CLEVELAND NATIONAL FOREST
Activity: Day Hike, Tour, Interview and Peak Bagging
6.5 miles, 1500’ elevation gain, 3 hour duration, rated Hard
There are a few different ways to get to Los Pinos Mountain. I actually added the Los Pinos Mountain Lookout to my hike to Corte Madera, San Diego’s Half Dome hike. Since not everyone wants to do do 11 miles for a day hike I split the two different peaks into two different posts. Obviously the first half of the hike is the same for both until you get to the four corner junction.
So from the beginning, the trip to the trail head is 5 miles along a bumpy, dusty, country road. You need an Adventurer Pass or other National Forest Pass for Cleveland National Forest.
Coming in on Corral Canyon Road the trailhead is not marked so having a hiking App, (preloaded, as you will not always have cell coverage), would be helpful. There is only room for maybe five cars. Hike passed the locked gate then work your way up a windy dirt road (called Kernan on the map I saw), for less than a half mile, (again an GPS App could be beneficial to find the trail). Just passed a sharp turn in the road turn left onto the Espinosa Trail. The trek is through heavy overgrown thorny brush that wants to reach out and scratch, so long pants and sleeves are something to consider. Along the way there are some lovely oaks for shade until you break out into bright sunshine with green hills sprinkled with boulders where you can marvel at the sight of Corte Madera, “San Diego’s Half Dome.”
At the four corner junction you have the two choices to the left going up to Los Pinos Mountain. The first one is quite steep such as a path you might find for utility, but it is much shorter than the second option which is more of a fire road trail. What I did was take on the challenge of the steep option going up. Just because I would always rather have a loop than just out and back, along with going up steep and slippery is one thing, but going down steep and slippery is entirely another, I took the fire road down making it a bit of a loop.
On top I made a new friend interviewing Lookout Station Forester Dave, (the nicest guy), for PBTA. Dave was very informative and had a wealth of knowledge that he was more than willing to share. In fact truth be know, I think he was glad to have someone to talk to as being on the top of a tower, in the middle of a forest, all by your lonesome can get old I surmise.
His tower is the Southern most Federal Lookout in the region. Los Pinos Mountain has an elevation of 4774’ and the the lookout is perched atop a 1600’ tower. This gives Ranger Dave a birds eye view of the entire area and into Mexico. As he explained it, his job is monitoring the area for fires, but what he is really looking for is smoke, because if he sees fire he is too late. He also monitors storms and keeps tracks of lightning strikes. He loves his job and enjoys the views and the animals. He showed me his photo log book of animals and the birds of prey. Dave really had some wonderful shots. He certainly has the vantage point that is for sure!
We all certainly appreciate Dave and the important job that he does watching over and caring for our beloved wilderness. Thanks Forest Ranger Dave!
I appreciate your joining me and Fire Tower Lookout Forest Ranger Dave on this adventure into the Cleveland National Forest ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ and the visit to the Lookout Tower high atop Los Pinos Mountain. Stay with me for more adventurous outings in Nature by doing this: LIKE, FOLLOW, COMMENT and SHARE. Browse the menu and you will discover that PBTA travels extensively throughout this wonderful West seeking the balance that Nature can bestow upon us if we just take the time. For clothing that means Nature and Balance and Adventure I invite you to treat yourself at SHOP APPAREL.
Pursuing Balance Through Adventure