Cruising the 21.8 mile Lakeview trail around Diamond Valley reservoir on mountain bike during the wildflower super bloom last weekend was a delight. It’s a flat, family-friendly fire-road with lake and snow -capped mountain views that don’t disappoint. Yes, this was seeing it dressed in its wildflower season best. And no, you probably won’t want to do it in the blazing heat of the summer as it’s all exposed. But it’s just right, right now – for running, hiking, biking, boating, and fishing. (It’s stocked with rainbow trout, large mouth bass, striped bass, bluegill, small mouth bass – catch and release only though.)
How many places can you take a scenic, peaceful 21 mile bike ride and have it virtually all to yourself on a weekend? Ok, Catalina, but where else? (Granted the little wildflower hike was much busier, but less by the time I was done with my mountain bike ride.)
Here’s your wildflower sampling: Poppies, Arroyo Lupine, California Goldfields, Brittlebush, Owl’s Clover, Canterbury Bells, Chia, Baby Blue Eyes, and more!
Did I mention to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes?
[Rattlesnake video courtesy of Ken Wells.]
Fee: $10 per car, $3 per person for trail entry – worth it.
The entrance to Diamond Valley Lake is off of Domenigoni Parkway, which connects with Highway 79 on the west side of the lake and State Street on the east. You can take State Street south from Highway 74 in Hemet.
Ok, some adventures just don’t go as planned. This was one of those. I spent at least 35 minutes hike-a-biking trying to find the mountain bike trail. Granted someone with better technical skills than me (just about anyone) probably could have biked much of what I had hiked. At one point, my phone fell out my bike jersey without my knowing. (Luckily, when I retraced my steps I found it with the screen in tact—thank goodness.) That’s how it started.
I’m sure Han’s No Way Rey and Missy Giove, the MTB legends I met on my Catalina mountain bike adventure would have popped over this little bridge no problem— not me.
When I finally jumped on the single track trail I’d originally intended, I had to keep jumping off the bike to navigate over rocks or roots.
My downfall When the trail opened up into a rough fire road, I thought, Ok, this should be doable for me now. Well, apparently not. After another 35 minutes of navigating loose gravel and pot holes, my tire slipped out from under me and I wiped out and landed hard
Sometimes knowing when to surrender is better than ruining your vacation or life with an injury, especially if you’re out there alone as I was. Sure I was tempted to get my bruised butt back on the bike and see where the bumpy fire road would take me, but I had a work conference call coming up and other places to explore on foot before nightfall anyway. Was glad that I didn’t have my Garmin to tell me how few miles I’d covered. After I wiped the dust off my backside, I pedaled away, grateful for the climb up the hill back to the car (at least a partial workout).
I didn’t run into any hikers or other mountain bikers, but there were about half a dozen people fishing at the lake. (None of whom knew the surrounding trails.) From what I can tell, 15-acre Goldwater Lake is a good spot for a family outing with summer kayak and canoe rentals, picnic tables, a playground, a horse shoe pit and a volleyball court. You’ll have to ask someone else about the trails.
Long story short, that’s why I only skimmed the surface of what the Goldwater Lake trails offer. I’ll give it another shot if I return to the area (most likely by foot or with a mountain biker that knows the trails).
Getting there: 2900 S. Goldwater Lake Road, from Prescott,go south on Mount Vernon Street, which becomes Senator Highway.
Fee: $3 for Parking
Ever had an adventure that just didn’t go as planned? Share your experience.
Stay tuned for my top picks of places to stay and eat and for more of my active escapades in and around Prescott.
If you like alpine lakes, sublime scenery, and trail terrain that’s gentle on feet (good for trail running too), you’ll want to spend a day here, immersed in natural bliss. I loved this hike. The lakes and mountain scenery are SPECTACULAR. It felt easy to me despite my hiking book’s rating of it as a 4 out of 5 for difficulty due to the 2,100 ft elevation gain. The trail is quite gradual with many switchbacks, but it didn’t really seem like a big climb. Maybe I just woke up strong and altitude acclimated. The good news is the elevation gain keeps the crowds away.
There was something magical about this tree. Look for it on the trail after Lake Sherwin and let me know if it stopped you in your tracks too. The pictures don’t do it justice. I named it the Medusa tree.
If you’re not up for hiking up to Valentine Lake (9,698 ft – 5.6 miles), you can always make Sherwin Lake (2-3 miles) your destination instead, but just so you know, you’ll be missing this:
Valentine Lake, you stole my heart and nearly froze it too! I can’t resist the allure of an alpine lake, even when it’s snow melt cold. Can you?
My boyfriend was taunting me in the video below. Note: HE DID NOT JUMP IN THE LAKE. (And somehow I resisted pushing him into it.)
Distance Round Trip: 11.2 miles
Elevation Gain / Loss: 2,100
Getting There: South from Lee Vining on the 395, you’ll find Sherwin Creek Road two miles south of the Mammoth Lakes exit. Take Sherwin Creek Road west and drive ~2.5 miles and then turn left on the spur road before you reach Sherwin Creak Campground.
They say that 100-acre Lundy Lake (ele. 7,800′) is one of the most overlooked drive-to lakes in the Eastern Sierras. Named after W.J. Lundy who operated a sawmill near Lundy Lake, it’s hidden in the easily accessible foothills above Mono Lake. Part natural beauty, part manmade, originally, Lundy Lake was a smaller lake that was expanded to its current size in 1910.
I didn’t go jump in the lake as is my habit, because I only had a couple hours to Go Take a Hike and Go Chasing Waterfalls
The hike was rated as a 3 for difficulty and a 9 for scenery in my old school, 1995 Cali hiking book. They were spot on for the scenery and a bit off on the difficulty level. The book said we would pass 2 small waterfalls and then at 3 miles arrive at Lake Helen to be followed by Odell Lake a mile beyond. There were many waterfalls some were narrow snow melt tracing their way down from mountain ridges above and others were thundering tiered falls along the trail–all were quite beautiful.
We only had a couple hours before sunset so we thought, with a good pace, we could at least make it the 3 miles to Lake Helen and back. Nope. The book didn’t mention the mountain of scree that had to be conquered before encountering Lake Helen. It also, didn’t mention that the beginning of the trail would be all but obscured due to floods and avalanches. (How could it predict 2018 conditions?) I didn’t find anything about it online either. Of course, I wanted to see what was up and around the corner of this massive mountain of scree so I kept going only to find yet another, steeper mountain of scree and no sign of the Lake Helen. Sunset was upon us so I reluctantly “skied” (not really, well maybe on my backside) the scree downhill and headed back down the trail.
A young hiker who missed her loop trail from above said she had read about the scree mountains somewhere online and knew she’d be contending with them. We gave her and her little dog, Beast, a ride back to her car on Tioga Pass. It would have been a very cold night to bed down in the woods.
Back at home as I was writing this post I discovered that AllTrails rates the trail as difficult and one person noted this: The only downside is that you can no longer reach Lake Helen due to the shale slides. The mountain has wiped out the last portion of the trail and the shale is not stable.
Oops. Just as well, I turned around when I did. I’d say it’s an easy hike if you turn around before the scree / massive rock slide, which is the safe thing to do. (Do as I say, not as I did.) Thankful the forest fairies were watching over me.
Lake Lundy is a lovely area to explore, take a dip in the lake or under a waterfall, hike and / or fish. Maybe someday I’ll be back to meet up with Lake Helen and Odell Lake when new trails are established. Note: You can approach Helen and Odell Lakes from the top instead via Tioga pass, but should stop short of the scree for safety. Happy Trails.
And enjoy easy shore access, the natural beauty and your fishing without the crowds. Lundy Lake is home to healthy populations of rainbow (26K stocked each season) and some large brown trout and because it lacks the pressure of some of its neighboring lakes, the fish are known for being slightly more gullible and often slightly larger than you’ll find elsewhere.
Below the lake, Mill Creek is also known for its small, wild trout population.
You’ll have your best luck in the wet years, of course.
Lundy Lake Campground: First come first serve, no reservations
36 campsites with restrooms and non-potable water.
The Lundy Lake “Resort”
RV hook ups, additional regular campsites, cabins, a general store and boat rentals in paradise.
For more information or to book reservations at the “Resort”, call 626-309-0415.
Getting there: Hoover Wilderness, Inyo National Forest: From Highway 395 north of Lee Vining, turn west onto Lundy Lake Road and follow roughly five miles to the lake and two miles beyond on the dirt road top get to the trail head.
Cowles Mountain (1,593-foot summit) is the highest point in the city of San Diego. It’s part of Mission Trails Regional Park, a 5,800-acre open space preserve that is the 7th-largest open space urban park in the United States. It contains sixty miles of hiking, mountain bike and equestrian trails.
To call Cowles a mountain is to be very liberal with the word. I should note that the park has a 5 “peak” challenge if your hiking peeps want a minor challenge and want to document your feats – here’s the scoop. Cowles is the highest peak. This might be fun for kids, but apparently lots of adults do it for bragging rights too. I will say that on a clear day, the stunning views span 360 degrees from Lake Murray, downtown San Diego, Point Loma, La Jolla, and Mexico and out across the glimmering Pacific to the San Carlos Islands. See feature picture above. (Unfortunately, I dropped my camera on a rock so I have limited pics.)
Distance: 2.9 miles up & back
It’s a very popular trail so expect lots of humans and their canines…There are a couple of different ways to reach the top from various starting points and parking lots. The hike itself is moderate (with some steeper sections that will get those calves & glutes burning). It’s decent workout, especially if you run it. There are single track trails and some fire road. It’s short from any direction so I explored up and down on a couple of trails and was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more to see. You can’t really get lost so do as much or as little as you like.
The main trailhead is in the San Carlos neighborhood on the corner of Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road
Lovely Lake Murray
Since I didn’t quite get enough enough of a workout / nature fix, I decided to check out alluring Lake Murray Reservoir, also part of the Mission Trails Regional Park. I strolled the paved road that navigates around most of the lake stopping short of the dam (no access). It’s another popular spot – walkers, runners, bladders, and even road bikers aplenty (the latter seems silly to me, because the path / road is only 3.2 mi long and there are many children and dogs on it).
Lake Murray is a great spot for birdwatchers with abundant ducks, geese, and herons abound and about 149 bird species to observe. It’s a pleasant spot for a picnic too.
Lake Murray is open for shore fishing and private boats, kayaks, and float tubes seven days a week from 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Permits can be purchased onsite at the iron ranger boxes. The lake is stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, black crappie, and trout. Minimum size limit for bass is 12 inches.
Fish limits: 5 trout, 5 bass (min. 12 inches), 5 catfish, 25 crappie and bluegill total, no other species limits
Difficulty: Moderate + (Depends on your fitness level and the weather (heat/sun factor)
No, the featured image is not Potato Chip Rock. It’s some cool unnamed split rock along the top of the trail with a great view out to the rocky playground below and Lake Romona.
If you’re looking for solitude, you won’t find it here. This is one of the most popular hikes in San Diego because of the iconic Potato Chip Rock and obligatory photo op at the top.
The trail starts at Lake Poway and leads you up a fire road for a mile or so before it narrows and steepens.
And the answer is yes, you can fish in Lake Poway. Sadly, swimming is not allowed.
The view of the lake is lovely from the trail above. You can see how clean and clear the water is.
The view from the top depends on how clear of a day it is. Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy, In the picture below, you can make out Point Loma and the Pacific in the distant horizon on the right and the high rises of San Diego to the left of it.
So yes, lots of highlights and a great workout. (I hike fast and made it up in an hour and 15min – down in 1hour 5.min.) The downhill gets my knees. There were a number of people using poles. The downside of this hike is way too many humans, but what do you expect from a cool hike near a city? If I ever do it again, I’m going for dawn patrol. The parking lot opens at 6AM for early birds who enjoy more solitude and sunrises.
Because this hike didn’t quite sate my appetite for nature and solitude, after lunch I went up the road to the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve and hiked up to Lake Ramona.
Headed to Palomar Mountain with hiking in mind and got much more out of the excursion than expected.
The drive up the South Grade (S6) mountain road is winding and scenic. You’ll want to keep your eyes on the road if you’re driving. Apparently this road has been compared to the L’Alpe d’Huez on the Tour de France Route so it’s popular with road cyclists, motorcyclists and sports car drivers too… Beware of those dare devil motocyclists crossing the center line as they race down the mountain
The clouds and fog made for some dramatic vistas on the way up.
The small park headquarters has a mini natural history exhibit. I didn’t know we had gray fox around here. Signs were up about a recent mountain lion sighting in the park.
As far as the hiking here goes, most trails are short and dogs aren’t allowed on them. We did the longest loop we could find, starting at the Doane Pond, which is open for fishing year round and stocked with trout. It’s a great spot for a picnic too.
Overall, the terrain is easy on the feet – mostly dirt, not too many rocks or roots. It’s ideal for a quick trail run. (Note the seasonal tick and rattle snake warnings.)
We went up the Thunder Springs and the Silver Crest Trails and down Scott’s Cabin Trail and Chimney Flats. (Spoiler alert – the trails name is a misnomer as there is no standing cabin, just a placard at the site with no historic details on it or in the park’s brochure). The hike is interrupted by the road a couple times and the road is always within a stones throw. The good news – you won’t get lost. The bad news, if you’re a hiking snob like me, it’s a bit anticlimactic, but that’s ok – the views along the ridge, at the Boucher Hill Fire Tower, and by the Observatory are quite epic. And the road and the drive by locations make it accessible for all.
Here’s a video clip of a particularly lovely section of trail.
Tree lovers will delight in the variety that this section of the Cleveland National Forest yields: Douglass fir, white fir, incense cedar, live oak, black oak, coulter pine and yellow pine. Approximately 40 inches of annual rainfall keeps them thriving. Of course all these trees make it a haven for birds and bird lovers as well.
The Doane valley Campground has 31 campsites, each outfitted with a table, fire ring, BBQ and food locker. Nearby restrooms have flush toilets and coin-operated hot showers. Many comforts of home in a forest setting – great for an introduction to camping. The Cedar Grove Campground has 3 areas for group camping. For more info and to reserve a spot up to 7 months in advance call 1-800-444-7275.
Enjoy Epic Views from the Boucher Hill Historic Fire Tower
The Boucher Hill Historic Fire Tower is definitely worth a stop too – whether you drive by or hike the 1.2 miles up from the visitor center. This is one of only 2 fire towers left in California. From the observation deck, you don’t even have to use the provided binocular gizmo to see the glimmering Pacific ~50 miles away.
Even with my bad eyes, I could make out Tamarack Tower / Smoke Stack that marks my home beach. You have to know what to look for to make it out in the video, but you can definitely tell that you’re looking out to sea.
Visit the Impressive Palomar Observatory & Museum
And no, the field trip’s not over yet. Next, we headed over to the Palomar Observatory. The structure itself is quite impressive (see feature photo), but it’s definitely worth looking inside. (Hours are 9-4 daily.) The Hale Telescope is considered one of most important scientific innovations of the last century and was the most productive and prominent telescope in the world from 1948 to 1993.
Don’t miss the Museum either. It’s got great displays, info and videos. The small gift shop was closed as we got there late, but I’m sure there’s some cool stuff and souvenirs for the kids in there too.
If you aren’t an astronomy or science buff going in, you might be when you leave. ..
So many fun things to do, see and learn here. Highly recommend Palomar Mountain as a field trip for the whole family. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Almost forgot to mention, be sure to bring a water bottle and get your fill of refreshing fresh (and free) spring water on the way up or down at the Palomar Artesian Springs.