Not often I get to hike a trail soon after it was opened but this was such a day.
North on 5, exit Frazier Park, head west 12 miles. You are at a Y intersection with a large parking area. Head left and you go up Mt Pinos. Head right and you’re heading to Pine Mountain Club, a semi-private resort community. I parked here, hoping to follow a trail up through the Mt. Pinos campground to a spot called Iris Point. This is a reasonably steep hike that gains about 1700 ft over about 4 miles. You start out on a short use trail at the parking area, join the McGill trail and follow it up to the Mt. Pinos campground and then a short distance beyond.
The most dangerous thing you’ll encounter is your typical mountain biker flying down the trail at an unreasonable speed. What makes them really dangerous is that they are also often undetectably quiet until they are almost on top of you. Plus they tear the trail up pretty badly. Good reason not to go there on weekends.
From there you could pick up on various x-country ski trails and head up to the top of Mt. Pinos for another 3 miles and 1200 feet more of elevation. Because I can rarely get up here before early afternoon (I am lazy) and I am alone and so have to do an out-and-back, I usually break it up into two different days. (Plus I’m not as young as I used to be. 😦 )
This fine day I happened to see a sign in the parking area.
Hmmm… this sounded interesting. Being a Friday, I didn’t expect to see masses of mountain bikes plowing up the dirt and trying to run me over. It didn’t look like the kind of signage the Forest Service would put up and I could find nothing on their website. Either a cycling group pioneered this route or maybe the PMC wanted to add another recreational opportunity.
So I did what I naturally do in this situation. I yawned, put my seat back, and took a nap. Seriously. I am getting old.
Woke up about 2 in the afternoon. Headed down the road to the designated turnout. On the opposite side of the road, I see this…
Well, That was an easy trailhead to find. And to follow. Purple and black flagging along the way. This trail frequently comes close to the road and is never far enough away that you can’t hear traffic.
The first stretch was really easy. So far maybe only one bike has been this way. Most of the traffic so far is just hikers. But there is a hint of what is to come. Not a good trail for a bike to go screaming down at terminal velocity. Some of the downed trees are not easily bypassed.
Wildflowers and critters, always my favorite subject matter.
I flushed out a huge number of quail. Never was quite fast enough to catch them in a photograph. To do that you have to have the camera always at the ready, just like a shotgun if you were hunting. This close to the road they will never have to worry about human hunters – but there are also feline and canine hunters out here and I saw a couple piles of feathers indicating a predator’s success. Also lots of deer sign.
The trail zigs and zags for about 4 miles. I have my doubts about the latter segments ever becoming popular with either cyclists or equestrians. There are many downed trees that will not be easily negotiated or bypassed. There are occasional climbs up steep embankments of loose soil.
The most nervous parts for me were where the trail went thru deep grass. (You could see where someone had cleared a six-inch path thru the grass weeks earlier with a weed whacker.) Deep grass means you can’t study the trail more than a step or two ahead. You could approach within a couple of feet before you’d see a rattlesnake. I go slowly through these sections, probing ahead with a long stick.
You won’t get lost on this trail unless you are very young or VERY stupid. You’re on an old roadbed for much of it, the main road is always nearby and between the signage and the flagging, it is well marked. Pretty easy hike if you don’t sleep until mid-afternoon to start it and there are some nice views. There is bus service to PMC on Tuesday and Saturday but I don’t think there are any stops near the trailhead.