Peak 2,610ft P300
Red Hill

Sat, Apr 13, 2019
Red Hill
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile


I was in Orange County with my wife who was in town for a beach volleyball reffing clinic. While she was doing her thing in the morning, I went off to visit a couple of peaks in the area before we headed north together in the afternoon to my sister's place in Santa Clarita.

Peak 2,610ft

This unnamed summit lies in the Cleveland National Forest on the western side of the Santa Ana Mountains. Access is a bit tricky, however, and there is no formal trail leading to the summit. The easiest way appears to be 3.5mi each way, starting from Orange County's Black Star Canyon Park. The dirt Black Star Helo Pad Rd starts from the junction of paved Black Star Canyon Rd and Baker Canyon Rd, climbing for three miles where it ends under a transmission tower. A first transmission tower is encountered at about the halfway mark where the park boundary is found. Above this is a Wilderness Preserve signed for No Trespassing. The lower portion of the route in Black Star Canyon Park is only open to the public on docented hikes that one has to sign up for in advance. So despite the summit being on NF land and the route on public lands, one can't legally hike it. There were a number of ascents described on PB so it seems to get visitors, even if infrequently, and I figured my chances of being discovered were probably minimal.

I started soon after 8a, following the Helo Trail on a beautiful Saturday morning. The first quarter mile of trail is open to discovery from the road below, but after that it turns away from roadway as it begins a long climb up the ridgeline towards the peak. I passed under the first transmission line and then went over the fence of the adjacent wilderness preserve. The road had fresh bulldozer tracks, evidence they'd been clearing/improving the road of late. I reached the second transmission tower and the end of the road after an hour's time, so far so good. It's not obvious where to go from here to pick up the use trail that follows along the continuing ridgeline for the last half mile. I pushed through a bit of brush and found it almost immediately, overgrown as expected, but quite serviceable. The trail follows closely along the top of the ridge where a cliff becomes apparent off the right side. I found an old rope and a fire ring along the way, clearly others have been here going back a number of years. Some attention was needed to not lose the trail in places - if you find yourself in heavy brush, you're probably not going the easiest way. At the end of the cliff there's a short drop of 15-20ft, facilitated by a fixed rope tied to a couple of manzanita bushes. A TR on PB says one of these bushes is dead (not a good thing to tie a rope to!), but upon closer inspection I could see that both were alive, though not robustly. The upper part can be descended without need of the rope, but I could not lower myself the remaining 8ft without its help - glad it was there. The use trail then continues along the ridge through very tall brush, through a few open sections, past a survey stake and eventually to the summit where one gets no views and is buried in stuff well over head level. I piled a few rocks up to make a highpoint and call it good. It was about 40min for the last half mile to the top. Just below the summit where the brush wasn't so high, one can get views looking northeast to Pleasants Peak atop the Santa Ana Mtns, and southwest along the ridgeline I had just ascended, fairly clear air today and not a cloud in the sky. I reversed the route in the same fashion, taking almost as much time for the descent as I had on the way up. I got back to the start around 11:15a, having taken 3hr10min for the roundtrip effort. Didn't see another soul on the trail all morning.

Red Hill

This tiny hill sits in a residential area on the western edge of the Santa Ana Mtns. Undeveloped, it is clearly signed for No Trespassing. There does not seem to be any access point that is not within clear view of at least one of the surrounding neighbors. I used the Cinnabar Rd access point for the ascent, which seems to be the favored route on PB. After going over the wobbly fence with the aid of an oak tree, one has to follow up the northeast edge of the property looking into the backyards of several neighbors, a bit creepy. The brush has been cleared along this path and it is too thick elsewhere to go cross-country. It takes but a few minutes to reach the top with views overlooking the surrounding Orange County neighborhoods. The top is a small collection of large rocks sticking up from the brush. There is a small cave on the east side of the summit that looks like it might be a party option for local teenagers. Rather than go back along the backyard fenceline, I made a quick exit onto Loma Roja, going over the tall fence found there, just below the summit. From there, I simply walked back down the road to return to the car. Can't say I really enjoyed this one.


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