Over 2 miles, over an hour in duration, 314′ elevation change, rated Moderate
I have seen this trail referred to as Chiquito Loop Trail and also San Juan Loop Trail. I think that the later is probably correct as that is what it said at the trail head. This is a nice little hike close to Lake Elsinore. I don’t think of it as moderate it seemed fairly easy to me. It has a proper trail with dirt, and rocks, and roots, and everything that one looks for in a trail. It meanders through oak groves, along a stream, through bush, and has scenic views of the Cleveland National Forest hills.
But what I wanted to see was the Chiquito Falls, but the trail is above the falls and there are a couple views of the falls, some of it is more of a peek-a-boo view because of the heavy brush in the area. What I should have done is taken a couple of off shoot little trails that worked it’s way down to the falls, but not being on this trail before I kept thinking there was a better trail and way to the falls ahead, and also I thought that the falls I was looking at might not really be the Chiquito Falls.
However, I still enjoyed the hike, most of it was near water. You could hear it most of the hike, but much of the hike you couldn’t see it because of the heavy brush.
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1/3 mile, less than an hour in duration, approximately 50′ elevation change, rated Easy
Ortega Falls is in the hills above Lake Elsinore and is part of the Cleveland National Forest. It is just a short walk from the 74 Ortega Highway and you will need an Adventure Pass to park, (so I found out the hard way).
Ortega Falls is a seasonal waterfall so you will not always get to see the cascading water as it tumbles over the rocks. With the rains we have had this winter it was showtime for us and it was spectacular. Ortega Falls is made up of two waterfalls with the second just a little downstream from the first.
Speaking of showtime we had some tight-rope walkers that were doing their thing over the falls. How cool is that? A great water display as well as a circus act!
I will say as I have explored some falls in So Cal there is some tagging and I have tried to take my pics in such a way that it didn’t show them. But it is disappointing to see. I can’t believe people like that are even out in nature.
This shows the second of two falls that make up Ortega Falls.
7 miles, 6.5 hours in duration, less than 1000’ change in elevation, rated Moderate
I had heard that this was a very popular hike and since we have had a lot of rainfall during the last month I knew that the falls would be flowing and it would be a primo time to go. I arrived at dawn so that I would find parking, which turned out to be no problem at that time of day, but there were 4 or 5 cars there already. When I returned there were 40 or more. During my hike I saw over 60 hikers. On the dirt road portion 6 mountain bikers and one trail runner. This was winter midweek mind you! I met up with almost all of them on their way in while I was on my way out, so I was please about my early start.
It was a brisk 48 degrees at sun up and it warmed up about 10 degrees during the time I was there. More than half of this hike is on dirt road making it’s way through rolling green hills, (due to the unusually rainy season), along a babbling brook. I think that is why this hike is rated moderate. The first part is easy, the last part is strenuous. So I suppose that evens out to moderate?
Once the dirt road ends you then begin working your way up the Canyon and the stream. You will ford the stream over and over. It is slow going as sometimes there is a clear path and sometimes there isn’t. You have to hop scotch across rocks, type rope across damp branches, make your way up muddy slopes, always being cognizant of the abundant poison oak. Picking a route is not always easy, and many times you will do an about face and look for a better way across the stream, or across a boulder. It continues to ramp up in difficulty as you go until you are actually rock scrambling. There is one muddy bank that is pretty steep and you wouldn’t make it up without the rope that is tied on to a tree.
Here is a quick story about my embarrassing moment. I had painstakingly and very methodically picked my way across the stream over and over. I brought trekking poles which I thought would help with the balance and they did, but it was slow going. I did not want to get wet although some folks just walked through the water. I had made it all the way to the falls and almost all the way back without a slip or a dip. Then I happened upon these two cute little Asian ladies. They were heading toward the falls and they motioned that they had seen some other hikers go across were they were standing. It didn’t look too bad. It was multiple rocks to hop across. Instead of planting my poles on the bottom, testing it, and slowly making my way across with great care as I had many times, I thought I will just go with momentum and not use the poles. After all these little ladies were waiting, and it would be more impressive to just step step step. Well, about halfway across I slipped on the rock dipping both shoes in the water. I went down on my hip on one rock and my knee on another in a precarious position. At that point I had only two wet feet, but I was now momentarily stuck in this position. If I did not play my cards right this could end in disaster. I was dangerously close to rolling over like a turtle on my back and getting completely drenched and thus utterly humiliated. Luckily I was able to regain my composure, and raise myself up from this slick twister game and make it to the bank, all the while these little ladies were standing there big eyed with their hands over their mouth.
Black Star Canyon is a beautiful place with rushing water tumbling over rocks, and finally when you make it all the way to the end you can’t help but say, “Oh wow!”, as you turn the bend and there is this awesome 65’ waterfall. To the left is a mineshaft opening with water cascading out, which makes this particular waterfall very unusual. This canyon is named Black Star after a coal mining company that worked the area for a short time over 100 years ago.