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5 Unforgettable Hikes in the Inland Empire

5 Unforgettable Hikes in the Inland Empire

Sky-high mountains, flower-filled valleys, and cascading falls make this region a hiker’s dream

Nestled amidst rugged mountains and golden foothills, the Inland Empire beckons day hikers with trails both easy-going and arduous. From the historic Santa Rosa Plateau Adobes to the challenging Mount San Jacinto, this region offers a diverse selection of hiking adventures. Lace up your boots and experience these remarkable Inland Empire hikes for yourself—and get in a couple thousand steps while doing it.

1. Santa Rosa Plateau Adobes, Murrieta

The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murrieta offers a glimpse of California’s past. Long ago, grassy savannas stretched from the San Jacinto Mountains to the coast. Much of this flatland has now been developed, making this park a special place. Start at the Vernal Pools Trailhead on the Transpreserve Trail for a gentle 4.5-mile loop that will take you through wildflower fields, ephemeral ponds teeming with wildlife, and former cowboy bunkhouses that date back to 1846.

2. Castle Rock, Big Bear Lake

Short and steep, this 2.7-mile trek starts just east of Big Bear Dam and quickly shoots skyward. With more than 600 feet of elevation gain, you’ll climb through shaded forests surrounded by scampering chipmunks and chirping birds. The final push requires a hand-over-hand rock scramble up a 100-foot outcropping. At the top, enjoy vistas of the turquoise-colored Big Bear Lake below.

California Visitor's Guide Inland Empire Hikes

3. Mount San Jacinto, Idyllwild

This challenging 19-mile hike starts at the Deer Springs Trailhead in Idyllwild. With over 5,000 feet of climbing, this route is best suited to experienced hikers—and you may want to pack supplies for a two-day trek. But your effort will deliver multi-fold rewards. Think dense forest, gurgling mountain springs, and panoramic views. For a less intense journey, start on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

4. Diamond Valley Lake, Hemet

The best time to hike this Hemet trail is spring, when winter runoff results in colorful flowers blanketing the hillsides. Choose from the 2.1-mile Wildflower Loop or the 5.9-mile North Hills Trail, both featuring flora and lakeside views.

5. Bonita Falls, Rancho Cucamonga

This 2-mile trail near Rancho Cucamonga in the San Bernardino National Forest is mellow, but you’ll still encounter adventure in the form of water crossings. The piéce de résistance lies at the turnaround: a shimmering cascade flowing over green ferns and plush moss.

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