This relatively modest peak in the southern end of the Santa Ana Mountains features great views of the ocean, and, when it’s clear, the San Bernadino Mountains, Palomar Mountains, Los Angeles and Orange County Basins, and Catalina Island.
Distance: 9.5 Miles
Elevation Gained: 2,150′
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Critters: Squirrels, birds, hawks
The Santa Ana Mountains are a relatively new entity to me. This range reaches 36 miles from Corona to Temecula and the north end of Camp Pendleton. While it tops out at Santiago Peak at a relatively modest 5,700′ or so, there are numerous canyons, valleys, peaks, and waterfalls here that remain almost completely unknown. Although Palomar and Cuyamaca are closer by distance, access to the Santa Ana’s takes less time for me, and so I’ll be exploring them more thoroughly over the next year.
Sitton Peak is not a bad place to start. It introduces a visual reference of the range from Santiago Peak southward, and the trail highlights how peaceful and serene this range, which lies in the heart of Orange County, can be. Aside from the initial stretch leading away from Ortega Highway, this trail is very quiet, moreso because it travels through San Mateo Canyon Wilderness.
The trail starts with a quick climb up the Bear Canyon Trail. After a junction with the Morgan Trail, which you avoid, you travel onward to another junction (go right), which is followed one mile later by a 5-way junction called “Four Corners.” This junction once only featured 4 trail options, but a newer fifth option spoiled somebody’s clever name. From here, take the Sitton Peak trail, which winds up over a saddle and then back down a disused fire road. Basically, you keep taking the right turn until you wind up at the top.
|Mt. San Gorgonio|
Soon, you come to an improved trail that traverses some steep, rocky stretches. Hiking poles are helpful here, since the balancing can be precarious. After the only major effort on the hike, you find yourself on the windswept peak, which is surrounded by canyons all around. Sitton Peak also offers good view of all the major Southern California Mountain ranges except for the San Gabriels, which are blocked from view by Santiago Peak.
From this peaceful vantage point, one can enjoy a relaxed lunch while playing the “Name-That-Peak” game. Or, you can sit in silence and not think about anything, which may even be preferable. From here, you can retrace your steps back to the parking lot and enjoy a relaxing drive back through San Juan Canyon. Not a bad little hike.