Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hiking Cleveland National Forest

There are numerous state and local parks herein SoCal but there are also National Parks that ring around Los Angeles. I had yet to visit Cleveland National Forest and decided to give it a try this past weekend.

My intended hike was Bedford Peak, based on a Weekend Sherpa recommendation. I looked around the web and found very few descriptions of the trail. What I have been finding is that if there are very few trail descriptions, that usually means there are a lot of mountain bikes on those trails.

I got up super early and headed down to Cleveland but not early enough. When I got to the trailhead there were numerous cars there. I found out that there was a mountain bike rally race going on THAT DAY on THAT TRAIL. I had hiked up and down bike-heavy trails and wanted no part of a 3 mile directly uphill climb with not margin for error to get out of the way. So Bedford Peak was not for me.

At least I got to see the peak (maybe?)

 as I decided to take another trail in the Forest.

At the end of the day I don't begrudge the mountain bikers. I own a mountain bike but I haven't gotten it on a trail yet. I look forward to that but at the same time, I wish there was a heads up on a race like this. Something on the Cleveland website or something of that nature.

So I wasn't exactly in the best of moods but I decided to trek up the Silverado Motorway to see what could be seen. The Motorway is mostly a paved track until it starts tracking up towards Modjeska Peak (pronounced Majestic I think) and it leads through a very nice canyon with streams and trees.

Eventually you get to the end of the pavement (about 3.5-5 miles from the Maple Springs trailhead depending on where you park) and start heading up. And head up you do. On the Silverado Motorway Part 2, you climb gain around 2,000 feet in about 3-4 miles.

Part 2 of the motorway is your typical California fireroad

However, as the morning started to drift towards noon I noticed an uptick of vehicles other than the racing mountain bikers. At one point as I was trekking up the mountain on my 2 feet a car passed me as an ATV was going down the mountain while bikers were still trying to get up that section of trail. All I needed was a clown car to complete the scene. I truly have never been on a more congested trail. On the motorway, if it has wheels, you will see it so if hiking, keep your ears open.

Still, the trail does have its benefits. You seemingly get into an alpine zone much quicker than the Angeles National Forest or other parks and the smell and sights of pine was great to experience.

This I call Nature In Cycles tm_logo.png (177×185)

Profound eh?

You also start to see the surrounding neighborhood with peaks and Baldy in the distance.

I had no idea where I was going on the Motorway other than up. I had picked out a nice pine tree grove as my midway/turnaround point and despite the crowds and the Bedford Peak deferred I got there and felt good!

Shade is a premium on this trail as it seems to be for the other trails in the Cleveland so plan your days there accordingly.

I decided to push on a little further and Modjeska rounded into view.

I am not a peak bagger (someone who only hikes to summit and tick peaks off a list). I am also not "its about the journey not the destination" type of guy. I want to get somewhere AND appreciate it along the way. I hike with goals in mind. See a waterfall, get to the summit, see something new. I hike with goals in mind in addition to just getting out and about.

Still I stood at the trail looking at a peak which would probably take me another 2-3 miles to get to the summit of after already pushing about 7 miles to that point. But you know what? I was satisfied with my pine grove. I will get Madjeska another time but that day was not the day. Even though I had no discernible end point thanks to the bike race I did have a general turnaround point which was informed by hike time and distance. I previously paid the price for pushing past what I wanted to do on a mountain so I dialed back and started back down the trail. I think this was the right call and I can't wait to tackle the mountain some other time.

Heading back down the trail you appreciate not only the killer views of Baldy but the flowers that abound on the trail.

After trudging back to the car, I HAD to spend some in the funky town of Silverado. This is an old school town, originally settled by via a Mexican land grant and then resettled when the town struck silver. There are huge houses and shacks. Lots of angry signs against mountain bikers and just a weird funky vibe that I totally dug. Of course I had to grab a burger there ($3.49 for the Silverado Burger)

Whatever you do in the Cleveland this is a MUST stop.

Overall a Peak was deferred, a trail was 3/4's hiked and I had never seen and burgers were enjoyed. I am not sure what I think about the Cleveland and this area in particular but I am willing to give it a bunch more shots but not on this motorway, just too many motors.


  1. Welcome to our back yard! We love Cleveland NF. And, your post reminded me that Greene Adventures has a Bedford Peak write-up that we haven't ever posted yet (grr!). But, we do plan to re-hike that trail again this year, so we will probably wait.

    There are a lot of fabulous hikes in Cleveland NF, but most are extremely exposed, so not too ideal for warmer months. West Horsethief to Trabuco Peak is one of our favorites -- the canyon down below is one of the prettiest shadiest spots in the NF, and the scramble up to the peak is quite fun (literally requires clawing your way up): http://www.greeneadventures.com/2011/06/30/west-horsethief-canyon-to-trabuco-peak-third-highest-peak-in-the-santa-ana-mountains/

    -- Colleen @ GreeneAdventures.com

  2. Colleen, thanks for your suggestions! I am definitely willing to hike around the Cleve more, I was just there on the wrong day all the way around I think. I will definitely check out that Horsethief to Trabuco jaunt you mentioned, thanks!

  3. This used to be my playground before I moved to San Diego and now Santa Barbara.

    One of my most memorable hikes was to Holy Jim Falls. Probably a nice time of year to do so, after the rains.

    Another one was to the top of Santiago Peak. Mostly a fire road, but still a challenging hike. Saw three rattlesnakes on that hike.

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