Hi guys! It’s a pleasure to share with you my experiences hiking the incredible Cucamonga Peak Trail. This trail is one of the most picturesque I have ever hiked and the cloud cover over Los Angeles that day was just gorgeous! Before I tell you all about it, allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Charmaine and I grew up in Southeast San Diego. I moved to the Rancho Penasquitos community in the eighth grade. Growing up, I lived in a three bedroom home with 13 people – my parents, siblings, grandparents and uncles who all immigrated here from the Philippines.
I’m a high school counselor, lover of travel, mom of two spunky six and 10 year old girls, and am blessed to have a loving and supportive husband. As a lover of travel who has visited 27 countries so far – what I love about travel is the adventure. It brings a lot of learning about different cultures, the opportunity of trying new foods and the chance to meet new people.
I now find a similar positive feeling when I go hiking, especially after I joined the 52 Hike Challenge right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Since traveling has become almost impossible due to various restrictions, I took my love of travel and channeled it into the trails! I embraced hiking as it brought me the same joy, challenges and adventures as traveling did.
My Experience Hiking the Cucamonga Peak Trail
After completing the 52 Hike Challenge, I joined the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge. The challenge is to hike some of the highest peaks in the Los Angeles area in six months. Out of the nine trails to choose from, I chose the Cucamonga Peak Trail for the challenge and amazing views.
A friend and I attempted this trail for the first time in March, 2021 but we were told there was too much snow. We came back in April and it was just as beautiful as it was described. I was in awe of every step along the trail.
We drove from San Diego and got to the trailhead by 6:30am. It took us eight hours to finish the trail. At the start of the trail I was feeling a bit sluggish. That was probably due to the 4am wake up call! We took our time and encountered a few areas of strong winds as we got closer to the peak.
The trail was very pretty and the landscapes were super diverse. From patches of snow, jagged rocks, huge pine trees, to cloud cover – we reached the top in absolute awe! The trail was one of the most picturesque hikes I have ever been on. The views were amazing all the way to the very top.
I remember as I got closer to the top, the feeling of accomplishment and admiration swept through me – especially knowing that I had a quite a rough start. The peak was covered in clouds. It was a humbling experience to feel like I was on top of the world. I have never felt like this before!
The hike is challenging and I rate it as an 8/10 in terms of difficulty. I would recommend it for people who have hiked long trails before. It was about 12.6 miles up and back and the incline was steep most of the way at about 4,100 ft elevation gain. I don’t think this trail is suited for beginner hikers.
Best Moments on the Cucamonga Peak Trail
My fondest memory from this trail was sharing this experience with a girlfriend who was my partner in the Six Peak Challenge. As we took a break at Icehouse Saddle, we encountered a pastor in his late 60s who just had heart surgery (not his first) and started hiking a few weeks after his surgery. This was like his sixth hike after surgery. We were so impressed!
Another unforgettable moment on the Cucamonga Peak Trail was the strong winds we encountered after Icehouse Saddle. We must have hit a wind tunnel because the winds were fierce. It felt like we could have been blown off the mountain! This was something that I have never experienced before. It was a little bit scary but also exhilarating at the same time.
Where to Stay Overnight when Doing the Hike
Since we didn’t stay overnight while hiking the trail, I can’t provide any accommodation recommendations from personal experience. However, if you are looking for a camping experience, after Icehouse Saddle there are campgrounds at Kelly Camp. This is a fantastic backcountry campground set along the Ontario Peak about a mile or so away from Icehouse Saddle.
Tips for Hiking the Cucamonga Peak Trail
- Pack out what you take in. Hike responsibly by making sure no trash is left behind. Our mountains are too beautiful to see litter on the trails.
- Download the hiking map on the AllTrails app. There is no service on the mountain so having a map to follow definitely helps. We almost took a few wrong turns and the AllTrails app saved the day. It also helps to bring a battery charger so you can continue to use the app.
- Get to the trailhead early. Also, hiking it during the weekday is a win! Get to the trailhead at 6:30am on a weekday so there is hardly anyone on the trail. The parking lot will be empty and the solitude is priceless.
- Bring at least three liters of water. We went in April when it was cooler so you may need more water during the summer months.
- Enjoy the hike! It’s beautiful and one of the most scenic California trails.