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Blue Jay to Los Piños Peak


Los Piños Peak sits at 4,455 feet above sea level in the Cleveland National Forest, just west of the Main Divide between Orange and Riverside Counties. There are other more strenuous routes to this summit, but this route is made easier because you start at over 3,000 feet. Instead of approaching from Orange County, you reach this trail from Ortega Highway. 

Trail Details
Distance: 5.3 miles
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 1350 ft
Dogs: Yes
When to go: Year-round
The Los Piños Peak is a lesser-visited summit that has some great views. On a clear day, you can see nearby Sitton Peak clear out to the Pacific Ocean in one direction, and Mt. San Jacinto and San Gorgonio in the other. And if you time it right, you might even be lucky enough to find snow!

Getting to the Trailhead

We parked at the junction of the Main Divide Truck Trail and Long Canyon Road — very near the Blue Jay and Falcon campgrounds. There is a gate here that is sometimes locked. It was open this weekend, but the road to the Los Pinos Trail requires a high-clearance vehicle and preferably four-wheel drive. We opted to hike this section, but you could drive this with the proper vehicle. We put our Adventure Pass on display, parked and headed up the Main Divide.

Heading up the Main Divide Trail

The first 1.7 miles is a gravel road aptly described as a truck trail — it’s very bumpy and when the gates are open, you will likely be passed by the occasional Jeep, dirt bike or mountain biker. But there are some great views to the east, including Lake Elsinore in the valley below.

Lake Elsinore from the Main Divide

At the 1.7 mile mark, you’ll reach a small gravel parking area and a sturdy metal rail. This marks the trailhead of the Los Piños Trail.

Don't go straight up this unless you want to


Don’t think you have to head straight up this steep, gravelly incline (though many do). Cross the rail and bear to the right and you’ll find the official trailhead, which takes a gentler but slightly longer route up. Both routes converge near the shoulder of the first hill, so feel free to take your pick.

The Correct Trail to Los Pinos

Climbing up and down

The trail follows the ridgeline closely, in a roller coaster style to the summit. The north side of the ridge is covered in the namesake pine or “piños” trees.

A Steep Section

While the trail fairly well maintained, it is gravelly in spots. I recommend boots or trail shoes with good traction. Trekking poles would be a nice to have in some sections.

Los Pinos Summit in the distance

The Summit of Los Piños

At the Summit of Los Pinos

The views from the summit were beautiful. There is a summit register to sign, and our trail mascot Yoda got to meet the #SexyBikiniPanda. He wasn’t overly impressed. soak in the views before you retrace your steps to the car.

Bluejay to Los Piños Summit Trail Map

Download file: los-pinos-via-bluejay.gpx

Los Piños Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to view a larger version. You can also leave comments on any photo.

Special Thanks

I hiked this with a group of other outdoor bloggers from around Southern California — as part of a Tweetup. Thanks to my lovely wife Joan of theSCvibe.comCampfire Kam and Alex; Josh of CaliforniaThroughMyLens; ringleader Pete of East-West Hike; Alyx at Shoestring Adventures; Eileen from and Zac from OPAdventures for taking part in this weekend tweetup.

Los Piños Tips

  • There can be snow up here. If the snow levels drop below 4,000 feet, be prepared.
  • There is no water and very little shade along the trail. Bring two liters and wear a hat and sun protection.
  • A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking at the trailhead.

More Los Piños Resources

Los Piños Weather Forecast

[forecast width=”100%” location=”El Cariso, CA”]

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