- The Cleveland National Forest offers open space and quiet where forest visitors can find solitude and escape from the busy life of the nearby Southern California urban areas. Elevations on the Forest range from 460 feet to 6,271 feet, on Monument Peak. More than 75% of the vegetation is chaparral, predominantly coastal sage, chemise, manzanita and ceonothus. A few riparian, or streamside areas exist, but they make up only about one percent of the Forest land. There are large oaks in meadows and along streams and Jeffrey and Coulter pine forest at higher elevations. Some wet meadows are found between the high elevation pines.
Areas of Interest:
On the Trabuco Ranger District, which lies just south of the city of Corona, the San Juan Loop Trail runs along San Juan Creek, with panoramic views, a waterfall and cool oak groves. It is accessed off State Highway 74. The Trabuco District has three popular waterfalls which attract picnickers, hikers and photographers: Holy Jim, Ortega and Teneja Falls. They all flow year round, but are best after the winter rains through late spring. The Holy Jim Historic Trail is a self-guided walking tour. The District is popular for mountain biking. Except for trails in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, all trails on the District are open for mountain bikes and they offer a full range of difficulty levels.
On the Palomar Ranger District, north and east of the cities of Ramona and Escondido, the "Highway to the Stars" leads from State Highway 76 to the top of Palomar Mountain and the world famous Palomar Observatory. Several campgrounds are located nearby. East of Temecula, the Dripping Springs Campground sits in scattered oaks, at the gateway to the Agua Tibia Wilderness. Dripping Springs Trail crosses Arroyo Seco Creek before it begins climbing to Agua Tibia Mountain. The Inaja Nature Trail and Memorial Picnic Ground are located one mile south of Santa Ysabel on State Highway 78/79.
The Descanso Ranger District lies at the south end of the Forest, east of El Cajon, around Alpine. The 1,800-acre Corral Canyon Off-Highway Vehicle Area, south of Interstate 8 and west of the Lake Morena County Park, offers trails, two campgrounds and a day use area. The 10-mile long Noble Canyon Trail travels from the trailhead, north of the community of Pine Valley, to the Pacific Crest Trail, near Oasis Springs in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. The Laguna Mountain Recreation Area is accessed by the Sunrise National Scenic Byway. Popular activities include camping, hiking, picnicking, horseback riding, scenic driving photography and nature study. When enough snow falls in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, there are opportunities for cross-country skiing, sledding and other winter activities.
The Sunrise National Scenic Byway is 24 miles long, and extends north from Interstate 8, one mile east of Pine Valley, to State Highway 79, near Julian. Travelers will find mountain and forest vistas, some spectacular panoramic views as well as trailheads for the Pacific Crest Trail and the Noble Canyon National Recreation Trail.
The Pacific Crest Trail stretches from Mexico to Canada and leads through the Cleveland National Forest. The Cleveland has four designated Wilderness Areas: the San Mateo Canyon, Agua Tibia, Pine Creek and Hauser Wildernesses. Travel in the Wilderness is restricted to foot or horseback and a permit from a Forest Service office is required for overnight camping.
Some of the popular recreation activities on the Cleveland include camping, hiking, picnicking, backpacking, horseback riding, mountain biking, using off-highway vehicles, and viewing scenery.
Forest visitors on the San Bernardino, Cleveland, Angeles and Los Padres National Forests of Southern California are required to purchase an Adventure Pass and display it on their vehicle when parked in the Forest.
The Cleveland National Forest is comprised of 3 segments in southern California. The Forest extends from within 5 miles of the Mexican border in San Diego County, northward approximately 130 miles to Orange and Riverside Counties. Over 20 million people live within a two hour drive of the Cleveland.
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