Yesterday with a couple of hiking/trail running friends, I ventured out to Ortega mountain. Destination: Sitton Peak in Cleveland National Forest! As I am getting into trail running without any reservation as part of injury recovery process (easy on my joints) and benefits from running uphills (interval uphill run), I took my time hiking and trail running up Bear Canyon Trail to Sitton Peak.


If you are coming from the Orange Country, it’s likely that you would be taking Ortega Freeway S-74 eastbound to get to the trailhead.

However, if you’re coming from Los Angeles and other cities, such as Corona, or even Riverside, it is very likely to take I-15 or I-215 southbound and then get on S-74 westbound via Lake Elsinore.

lake elsinore, view of mt. san jacinto, morning, on my way to the trailhead for a trail running,
View of Lake Elsinore in the center and Mt. San Jacinto in the far distance

Either way, you park at San Juan Loop Trailhead Parking Lot, which is located across the street (S-74) from Ortega Oaks Candy Store and Goods. Cross the street and go to your right about 60 feet. You will see Bear Canyon Look Trail sign.


All year-round.


  • Plenty of water (depending on what season but 2L or more)
  • GPS
  • Layers
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen


Sitton Peak, tracks, Ortega mountain, Gaia GPS,
This track was created with Gaia GPS.

Last time when I hiked around Santiago Peak in Ortega mountain was a couple of days shy of 1 year ago. Then, I hiked part of San Juan Trail with a good friend of mine to Blue Jay Campground. It was my first taste of the lower elevation hikes as my hikes had been strenuous ones in and around Baldy, San Gorgonio and San Jacinto mountains with elevation gains of 4,000 plus feet.

So, it was about time. It was very nice seeing my friend again. And this time another good friend of mine, also hiker and trail runner, joined us and introduced me to Sitton Peak via Bear Canyon Trail.

bear canyon, trail, trailhead, Cleveland National Forest, national forest
Bear Canyon Loop trailhead

Its trailhead is located on the opposite side of the Ortega Highway, nearby Ortega Oaks Candy Store and Goods, aka the candy store, to hikers. We parked our vehicles in San Juan Loop Trailhead parking lot across the two-lane freeway from the candy store.

altra lone peak 2.5, altra, altra trail running shoes, trail running shoes, very comfortable, big toe box,
Altra Lone Peak, my new pair of trail running shoes, met Sitton Peak. What better place to do so other than Sitton Peak!

I put on my new Altra Lone Peak 2.5 trail running shoes to try out. I was quite thrilled about this opportunity of combining my passion for running and appreciation for nature.

Sitton peak, sitton peak sign, the peak, sitton peak truck trail, ortega mountain, near santiago, near lake elsinore elevation of 3273 feet
Sitton Peak marker

Sitton Peak is only 3,273 feet high. And our hike/trail run had only 2,117 feet elevation gain, so naturally it is considered a beginner’s and semi-intermediate hike.

Verduto Truck trail, wide, open, no shade, uphill, dirt, dirt trail, ortega mountain, near Bear Canyon Trail, near Sitton Peak Truck Trail, getting close to Sitton Peak,
Verdugo Truck trail. It’s wide open for either trail run or hike

Bear Canyon Trail intersects with a few other trails along the way, and it offers many flat and wide open portions, which is just great for trail running. After some shaded parts of the mountain, we came to a wide open junction, which is where the trail meets Verdugo Truck Trail. From this point on, it is a bit of downhill, however, it also soon intersects with Sitton Peak Truck Trail.

When Sitton Canyon Trail reaches the elevation of about 2,820 feet, it veers off to the left. Instead of continuing on it, we got off the trail and started up the half-mile distance of steep uphill incline right before the arrival at the peak. It isn’t difficult but definitely demands full attention as far as one’s footing goes because it is quite slippery. Due to the erosion with sands and tiny stones, my Lone Peak didn’t have much of benefits from its traction.

ocean view, beyond Sitton Peak, ortega mountain, view from Sitton Peak, Cleveland National Forest, national forest, trail running, hiking, trail run, hike, morning,
Ocean is seen from Sitton Peak

The peak offers a 360-degree view of the surroundings, including as far as Mt. San Gorgonio, Mt. San Jacinto, and the Pacific Ocean and even Catalina Island, and as close as Santiago Peak, which is on the other side of the Ortega Freeway.

view of Santiago Peak, Ortega mountain, Cleveland National Forest, national forest, ocean view, Catalina Island, hiking, trail running, trail run, hike, dirt trail,
Santiago Peak is seen in the far distance

Speaking of Santiago Peak, hiking up Los Pinos Trail to the peak still remains on my bucket list.

Sitton peak, sitton peak register, ortega mountain, Cleveland National Forest, sign in, morning, trail running, hiking,
Sitton Peak register

After taking a quick snack-munching and electrolyte infused water drinking break, I pulled out my camera to take some landscape photos. Also, I didn’t forget to take a quick shot of the geodetic survey marker at Sitton Peak.

Altra lone peak 2.5, altra, altra trail running shoes, trail running shoes, Cleveland National Forest, national forest, trail running, hiking, Geodetic Survey Marker

And after a few obligatory selfies, we hurried back down the trail, and this time it was mostly trail running. I felt that my new trail running shoes were great most of the time. However, its naturally bigger toe box may have given more room for my feet to stay just snug. I may have to put on an extra pair of socks.

  • Distance: 9.44 miles (out and back from the trailhead to the peak)
  • Moving time: 2 hours and 44 minutes
  • Ascent: 2,113 feet

Have you hiked or trail run to Sitton Peak? How was it? Have you explored other trails in the area? What is the most exciting thing about Sitton Peak?

Thank you for reading.

Note: This post was originally published on January 3, 2016. Due to migration of the blog, it was republished here.

Previous articleGoat Canyon is Thrilling, Challenging and Rewarding
Next articleSunrise at Cabrillo Beach Bluff

I am a photographer. My photos have been sold on EyeEm, Adobe Stock and ShutterStock and also featured on ViewBug and G+ Landscape Photography Community, and via Death Valley National Park Instagram and Facebook. My work is the natural byproduct of my love for outdoors – backpacking, hiking and camping in nature.


Leave a Reply