Bear Canyon Loop Trail

#4 of 115 trails in Cleveland National Forest

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Bear Canyon Loop Trail is a 6.5 mile loop trail located near Lake Elsinore, California that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking & walking and is accessible from September until May. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Directions from Lake Elsinore, CA: Travel southwest on Highway 74 venturing into the mountains, then passing the Visitor Center / Fire Station in El Cariso. Proceed another 3.6 miles on Hwy. 74 to reach the trailhead. Parking is available at the San Juan Loop. (Trailhead is half a mile north of Upper San Juan Campground.)

California Travel and Tourism Commision, P.O. Box 1499 , Sacramento, CA, 95812-1499, Phone: 800-862-2543

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Paul Garcia

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3 Completed 3 Reviews

Pretty nice trail/loop!
Gets pretty warm in the afternoon, but there's a little breeze help cool you down once you get a little elevation.

The ridge trail is a little overgrown in places so wear pants or use poles to push the shrubs off the path.

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417 Completed 373 Reviews

AllTrails app for some reason was buggy in this area, tracking did not save and cell reception was weak at Bear Canyon Loop Trail but was perfect at San Juan Loop Trail. Original plan was to loop around Verdugo Truck Trail and descend at Morgan Trail to return to the parking lot, but Verdugo Truck Trail was just a total mess, a complete jungle, it was wretched, irritating and annoying, had to bail and retreat. Will have to return in the future and explore Bear Canyon loop. The views were indeed panoramic ascending, especially at the west and south made up for the disappointment at Verdugo.

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14 Completed 13 Reviews

This was my first time on a trail around the Ortega Hwy. I couldn't find the trail I was initially going to. Ended up on a dirt road on private property behind Hell's Kitchen! Got the heck out of there, drove down the road and saw a couple of guys parked in a turn out with hiking gear. They guided me to the Candy Store down the road for better trail information. The ladies there were very nice and informative of all the trails this area offers. Gave me print outs of trails and all. So I decided to take the Bear Canyon Loop trail. Parking is directly across the street from the Candy Store. You do need a pass which you can purchase at the store. I have an ankle issue because I sprained it awhile back. The longest hikes I have done is around 5 miles total because my ankle swells up and makes it very difficult to hike when in pain. However, I decided to do the loop. I did pretty well and loved how quite it was all around me. I actually felt alone. I made it to the 4 corners and thought," I'm not hurting that bad so why not try to go to the peak? The peak is 1.7 miles from this point. Once I got to the sign that points to the peak, all I could do was look up! This did not even look like a trail! It looked like a water drainage path only? This was the hardest short distance in all of the hike. If you stand straight up, you will fall over. That is how step it is. Alot of sticker bushes. At times I thought I would stop and turn around but didn't want to waste how far I've already gone. So I pushed ahead and all of a sudden, you are at the top! It was worth it! Beautiful view of the ocean, Catalina ,Long Beach and all. It was a nice clear day. After awhile of resting and eating, I realized it was going to be tuff on the way back. The steep part of this peak really did a number on my ankle, especially on the way down. I was in pain the whole 5 miles back. Had to sop at least 5 times just to rest my ankle. Animals? All I saw was a few lizards in the morning. On the way back I heard a few bees flying around me but no stings. I did notice on my way back around 1:00pm, their were a lot of lizards catching sun on the trails and ran away as I approached. I realized I saw no snakes and knew seeing the lizards soaking up the sun, the snakes were about ready to start coming out soon. This trail, especially up the peak, looks like it could be snake heaven. I will definitely keep an eye out as the weather is starting to warm up! Will I go again? Yes, and bring my friends.

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13 Completed 15 Reviews

I absolutely loved this hike. The trail was easy to follow, junctions were marked with signs, and there was enough shade (here and there) to help me cool off. There were bees during one portion of the trail, but they left us alone and hovered near their flowers.The different terrain gives a little variety to the hike as well. During the hike, my group of five crossed path with one couple, one solitary trail runner, and two men on horses. It was very peaceful! MAKE SURE YOU BUY YOUR DAY PASS AT THE CANDY STORE AT THE TRAILHEAD. THEY DO CHECK AND TICKET CARS!

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Roxane Bukacek

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25 Completed 12 Reviews

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31 Completed 36 Reviews

Not the most scenic or most exciting hike, but on a pleasantly cool late Winter or early Spring day, the Bear Canyon-Bear Ridge Loop makes a nice 7 mile hike through an interesting variety of terrain and habitat in the Cleveland National Forest. (Date hiked: March 12, 2011.) Read the full write-up at: http://www.greeneadventures.com/2011/03/23/bear-canyon-bear-ridge-loop-a-nice-hike-on-a-nice-day/

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10 Completed 4 Reviews

Great trail, not as difficult as we expected. Loved all the different types of terrain, wasn't too crowded either. Our only complaint was the bugs, so maybe bring some bug spray. Other than that, great little hike! We are looking forward to coming back and doing the peak next time!

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18 Completed 7 Reviews

This trail is a very good cross section of the different terrain in the coastal mountains of Southern California. Sitton peak is one of the best vantage points for the work involved. It's pretty easy to get to from 4 corners which is the turn around spot for the loop.

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1 Completed 1 Reviews

Very technical for mountain Biking, its super rocky and the trail is kinda tight with allot of blind spots making it hard to see walkers or other bikers, plus there is another trail that connects but does not allow bikers! Its not very long, about a 4.6 mile loop. I would say if you wanna work on balance and control through rocky hills this is a good place, but I personally would just stick to walking this trail.

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14 Completed 5 Reviews

Bear Canyon Loop, Cleveland National Forest

The trailhead is just off Ortega Highway a 100 yards behind the, Ortega Oaks Candy Store. Park across the street from the candy store, but remember your Adventure Parking pass. I did see the ranger writing tickets for the cars not showing their passes. You can pick up a, National Forest Adventure Pass at most outdoors stores, such as Turners Outdoors. The annual pass is $35 and the daily pass is $5.

Since we adopted our little dog, Tiffany weve been searching for hikes that allow dogs on the trails, there isnt a lot of them here in Orange County, but there are several trails that are accessible via this parking lot that allow dogs, such as the Bear Canyon Loop, the San Juan Loop, Sitton Peak, Chiquito Falls Tenaja Falls, and the Morgan trail. So needless to say weve been heading up there a lot.

Ive hiked most of the Bear Canyon trail before, on our way up to Sitton Peak, but this time I decided to try the loop out. The Bear Canyon Loop is 6.7 miles and the Sitton Peak hike is 10+ miles.

Tiffany is still a puppy and Ive been trying to keep her hikes within 5 to 7 miles. Once you hit the trailhead you start heading uphill pretty quick, the it levels off at the first split, which is at the start of the Morgan trail, about a mile into the hike, stay to the right and continue down the Bear Canyon/Sitton Peak trail, about another mile down the trail youll run into another set of trail markers.

This is the start of the Bear Canyon Loop. Go to the right for another mile and youll reach Four Corners. Here youll be able to see the Pacific Ocean, and you can take the trail to the right to continue onto Sitton Peak, or head to your left to make the Bear Canyon Loop, we of course took the left. This was our first time on this part of the trail, and it seemed a bit different from the other part of the hike. You hike along this ridge for about a mile, the views along this part of the trail are amazing, I was about to recognize the Morgan trail way off in the distance, we took that trail all the way to Tenaja Falls, which ended up being a 16.5 mile hike. You can reach Tenaja Falls via another trailhead thats only 1.5 mile hike, but we wanted to make it into a real hike, and we did. That was a long, long day.

Once we started heading back into the canyon, we were at the halfway point. We started early, about 8:30, it was about 54 degrees out. We didnt see anyone, but on the way back down we started running into a few different sets of hikers, everyone had their dogs with them. This is a really fun trail and even thought the elevation gain is 1,200 feet, it really didnt feel like it. Another thing I like about this trail, there are no mountain bikers allowed. Not that I dont like mountain bikers, its just easier hiking without being on the constant look for some mountain biker flying down the trail.

Another thing to watch out for is the wildlife. There are mountain lions here, and also rattlesnakes. I picked up a 6-foot long dog leash instead of the retractable one that we normally use. The reason for that is, because if we do run into a rattlesnake, I can pull her back quickly, before she has time to run up to the snake, with a retractable leash its a little harder to pull the dog back quickly.

This is a hike that Ill be doing again. Its a fun hike that helps you burn some calories. You have a pretty good chance to see some wildlife too, and your dog will love it.

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