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.
Southern California is experiencing a Super Bloom giving us the best conditions in a generation. Just the perfect combination of rain, after an extended drought, the right temperatures, sunshine and lack of damaging winds are gifting us with magic that has only been seen on a Metro Goldwyn Mayer movie set where a young girl and her dog befriend three strange characters while trying to find the way back home.
Speaking of trying to find their way back home, the horrendous crowds this phenomenon has created has place a hard ship on local residents almost in tears as they are stuck in hours of freeway traffic trying to get home. It has really overwhelmed the area as they are getting 100,000 visitors on the weekends.
That being said, I arrived with my friend Adam on a weekday just after daybreak and there were already 100 cars there. But it was a good move as when we left there were miles of cars and throngs of people. I certainly would not want to be there on a weekend.
It was difficult making this blog as I had 100 pictures of poppies, and I knew they all looked similar, but I just couldn’t help it. With each step it seemed to get better, plus as the sun got higher the poppies open up. That coupled with after we finished the marked trail, you see on the map below, we heard about about an unmarked trail that was even better. It was only a half mile away so we did that trail as well, and you guess it click click click one pic after another.
I hope this article and the pictures do the event justice as it was really stunning to see this in nature. Even going through the pictures I had a tough time cutting out pictures of the poppies, so I hope that they do not put you to sleep as the Wicked Witch would hope.
6 miles, 5.5 hours in duration, over 1,200′ in elevation change, rated Moderate.
It is always fun to share a hike with family and friends. To share the Arizona Hot Springs five out of five star hike is something special. This hike really has just about everything: desert, canyon, slot canyon, hot spring, Colorado River, beauty and with enough elevation to give you a workout.
This is a well traveled hike and on an early Spring weekday with temperatures in the 70’s we encountered about as many hikers as degrees on the thermometer, which is not to bad on a 6 mile hike (7.5 miles for us according to my health app. We took a couple little side tours.)
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.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve is a pleasant walk beside a saltwater marsh area, along a trail filled with lush greenery. It is fairly flat until you venture upon Annie’s Canyon. What a delight working through this little slot canyon. It was so cool, more than I expect with a tight squeeze, twists and turns as you went up. Annie’s Canyon was different then other slot canyons I have been to. It was close quarters, just room for one at a time and it went up in elevation. Others slots I have been in where fairly flat, but this had a bit of a climb. The sign said strenuous, but I would not describe it that way. I with describe it as fun.
Just under 8 miles, over 1,350 feet elevation change, 3.5 hours
The Newport Coast is one of my favorite spots for day hiking. So Cal has had so much rain lately that our reservoirs are full, and the storms have put a serious dent in our ongoing drought situation. This has brought us a stunning green landscape to enjoy in this late winter season and provided a perfect day to get out and enjoy nature.
Spring seems right around the corner when you are enjoying temperatures in the mid 60’s, hiking in a tee-shirt and shorts, and observing the first blooms.
Bommer Canyon Trail Irvine California February 6, 2019 4.6 miles, 814’ climb
I stumbled across this delightful little hike upon discovering one of my standard day hiking areas, Crystal Cove State Park at Newport Coast, closed due to all the rain that we had been experiencing.
It was a beautiful day, although a little cool in the low to mid 50’s with a little breeze on this winters day, the rain clouds had departed leaving clear views of the snow capped mountains in the background, and greenery we are not used to seeing in So Cal. I kept saying to myself, “Where am I, Ireland?”, this is crazy! The bright green just seemed too foreign.
Since I was already there, and it was such a nice day, I decided I must do something. So the opposite side of the top of the hill, heading in the direction of the mountains, I spied what appeared to me to be an equestrian trail with railings and pea gravel on the trail. So I set off on this trek which brought me under the 73 freeway in the direction of Irvine.
I really like being in the wilds of the wilderness the most with little signs of civilization, but this was a day hike and would lead up to the aforementioned type of backpacking. It is important to do some smaller day hikes to prepare for the load, distance, and altitude of a backpacking adventure. This day hike had the buildings of Irvine in the distance, and some very snazzy homes framing the bottom portion of this open space preserve which is Shady Canyon.
After a short distance I came to the trail head marker announcing Bommer Canyon Trail. “Cool”, I thought. I didn’t even know this was over here. I was thinking, “Wow, I know it is winter and mid-week, but I have this whole place to myself.” I was to find out at the opposite trail head this trail also was closed, “Oops, sorry…” I did see a couple hiking, and 2 trail runners during my day hike so I was not the only one uninformed.
I really enjoyed this little hike along Bommer Canyon Trail through this protected wild lands preserve, especially since it was so beautiful with the snow on the mountains, and the green grass on the rolling hills.
Location: Near Red Rock, outside of Las Vegas, Nevada
Time: Early Winter
Activity: Day Hike
Fossil Ridge day hike was a solo adventure that I did in Nevada the day after Christmas 2018. It was under 5 miles with a climb in elevation of under 1,000 feet. The hike was rated moderate. It was a gorgeous day, and a good way to try and work off some of the treats from the holiday. The location is near Red Rock, which to me is almost spiritual it is so beautiful, and a must do anytime I am near Vegas. Usually I am hiking on the opposite side of the road that runs through the area, and closer to the mountains and to Red Rock, but this perspective was very special as you have the full expanse of that view. The Fossil Ridge Loop day hike worked its way along the cliff of a canyon which was very interesting. The other thing I really liked about the hike was at times I felt like I was hiking through a cactus garden.