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The Sitton Peak hike offers great 360 views of the Santa Ana Mountains, San Diego County, Orange County, and Catalina on a clear day. The hike to Sitton Peak is much easier than the hike to Saddleback Mountain, with views that are comparable. The trail has some flat sections to catch your breath, making it a great hike for beginners.
9.2 miles (14.8 km)
Sitton Peak Hike Trail Maps
Use this address in Google Maps to get to the trailhead:
San Juan Loop Trailhead, Trabuco Canyon, CA, 92679, USA
The trailhead for the Sitton Peak hike is about 1 hour south of Riverside, about 45 minutes east of Newport Beach, and about 45 minutes north of Oceanside.
The trail winds up the spines of the Santa Ana Mountains to the highest point in this area, Sitton Peak. Large parts of the hike have great views of the San Mateo Wilderness.
The hike is a moderate uphill with some level sections to catch your breath. The last part of the hike to Sitton Peak is the steepest, but is not too long.
Interactive Map Sitton Peak Hike Map Downloads Gear for the Sitton Peak Hike The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has been perfect on hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It's light, has plenty of room for super-food snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3 liter water bladder. I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It's the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I've got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. CamelBak Fourteener Reviews My favorite hiking boot of all time. The La Sportiva Synthesis (for men and women) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Award ( my review here). I've gone through a lot of boots and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots. La Sportiva Hiking Boot Reviews Don't hike without this in your backpack. It's a GPS emergency beacon and can save your life ( more on that here). On the trail, you're often out of cell phone range, and even something as simple as a twisted ankle could become a life and death situation. This beacon works where cell phones don't and is the size of a fist. Just press a button and help is on the way. Your life is worth every penny. ACR GPS Beacon Reviews For my complete gear list and survival kit contents, check out my post on the modern hiking essentials here. I'd also recommend taking a quick look at the Every day they mark down great quality hiking gear, fitness gear, and clothing. Pick up an inexpensive lifetime REI Outlet site. REI Membership for an extra 10% off. Sitton Peak Hike Video Sitton Peak Hike Directions What to Expect on the Hike Sitton Peak (3,273ft) is one of the high peaks in the southern part of Cleveland National Forest. It has great prominence with 360 degree views. It also straddles two watersheds, the San Mateo Creek, which drains out by San Clemente, and the San Juan Creek, which drains out at Dana Point. While there’s some steep climbing on the last stretch to Sitton Peak, the trails are generally well marked and there are level sections to catch your breath. It’s a great hike for beginners and intermediate hikers. In the summer this hike can get very hot. Leave early to avoid the worst of it. The Candy Shop across the street from the parking lot has snacks and drinks for sale. They also have maps, but I wouldn’t depend on them as your only means of navigation. There are bathrooms in the parking lot, but not on the trail. This whole area is a great place to spot wildlife. If you hike on a summer weekday and keep your eyes open, you’re sure to spot some reptiles sunning. I’ve spotted red diamond rattlesnakes, horned lizards, deer, quail, falcons, and hawks. If you do encounter wildlife, give it a wide berth if it hasn’t run away from you already. You need a parking pass for the Cleveland National Forest. I use the affordable National Parks Pass, which gets me in every national park, national monument, and national forest. You can also use an (Southern California only) Adventure Pass, or buy a $5 day permit from the Candy Store across the street from the parking lot. Turn by Turn Hiking Directions The parking lot is well marked and offers a lot of spots. There are bathrooms in the parking lot. Nothing fancy. Head across the street from the lot. The Candy Store has food and sells one day parking passes if you don’t have a National Parks Pass. The trailhead is just to the right (west) of the candy store. The Bear Canyon Trailhead sign marks the start of the hike. Take a look at the notice board before you start. Always good to check on trail conditions or closures. After the notice board you’ll see a sign in box. The hike is free (aside from the parking) – you just need to sign in. The trail is well marked and starts to climb gradually. The first part of the hike has some awesome boulders. Just under a mile, you’ll reach the sign for the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. Just over a mile, there’s a trail junction. Head right on the Bear Canyon trail. Here’s a closeup of the sign at the junction. These white trail signs are found throughout the hike. The trail climbs gradually again. You’ll pass through oak groves and some shaded areas. At around 2 miles, you reach a big junction. Make the hard right. Here’s a closeup of the sign at the junction. You’re heading to 4 corners. You’ll see Sitton Peak in the distance. This section of trail is level and a good time to catch your breath. As you get higher, the oak disappears and gives way to chaparral. At about 3.2 miles you reach 4 corners, which is actually 5 corners. Make the very hard right. This is the start of that very hard right turn. Here’s a closeup of the sign. Head toward Sitton Peak. The trail starts to climb again and you’ll get views of the high peaks to the north. This part of the trail is more primitive and overgrown, but still well marked. Just after 4 miles there’s a few trails splitting off to lower peaks. Continue straight through. The trail will start to head downhill. The trail descends. It doesn’t seem like the right way, but it is. As the trail goes down, you’ll see the path to Sitton Peak looming in front of you. This junction is easy to miss. Just after 4.3 miles, make the right onto the much smaller trail. This is the most challenging part of the hike. The trail is small and not well marked. It also splits apart and comes back together many times. Look for footprints and keep heading up. Eventually trail levels out and you’ll see the peak in front of you. There’s a cool little sign marking Sitton Peak. Sometimes it gets stolen, so if you’re not seeing it, it might be in some jerk’s garage. There’s also a USGS marker and trail log. Feel free to sign your name or not. It’s pretty fun to read the old entries in the summit log – there are some funny ones in there. You’ll have 360 views from the peak. Take your time and soak it all in. Grab your selfies and head back down the way you came. Enjoy the hike! An easy way to give back is to simply pick up any trash you see on the trail. A quick note. These directions are meant as a guide for the hike, and not a definitive source. Conditions change, and the information here can be different based on time of day, weather, season, etc. There can be small side trails that you might see but I missed. I have made every effort to include all the information you need to complete the hike successfully. I recommend using this guide in conjunction with a map, GPX file, common sense, and call to the ranger station or park office. If you do the hike and notice something has changed, please contact me and I will update the guide.
Hiking Saddleback Mountain takes you to the highest point in Orange County, Santiago Peak. It’s also the highest point in the Santa Ana mountains. This hike takes the scenic Holy Jim Trail, which is also the shortest route to the summit.
Caspers Wilderness Park is home to the San Juan Hot Springs hike, which is long but very doable. The hike can be done as an out-and-back trip, or you can do a longer 14 mile loop that circles Caspers Wilderness Park and offers incredible views.
The Bedford Peak hike in Orange County is a tough one with big payoffs. The trail to Bedford Peak climbs about 2000 feet in 3 miles, and your reward is great views of Mt Baldy, Saddleback Mountain, and Catalina.
The 10 hiking essentials are the recommended key survival tools that hikers should bring with them on every hike. The original 10 essentials date back the 1930s. Here’s my take on the modern hiking essentials and how to use them.
I’m Hiking Guy, aka Cris Hazzard. I like to get outdoors, walk, and then write about it. It wasn’t always like that though.
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