Black Hills P300
Oak Mountain
Oak Mountain P300
Dorland Peak P300

Apr 6, 2018
Black Hills
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 Profiles: 1 2 3 4


On my way to San Diego to meet up with my wife later in the afternoon, I spent the morning hiking in the low hills east of Temecula and Pauba Valley in Riverside County. None of these summits had been on my radar until the previous evening when, having run through my prepared hikes for the week, I was poking around for more places to visit. Once again, Mike Sullivan's GPX tracks helped nicely. Seems he's been everywhere in SoCal.


Though Mike describes the roads as high-clearance, I managed to get the van to the top of the knoll immediately east of Roundtop, a small bump between Lewis and Lancaster Valleys. I spent the night there quite peacefully and was up to start the short hike to Roundtop by 6:45a. I found the lower valleys filled with fog that was slowly rising and spreading inland - I would only have a short time before it had enveloped the van, Roundtop, and everything around it. It took only 15min to make my way along the rest of the roads to the saddle on the east side of Roundtop where old vehicle tracks could be used to climb the steep slope to the summit without fighting any brush at all. There was a PVC cross erected at the summit, looking somewhat vulnerable to the elements and held up at an angle with guy wires. Behind me, the fog was rolling in and would cover the landscape in the short time it took me to return to the van.

Black Hills/Oak Mtn #1

Found 4mi west of Roundtop, these two summits are within a mile of each other and easily combined with connecting dirt roads. They are both located on a smallish parcel of BLM land though access to them seems to be mostly surrounded by private lands with semi-public roads through them. The easiest approach is from the north or northwest through the Glenoak Hills and Glenoaks Country developments, horse-friendly rural communities with well-graded dirt roads that can be used to reach Esplendida Way or Via de Oro, either of which can be used as a starting point. As I was coming from the east, I followed a Google Maps-recommended route along the rough Powerline Rd (bad) and Denise Rd (better), a 4mi odyssey into the backwaters of Riverside County where my low-clearance van was ill-equipped to travel and turned out to be the most exciting (not in a good way) part of the day. Once I reached my starting point on Esplendida Way northeast of the Black Hills HP, the hiking was pretty easy, though now entirely engulfed in fog. It took all of six minutes to reach the rock outcrop marking the Black Hills HP. If there were fine views, they were lost on me. I did note the yuccas in the area were starting to bloom which always makes for an impressive sight. Some spider webs draped in the dew of the fog were also pretty nifty. I spent another 25min making my way south along the dirt roads (mostly used by ATVs, it seems) to a saddle, then a short climb of less than 300ft to the summit of Oak Mtn, the first of two identically named summits in the area that I would visit. The area is signed as an endangered species habitat (the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly) for foot and horse travel only, but that appears to be regularly ignored. The summit features a "HENDERSON" benchmark and yet more fog, at least this morning. I took a single track trail descending from Oak Mtn back to the saddle, then returned via the same route back to the van around 9a.

Oak Mountain #2

This second Oak Mountain is only 3mi southwest of the first. I drove northwest out through the Glenoak Hills development (MUCH better roads), then south on paved De Portola Rd to SR79. A little more than a mile east on the highway got me to the gated start used by Mike Sullivan in his trip report found on PB. The hike is not difficult, about 2mi each way with barely 500ft of gain. The gate is signed for No Trespassing, but as pointed out by Mike, it appears to be a popular mountain biking area with trails, both old ranch roads and single tracks, criss-crossing the area. The fog was dissipating as I started this third hike and would be gone before I reached its summit in about 40min. Like most of the area, there are few trees, mostly chaparral and not very dense at that. The grasses were quite green with recent rains, probably as green as it will get for the year. That the two peaks are named "Oak Mtn" is a bit of a mystery since there are no oaks anywhere near the summits. I did find a few in the creeks along the base, but the naming still seems a bit odd. I followed Mike's track on the ascent up an old road along a gradually rising ridgeline. The summit offers an overlook of to Temecula to the west and other brushy hills in other directions. I noted there was a peak to the south across SR79 that looked interesting, and decided to check it out afterwards. My descent route originally started along Mike's track, but on a whim I turned left onto a single-track and returned down a minor canyon to the original route near the start.

Dorland Peak

This turned out to be the most interesting peak of the day. Not found on PB, it had no ascents shown on LoJ where it is listed as unnamed "2581" (for its elevation). It is located south of SR79 on BLM land, just north of the Agua Tibia Wilderness. The Dorland Mountain Arts Colony is located on its northern flanks and they have built a cairned trail leading from their grounds to the summit. One might be able to call them (951-302-3837) for permission to use the trail, but I didn't know about its existence until my return. I had spied an old firebreak/road to the west of the arts colony on private property that I thought might be able to get me up most of the way to what looked like a brush-covered summit. My starting point was the intersection of SR79 and De Portola Rd. The property I passed through is owned by the Rancho California Water District (RCWD), the lands part of the watershed for Vail Lake to the northeast which is maintained by RCWD. The old road I followed is no longer used which made me feel somewhat safe, though it is mostly exposed to view from the highway below. I followed this road to a ridgeline just west of the arts colony, across a steep gully. From the road's end, a use trail zigzags up the steep ridgeline through fairly heavy brush to the crest where the trail dissolves and the brush relents. I made my way along the rounded crest through light brush, eventually finding a ducked route that caught me by surprise. I followed this to the open summit with a view into the Agua Tibia Wilderness on the north side of Palomar Mtn to the south, Temecula to the west and San Jacinto far to the northeast. I decided to follow the ducked trail back to see where it originated, finding it led down to the arts colony (the trail starts just beyond the cell tower if one is coming up from the colony). Having no idea what sort of reception I might get at the arts colony, I walked down the road past a number of unoccupied, but nicely kept cottages. These are rented to artists (writing/music/painting/etc) at reasonable rates for the purpose of allowing one's creative juices to flower in the quiet, mountain retreat. Lower down, one passes by the on-site caretaker and it was here that my scent was picked up by the resident german shepherd that came out to greet me in a most unpleasant manner. I picked up a reasonably-sized rock for protection as the dog came barking and snarling at the intruder that had dared cross his property. Each time the dog circled around me I would turn to face it, sternly telling it to "Go home!" to little effect. I then heard an older woman calling out for the dog which left me in a quandary - do I let her discover me holding a rock with which I had intentions of bashing her dog's skull with, or, do I drop the rock and risk having the dog attack me unarmed? I dropped the rock. She managed to recall the dog without actually having heard or seen me, but to be safe I called out to her when I caught sight of her and let her know I was just descending from the trail I had "discovered" while at the summit. She didn't seem to mind much and we parted ways without further discussion. I descended the wide, paved road to the entrance, then walked along SR79 for about half a mile back to the car. Though it was only a bit after 12:30p, I decided to call it a day and drive south to Rancho Bernardo to meet up with my wife who had arrived the previous day...


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