Ascent of Trabuco Peak on 2016-04-18

Climber: Joseph Esparza

Date:Monday, April 18, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Trabuco Peak
    Elevation:4604 ft / 1403 m

Ascent Trip Report


Providing one avoids the dog-days of summer, the Santa Ana Mountains can be enjoyed anytime of year; winter with its light snowfalls, spring with its extravagant wildflowers, and autumn with the clear air of the season. Secluded almost in the center of the range, and near the culmination of the Santa Ana's lie Trabuco and Horsethief Peaks. Along Trabuco Ridge, the climber is treated to fine, untouched samplings of coastal montane chaparral, old growth Coulter Pine stands, and unbeatable views to the west of Orange County, southeastern Los Angeles County, and the Pacific and its islands. Eastward lies the great mountain groups of Southern California, the Inland Empire, and numerous glittering lakes. So come, the mountains continue their call.


Category: Strenuous
Miles: 11.2
Elevation Gain: 2,700'
Location: Cleveland National Forest
Directions: HERE

The Trail: From the trailhead, Main Divide Road (the trail) begins a no-nonsense approach to gaining elevation rapidly through unshaded chaparral covered slopes. As you gain elevation, views both eastward and westward open up, with the shimmering Pacific on one side, and emerald-colored Lake Elsinore on the other. After 1.7 miles, and 800' of elevation gain, you will reach a saddle between Los Pinos Ridge firebreak on the left, and Vicker Mountain on the right. For the next mile or so, a dense stand of Coulter Pine thrives, granting some welcome shade to the path. Here the route descends about 300', for this trip, like most ridge hikes, offers enormous amounts of ups-and-downs (rollar coaster action). In fact, the gross elevation gain from the trailhead to Trabuco Peak is only 1,200'; nonetheless accounting for the complete rollar-coastering, you net nearly 2,700' in total elevation gain on this trek.

Coming out of the forest, your view expands toward the immense southern facade of Santiago Peak, Orange County's highest. However, the sight also includes the southern faces of Horsethief and Trabuco Peaks. After another mile, you will come to the Class 2 firebreak, branching off to the summit of Horsethief, a peak worth as visit if you have time. Because its summit is covered with sumac and scrub oak, the views are scanty at best. After returning back to the road from a summit visit, you will proceed still north upon Main Divide road rounding the aforementioned peak, and passing some sizable oaks and pines. After continuously gaining and loosing elevation, the road finally makes a final steep push towards Trabuco Peak with a single pine tree visible on summit.
The cut-off to the peaks is signed, and after crossing over a small gate, you begin a sustained 100' Class 2 climb towards the peak. Here the last 100' or so, is made over fairly even ground though high and dense manzanita to the summit proper, marked, and topped with a summit register in a small red can. Unfortunately, views from the peak are impossible as the chaparral is simply too high to see over, and too think to see through. After enjoying the time on Orange County's third highest mountain, return back the way you came, preparing for the numerous regaining of elevation on the route back.

Orange County. Hiked 4/18/2016.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble

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