on speed of the group)
Total Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,400 feet
Departure Time: 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 will meet at the San Juan Trailhead parking lot, across the street from the candy store. There is a restroom at this trailhead.
We will begin the hike along the Bear Canyon Trail. 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 are now well inside the boundary of the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, part of Cleveland National Forest. Continue south to reach a saddle called four corners (3.2 miles), where four old roads and the newer footpath join together.
From Four Corners, we will take the Verdugo Trail on the left to Oak Flats. For a mile or so, the Verdugo Trail winds along steep, brushy slopes offering excellent views of the San Mateo Canyon drainage and the Santa Margarita Mountains to the south. Passing over the shoulder of a ridge, the roadbed suddenly drops about 400 feet (which we have to climb back up on our return) to cross an oak-shaded tributary of Bluewater Canyon. The trail winds back up and then down again where we ultimately come to the edge of a woodland of several hundred rolling acres shaded by live oaks and tall chaparral. Oak Flats is one of the nicest back corners of the Trabuco District, containing a mixture of oak rimmed potreros and deeply shaded ravines. This is a great spot to take a snack break. We will then take a 1.1 mile loop through the Oak Flats area and return to our original Verdugo Trail for our return trip.
Driving Directions: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.
Disclaimer: 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.