I parked in the parking lot across Ortega Oaks Candy Store. The candy store sells the Adventure Pass if you forget yours. The Bear Canyon trailhead is on the south side of the store. There is a big sign for it. You can’t miss it.
Soon we came to the San Mateo Wilderness information board and the visitor log. I signed for both of us and continued on. It rained the day before so the trail was still wet and soft. The sky was moody so it was possible that we might get rained on. Hiking in the not so perfect weather condition means dirty, muddy and messy. But it has its upside too. It also means fewer people are on the trail. We were alone most of the time and I loved it.
And most of all, it makes wonderful lighting for picture taking. Without the harsh light of the sun, you can really see Xena’s healthy shiny black fur in the photos. My little black beauty.
Bear Canyon Loop Trail was well-maintained and there were trail signs at almost every corner. With the recent rain, the trail was green and inviting. The vibrant green made me happy to be out and about.
After 1.9 miles, the trail intersected Verdugo Truck Trail and we turned right. The next 1.15 miles on Verdugo Truck Trail was my least favorite portion of the hike. It was uninteresting, flat, and had graffiti. Then, it started to rain. I think this picture sums up our mood on this section.
After 3.1 miles, we reached 4 Corners and found 4 stakes that were placed to mark the boundary.
This is the junction where Verdugo Truck Trail joins Sitton Peak Truck Trail. Follow the Sitton Peak sign on your right and make a sharp right. The peak is 1.7 miles from here. With the word “Truck” in the name, I expected this trail to be a boring fire road but on the contrary, the trail was not always wide. I found it pretty even in the foggy condition so I can only imagine how pretty it could be on a clear day.
By then, the rain was coming down pretty good. I needed a defrost function on my eyeglasses. The struggle was real.
At the 4.3-mile marker, there was the final sign for the peak on the right. The last 0.3 miles or so to the peak made the hike I just did felt like nothing. It was steep and the mud was deep. According to my GPS tracking app (which is pretty close but not always accurate), we gained 374 feet in the last 0.3 miles to the peak.
My feet kept sliding on the slope. The mud made the uphill so much harder. My poles weren’t helping much at this point so I used the branches to pull myself up instead. On the other hand, Xena had no problem with the trail condition. More importantly, the mud didn’t stick to her paws. My hiking shoes were heavy with the mud. Keeping them on was another challenge yet.
When you worked hard to climb a mountain and couldn’t see a thing at the top due to dense fog.
It happens. Oh well. Haha. You gotta have a sense of humor when you are exploring. We still had fun though! When you are ready, go back down the way you came up. It’s an out and back trail. Hope you have a better luck with the view though. We will have to go back next winter!
Good to Know:
- Hike date: 3.11.18
- Length: 9.5 miles RT
- Elevation gain: 2,142 feet (peak elev. 3,273 ft)
- Difficulty rating: Difficult
- Trailhead coordinates: Sitton Peak Trailhead (33.612300, -117.426532)
- Best time: Fall, Winter, Spring
- Adventure Pass required for parking
- Vault toilet available in the parking lot