The Sitton Peak hike offers great 360 views of the Santa Ana Mountains, San Diego County, Orange County, and Catalina on a clear day. Sitton Peak (3,273ft) is one of the high peaks in the southern part of Cleveland National Forest, and this hike 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.
Sitton Peak is also unique in that it straddles two watersheds, the San Mateo Creek, which drains out by San Clemente, and the San Juan Creek, which drains out at Dana Point. There are also lots of opportunities for wildlife spotting on this hike.
There’s a sizable parking lot with primitive bathrooms. 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.
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.
I usually do this one early to beat the crowds and heat.
Gear for the Hike
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. Bring a camera with a long lens if you have one.
This is a “hike” hike and you should bring hiking gear, although you can probably get away with fitness clothes and water. Here’s what I would recommend:
If you want hiking gear recommendations, check out my full gear list. I only recommend and review gear that I actually use. No company pays me to push their product. Everything on my gear list is battle tested on the trails, and should work well for you too.
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.