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Hike Los Pinos Peak Orange County

Hike Los Pinos Peak (Orange County)

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to Hike Los Pinos Peak
  • Los Pinos Peak Hike Parking
  • Tips and Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance (?)5.4 miles (8.7 km)
Hike Time2-3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,480 feet (451m)
Highest Elevation4,510 feet (1375m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Cleveland National Forest
Park Phone951-736-1811
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The hike to Los Pinos Peak offers a remote and rugged experience through the heart of Cleveland National Forest. Although not technically prominent, Los Pinos Peak is “practically” prominent, and on the hike, given a clear day, you can see from Catalina to San Gorgonio. There are several ways to hike to Los Pinos Peak, and in this guide, I’ll show you the most popular (and shortest) route from the area by Falcon Group Campground.

Where is the Los Pinos Peak Trail?

There’s no official trailhead address or parking lot. Instead, you have to navigate to the latitude and longitude below to arrive at the trailhead, at the junction of Long Canyon Road and Main Divide Truck Trail. Use these coordinates:

33.66236, -117.44794

You’ll drive up a narrow and paved road, past the Blue Jay Campground, and then to Falcon Group Campground. About 0.5 miles past Falcon Group Campground, you’ll see a big gravel clearing on the left. This is the parking area.

Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 3
There’s not an official trailhead here, but there is a large gravel clearing. Park on the edge of the clearing, away from the roads, which have motor vehicle traffic.

You do not need an Adventure Pass to park here. If you want water and bathrooms, visit the Falcon Group Campground, 0.5 miles before the start of the hike.

Gear For the Hike

If you are familiar with hiking in Cleveland National Forest, you know that it can be a place of extremes. In the winter, there can be (usually light) snow and cold temps. In the summer, temperatures can soar into the 100s. 1-2L of water is usually enough. The area is remote, so bring your regular hiking kit. Trekking poles will help on the steep and loose sections after Los Pinos Saddle.

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Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Garmin inReach Mini
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost.

Latest Prices: Amazon | REI | Backcountry
My Review & Guide

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon | Backcountry
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon | Backcountry

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon | Black Diamond
Z-Poles: MacPac | REI | Amazon | Black Diamond

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated November 2021.

My November 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Los Pinos Peak Trail Maps

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Elevation Profile

Hike Los Pinos Peak Orange County Elevation
This is mostly an uphill endeavor, with a breather at Munhall / Los Pinos Saddle, and then a little up and down as you hike along the ridge to the summit.

3D Map

Hike Los Pinos Peak Orange County 3d Map
From the parking area you’ll hike up Main Divide Road (dirt) until you reach Munhall Saddle. From there you climb up along the spine, past a false summit or two, and then you reach the actual Los Pinos Peak summit.

Hike Brief

Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 1
“Los Pinos” translates to “the pines” in Spanish, and the peak was named that because you could spot it by the clusters of Coulter pine trees by the summit.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 2
But the 2018 Holy Fire did a number on the area, and many of the pine tries have burned well before their 100 year lifespan. On this hike we’ll be hiking along the edge of where the Holy Fire eventually stopped.
Ken Munhall Grave
Along the way we’ll go over Munhall Saddle, named after Joseph “Kenneth” Munhall, who was a ranger in Cleveland National Forest in the early 1900s. He was born in Pennsylvania (there’s even a suburb of Pittsburgh called “Munhall”) but spent his life in Southern California.  His grave, located in Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, has a very cool Forest Service logo on it, giving you a big clue about what was important to him in life.

Lost Pinos Peak Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Turn by Turn Directions

Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 4
The hike starts where Main Divide Truck Trail starts, just back behind the parking area. There’s a gate here which can be open or closed. If it’s open, you’ll be sharing the first part of the hike with OHV vehicles. Generally they are courteous, just keep your eyes and ears open.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 5
There’s a sign at the start. We’re heading up North Main Divide.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 6
Main Divide road is wide and climbs gradually.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 7
From the start, the views over Cleveland NF are wide open.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 8
After you round the first bend, Los Pinos Peak comes into view.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 9
And to your left, Sugarloaf Peak, not to be confused with the well-known Sugarloaf Mountain by Big Bear.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 10
And then to your direct left is Sitton Peak.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 11
As you climb you’ll see the trail unfold in front of you.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 14
And some short sections of the road are steep.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 12
And when the grade eases up on the trail, you’ll be able to see to the east. Here’s San Jacinto Peak.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 13
And then to the left of that is San Gorgonio.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 15
And back to your right is Lake Elsinore.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 16
At about 1.7 miles in you’ll reach Munhall Saddle. Leave the road, go over the gate, and hike up the trail to the left.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 17
The trail is steep and loose in the beginning.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 18
But then gets a bit more defined.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 19
And then you reach a false peak. In the distance is the true peak.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 20
You have a short downhill as the trail rolls along the spine.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 21
As you make your way along the spine you’ll have nice views of Los Pinos Peak. The burned trees on the right are from the 2018 Holy Fire, started by an arsonist, which halted along this ridge.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 23
And to the right is Santiago Peak. From this perspective you can really see the damage from the Holy Fire. This whole area used to be lush and green.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 22
At about 2.6 miles in you’ll finally arrive at the last uphill to the true summit.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 24
When you get to the top, look for the turnoff to the left.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 31
And here you are, at the 4th highest spot in Orange County!
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 29
There’s a USGS benchmark here.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 26
To the west is the Pacific Ocean and Catalina.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 27
To the east is Lake Elsinore.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 28
You’ll also notice the trail continues on. I’ll cover (the much tougher) hike in from this route in another guide.
Hike Los Pinos Peak Hike Directions 30
That’s it! Just turn around and head back the way you came when you’re done at the summit.

This guide last updated on October 16, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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