Hellhole Canyon County Open Space Preserve near Valley Center, CA - East Loop

Key for all trip logs
Participant: Tom Chester
Date: 3 December 1998 (Written up 15 December 1998)

Trailhead location, guide to first part of trail.

Plants in bloom: Redberry. Some fall color in creek due to (sycamores?).
Weather: Cool, cloudy, low visibility, fog covered Rodriguez Peak in later afternoon.
Bugs: None.
Number of ticks: 5! All from dead mustard plants that pretty much covered the trail coming down from 3127' peak, the middle Hellhole trail.
Number of rattlesnakes: 0
Other pests: None.

Terminology: I'll call the trail that goes from the trailhead to the siphon the "Siphon Trail". The "East Trail" leaves the Siphon Trail 1.35 miles from the trailhead, ascends to the western ridge of Rodriguez Peak, and continues west along the ridge. At the 3127' peak indicated by Schad, the trail branches, with a short excursion to a viewpoint at 3030' elevation, and the "Middle Trail" descending toward the Siphon Trail. Just before it gets to the elevation of the Siphon Trail, a "Connection Trail" leads east to the East Trail or west to join the Siphon Trail. All trail junctions seem to have signs identifying "you are here" with a trail map.

For this trip, I took the East Trail to the ridge top, went along the ridge to the 3127' peak indicated by Schad, then descended the Middle Trail, looping back along the Connection Trail to near the bottom of the East Trail, and then returning to the trailhead.

The Siphon Trail was pretty muddy down to Hellhole Creek, even though it was 4 days since the last significant rain. (Although there were a couple of mm's of rain two days ago.) The main trail along the canal bed, and the ascent of the eastmost trail were fairly dry. Descending the middle trail from the 3127' peak was quite muddy, requiring me to scrape my boots periodically. It had clearly been far worse earlier, judging from the amount of mud I saw from previous boot-scraping.

Looks to me like one should avoid hiking here until perhaps a week after the last rain, unless you like descending slippery trails on slick mud and accumulating an inch of mud on the bottom of your boots.

The main trail down to Hellhole Creek and across to where the eastmost trail departs is in fine shape, totally cleared of brush. The "eastmost loop" trail is quite brushy, mostly with dead mustard plants covering the trail in places. I was very surprised to find so many ticks in December.

Recording numberMileageTime arrivedTime leftAltitudeComments
00.0012:21 1950Staging Point
10.4512:32 1800Bench
20.7512:39 1650Hell Creek
31.0012:45 1600Sign "Private Property" to left, and "Stay on Designated Trail".
41.2512:51 1600Concrete "Ends" are all that remain of aqueduct over creek in side canyon.
51.3512:55 1600Jct. East Trail. Went right.
61.7501:06 1900Jct. Connection Trail. Went right, staying on East Trail.
72.4001:28 2250Sign "Private Property - Do Not Enter" on road going down to houses below, one of which has a huge satellite dish.
82.7001:40 2450Number of redberry bushes in full glory; trail turns west just below ridge.
93.2001:55 2850Brief level stretch, but trail is still ascending.
103.5002:05 3050Trail branches to right, which is a parallel trail on ridge just above this trail. I stayed left.
113.5502:07 3100Other end of parallel trail. I went right to explore it.
123.6502:10 3050Good view from parallel trail north down into San Luis Rey Valley. Would have been better if it weren't so cloudy / humid.
133.8002:14 2950=10. Went right, continuing the way I did 9 minutes earlier.
143.8702:16 3100=11.
153.9002:18 3050Fork to another viewpoint to north. Went right and took it.
163.9502:20 3050Trail too overgrown to continue. Turned around.
174.0002:21 3050=15
184.5502:37 3100High point of trail? Now in mist.
194.6502:40 3050Jct. Middle Trail. Went left on it.
205.0002:53 2750Jct. Middle Viewpoint trail. Mud has been accumulating on boots.
216.1003:23 2000Jct. Connection Trail. Went left. Trail before this junction is quite overgrown, and here is where I picked up 5 ticks.
226.6203:38 2050=6. Went right, down East Trail.
237.0003:50 1650=5
247.3003:58 1650A largish rock, about 5 cubic feet, recently fell on trail from about 15' up, and fractured into that piece and 2 smaller pieces.
257.6204:08 1750Hellhole Creek.
268.2504:27 2050Car.

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Copyright © 1998 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last update: 15 December 1998.