BEAR CANYON LOOP TRAIL, CNF

February 13, 2012

Bear Canyon Loop, Cleveland National Forest



A nice 6.7 miles in 3 hours hike, with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet.


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 we’ve been searching for hikes that allow dogs on the trails, there isn’t 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… we’ve been heading up there a lot.



I’ve 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 I’ve 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 you’ll run into another set of trail markers.



This is the start of the Bear Canyon Loop. Go to the right for another mile and you’ll reach Four Corners. Here you’ll 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 that’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t feel like it. Another thing I like about this trail, there are no mountain bikers allowed. Not that I don’t like mountain bikers, it’s 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, which I wrap around my hand a few times, instead of the retractable one that we normally use. The reason for that is, 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 it’s a little harder to pull the dog back quickly.



This is a hike that I’ll be doing again. It’s 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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