Hiking for Health and Happiness led by Ricardo Cruz and Maglory Maza, organized a hiking event at Los Padres National Forest near Frazier Park, California. Dolores Grant and I haven’t been to this area before and it would be a great place to explore.
We met at Mt. Pinos Nordic Base parking lot at 6 am. An Adventure Pass is needed to park here. To get there from Los Angeles, we used the I-5 heading north, we exit at Frazier Mountain Park Road which is part of Kern County and turned right. The road name changes to Cuddy Valley Road and ends up at the parking lot after almost 21 miles from the highway. The elevation is at 8,340 ft. The area is so close to the Chula Vista Campground.
A total of 18 hikers embarked on a new adventure with Jesus Carrillo leading the group, who had been here before with his wife Vivian Carrillo to share us this beautiful landscape.
Ricardo gave us a few instructions in Spanish with Normie Chanes translating it in English. Our hike started at 6:32 am. A slow uphill climb on a dirt road,We passed by a gate on a dirt road as we climbed uphill. The road is still Cuddy Valley Road until we reached the meadow full of beautiful flowers which are known as chaparral shrubs. The dirt road changes its name to Mt. Pinos Road as it gets closer to the summit. It is 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the summit of Mt. Pinos which stands at 8,847 ft. It’s the highest point in the Ventura County. Pinos is the Spanish word for Pines which we are going to see a lot on the trail. It is relatively flat and open around the highest point. An amazing view of the central valley can be seen here. We stayed there for a few minutes and took photos. A sign shows the start of Tumamait Trail which was dedicated to the memory of Vincent Tumamait, a beloved storyteller who shared his wisdom and heritage with the people of Southern California.
A few steps further on the trail, as we entered the Chumash Wilderness, is the Condor Observation Site that gets a much closer panoramic view of California’s Central Valley. Wilderness Permits are not required here except for campfire permits at campgrounds. We ate some snacks, took more photos, and our first bathroom break. As we continued our hike downhill, on a few switchbacks, we passed by Sawmill Mountain which stands at 8,818 ft., the highest point of Kern County and second in Los Padres National Forest. It’s another 1.5 miles from Mt. Pinos. We all noticed that our hands were getting swollen. That is due to the altitude that we are in.
It has a lot of ups and downs on the trail as we continued our trek to Cerro Noroeste Mountain which is still part of Kern County. It is a heavily forested area with lots of moss attached on the trees. This was the area that had the longest downhill and uphill. We talked about along the trail that coming back would also be harder. This mountain was formerly known as Mt. Abel and stands at 8,283 ft. Cerro Noroeste means North West Mountain. The summit can also be reached by paved road using Cerro Noroeste Road. As we ascended our way to reach the road, our hearts were pounding. We made it but we’re not done yet. We still had less than a mile hiking on paved road to reach Camp Alto Campground which basically near the summit.
When we reached the campground at 10:30 am, there was one picnic table and that’s where we had lunch. The weather is much cooler in the low 70’s. Dora Cruz made some extra tortas for us and it was delicious. Thanks so much Dora. The car campground is full of Jeffrey Pine trees that shaded the area. To reserve a campsite here, you must go the website at http://www.recreation.gov and enter the campground’s name. We took photos after our lunch and a few minutes later we head back down.
Just as we suspected, the trail going back up was going to bite us. It felt like one of the hills at a Spartan Race. We took short breaks on this part of the trail. There were some bugs in the area but not that much to annoy and bite us. We took another break before heading up Sawmill Mountain. We saw some bikers along the trail as well. As we reached the summit of Mt. Pinos, we rested below a shaded pine tree while waiting for the rest of the group. Maglory took some photos of us here. After our rest, we continued our hike back to the Mt. Pinos Nordic Base parking lot. We’ve met some other people along the trail that are just doing short hikes to Mt. Pinos. At the gate, we lined up, a 3H tradition, to congratulate everyone for completing and having a wonderful hike at Los Padres National Forest. We thanked Jesus for showing us this beautiful place. The forest reminds me of Muir Woods up north.
A few more steps below, we arrived at the parking lot at 2:45 pm. A total of 14.9 miles was recorded with my MapMyHike phone app. Tony Delgado’s GPS watch says its 14.2 miles.
Maglory promised us a special treat for the hikers. We stayed at the Nordic Center’s balcony where she made chilaquiles served with fried eggs and carne asada with the help of Beatriz Ceballos. The 3H family also brought some chips, watermelon and cold drinks – beer, gatorade, and water. We chatted and laughed as we enjoyed eating our food. It was a feast to die for. Thank you very much to Maglory, Ricardo and the rest of 3H family for an amazing hiking adventure. Dolores and I had to get back home early as we said our goodbyes to the rest of the hikers. The temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit when we entered the I-5. You can see the big difference the weather was on both areas. We love to come back to this place to either do hiking or camping. It is so serene and beautiful.