sitton peak hike

Sitton Peak Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Video
  • Sitton Peak Trail Maps
  • How to Get to the Sitton Peak Trailhead
Distance9.2 miles (14.8 km)
Hike Time4:30 Hours (Total)
DifficultyModerate
Total Ascent (?)1,960 feet (597m)
Highest Elevation3,273 feet (998m)
Fees & PermitsParking Fee
Dog FriendlyLeashed
Park ContactTrabuco Ranger District
Park Phone951-736-1811

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.

Getting to the Sitton Peak Trailhead

Use this trailhead address: San Juan Loop Trailhead, Trabuco Canyon, CA, 92679, USA.

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.

sitton peak hike parking
The parking lot is well marked and offers a lot of spots.
sitton peak hike bathrooms
There are bathrooms in the parking lot. Nothing fancy.
candy store on sitton peak hike
The Candy Store across the street from the lot has food and sells one day parking passes if you don’t have a National Parks Pass.

Gear for the Hike

Lizard On Sitton Peak Trail
Keep your eyes open for the Coast Horned Lizard. I’ve seen a few here, but you really need to look around. Photo Amanda44

This is a “hike” hike and you should bring hiking gear, although you can probably get away with fitness clothes and water.

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 binoculars or a camera with a long lens if you have one.

Here’s the gear that I personally use, have tested, and recommend for this hike*.

Osprey Talon

Osprey Talon 33

My best lightweight pack for hikes between 3-10+ hours. I use mine with the 3L water bladder from Osprey.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Garmin InReach Mini

You can text, SOS, and get weather in the backcountry where your cell phone doesn’t work. Literally a life-saver.

Lowest Prices

My In-Depth Review

La Sportiva Spire

La Sportiva Spire GTX

Modern materials mean you get the protection of a traditional hiking boot (waterproof, etc.) with feel of a sneaker.

Women’s Reviews

Men’s Reviews

Black Diamond Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

If you’re not using poles yet, you should be. This model takes a beating, is light, and is super comfortable.

See The Reviews

Socks Sock Liners

2-Layer Sock System

I use a light inner toe sock and then a top-quality outer sock to prevent blisters.

Injinji Sock Liners

Darn Tough Socks

Probar

Nutritionally Dense Superfoods

Probars are great: no preservatives, vegan, low-GI, compact, and tasty. Put good fuel in your body.

See the Probar Flavors

If you’re hiking in the backcountry it makes sense to have a decent emergency kit and some basic gear to spend the night in a pinch.Full HikingGuy Gear List

* 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 REI link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps offset website expenses. There is no cost to you.

Also → Big Sale at REI On Now:

REI SALE

Sitton Peak Trail Maps

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.

Click To View Map

Sitton Peak Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Here’s what I use to navigate my hikes. I recommend a combination of paper and electronic options with backups.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS

Gaia GPS is a planning and navigation tool that you can use on your phone, tablet, and the web. I use it on my phone when I need to interact with the map and know where my position is on it. I use it at home on the computer to plan routes. You can overlay maps such as public lands to find out free places to camp. It’s a powerful tool.

HikingGuy Discount on Gaia GPS

Fenix Nav

Garmin Fenix Watch

This thing does everything: maps, GPX tracks, compass, barometer, altitude, heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and the list goes on. I keep a GPX route on the watch so I can quickly glance down and make sure I’m in the right place.

Fenix Prices & Reviews

My In-Depth Review

Topo Map

Topo Maps & Guide Books

Don’t be caught out if your batteries die. Take a topo map with you on the trail. Some people also print my guides out for use on the hike.

I also highly recommend taking a map and compass navigation course. It’s a few hours, it’s fun, and it could save your life.

Map and Compass Navigation Basics Classes

Don’t just rely on a cell phone, especially if you are hiking in the backcountry.

stilton peak hike 3d map
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.
stilton peak hike elevation
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.

Sitton Peak Hike Directions

Video Directions

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Turn by Turn Hiking Directions

sitton peak hike trailhead
The trailhead is just to the right (west) of the candy store, across the street from the parking lot.
Bear Canyon Trailhead sign
The Bear Canyon Trailhead sign marks the start of the hike.
hike notice board
Take a look at the notice board before you start. Always good to check on trail conditions or closures.
hike sign in box
After the notice board you’ll see a sign in box.
signing in for sitton peak hike
The hike is free (aside from the parking) – you just need to sign in.
sitton peak hike climbs
The trail is well marked and starts to climb gradually.
boulders on sitton peak hike
The first part of the hike has some awesome boulders.
ign for the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness
Just under a mile, you’ll reach the sign for the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness.
sitton peak hike trail junction
Just over a mile, there’s a trail junction. Head right on the Bear Canyon trail.
sitton peak hike trail sign
Here’s a closeup of the sign at the junction. These white trail signs are found throughout the hike.
sitton peak hike
The trail climbs gradually again. You’ll pass through oak groves and some shaded areas.
sitton peak hike junction
At around 2 miles, you reach a big junction. Make the hard right.
sitton peak hike sign
Here’s a closeup of the sign at the junction. You’re heading to 4 corners.
sitton peak trail
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.
4 corners
At about 3.2 miles you reach 4 corners, which is actually 5 corners. Make the very hard right.
sitton peak trail
This is the start of that very hard right turn.
sitton peak sign
Here’s a closeup of the sign. Head toward Sitton Peak.
views of the high peaks to the north
The trail starts to climb again and you’ll get views of the high peaks to the north.
sitton peak trail
This part of the trail is more primitive and overgrown, but still well marked.
sitton peak hike trail
Just after 4 miles there’s a few trails splitting off to lower peaks. Continue straight through. The trail will start to head downhill.
sitton peak hike descends
The trail descends. It doesn’t seem like the right way, but it is.
sitton peak
As the trail goes down, you’ll see the path to Sitton Peak looming in front of you.
sitton peak hike right turn
This junction is easy to miss. Just after 4.3 miles, make the right onto the much smaller trail.
sitton peak 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.
sitton peak
Eventually trail levels out and you’ll see the peak in front of you.
sitton peak sign
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.
sitton peak hike USGS marker and trail log
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.
360 views from sitton peak
You’ll have 360 views from the peak. Take your time and soak it all in.
cris hazzard on sitton peak hike
Grab your selfies and head back down the way you came. Enjoy the hike!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.