LET’S GO HIKING: Sequoia Trail

Jul 16, 2023 | Outdoor Adventures

Visiting from Fort Worth, Texas, members of the May family (from left: Gary, Cameron, Macy and Pam) pause on the trail to learn about fire ecology. (Photos by Tim Wilcox)

By Tim Wilcox – Special to the Alpine Mountaineer

Where: Heaps Peak Arboretum

Length: 0.8 mile

Elevation gain: 122 feet (from mid-trail)

Challenge: easy

A fitting place to launch this column is one of the most well-known and popular hiking destinations in the western San Bernardino Mountains (from Silverwood Lake to Green Valley Lake).

The Sequoia Trail, just east of Skyforest, is a favorite among local alpine-exercise devotees and dog-walking hikers. The trail and its setting, 30-acre Heaps Peak Arboretum, also draw tens of thousands of visitors each year from down the hill and beyond.

The Sequoia Trail’s Pacific dogwoods put on an eye-catching show during spring, with their white bracts reaching peak display around Mother’s Day.

The Sequoia Trail’s Pacific dogwoods put on an eye-catching show during spring, with their white bracts reaching peak display around Mother’s Day.

Nearly one mile long, it’s an irregular loop that descends gently for about half its length, then rises slowly the rest of the way. Rim of the World Interpretive Association, the area nonprofit that manages the arboretum in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, has prepared a detailed brochure that invites visitors/hikers to conduct their own self-guided tour. Its numbered paragraphs correspond to the numeric posts along the way. The text is interesting and easy to understand.

Be sure, then, to pick up the light-green brochure from one of the arboretum’s entryway dispensers or at the colorful information kiosk. Be aware, too, that you’ll need a Forest Service Adventure Pass to park in the large lot ($5 for a daily and $30 for an annual pass). The site’s information booth is typically open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends and usually has a good supply of these passes. At other times, you can purchase them from a number of area vendors (e.g., Jensen’s, 7-Eleven, Valero, Five Points and BaseCamp).

On the Trail

The brochure is written for a clockwise transit, so look for the information kiosk (not to be confused with the information booth) and head left down the sidewalk. Past the arboretum’s three rustic restrooms, the trail shifts from paved surface to beaten earth.

Consulting the guide, you’ll encounter and learn about the Coulter pine (which boasts the heaviest cones in the world), incense cedar, black oak, white fir, sugar pine, quaking aspen, Jeffrey pine, knobcone pine and Pacific dogwood. You’ll also pass tree trunks blackened by the devastating 2003 Old Fire.

OK, now as you’re approaching the halfway point and continue descending, the trail offers striking views of nearby mountain ridges and, much farther east, the high desert. When you amble past a large granite boulder on the right and cross a bridge over Joe’s Creek, you’ll begin the trail’s ascending portion and enter a series of switchbacks. Look to your left as you proceed, and you’ll be treated to a great westward view of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Wind upward through the switchbacks and watch for a sign identifying a 75-foot spur that leads to Horseshoe Springs. Turn left there, and you’ll be looking down on a heavily vegetated seep where bears, mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife come to drink after dark.

Back on the main route, you’re just minutes away from the trail’s principal attraction: the largest grove of giant sequoias (Sequoia gigantea) in the San Bernardino Mountains. These splendid trees are nothing compared to the world-famous sequoias up north, some of which are more than 3000 years old. Sequoias aren’t native to Southern California, and the arboretum’s stand was planted way back in the 1930s. That means they’re babies. As you’ll see, however, they’re big babies.

Nearing the trail’s end, you’ll pass through a stretch of Pacific dogwoods. In spring, especially around Mother’s Day, they put on a spectacular display with their white “blossoms” that look like flowers but are actually bracts (modified leaves).

This is obviously a short trail; more ambitious hikers are in the habit of tracing its contours two or three times. If you feel inspired to do so, consider changing directions on the loop—clockwise, then counter-clockwise—to make the hike more interesting.

Before departing, stroll around the arboretum’s gardens, which present an impressive variety of indigenous plants and wildflowers during warmer months. Multi-image panels along the way share information about native fauna as well as flora.

Open daily from dawn to dusk, Heaps Peak Arboretum is located at 29358 Rim of the World Hwy. 18 east of Skyforest and beyond SkyPark about one-half mile. For more information, visit www.hparboretum.com.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


groundwerks quarter page ad page 0001
rim bowling center generic 7 11 22 web
audio in english
audio en español
LET’S GO HIKING – The Pinnacles Trail

LET’S GO HIKING – The Pinnacles Trail

By TIM WILCOX Special to the Alpine Mountaineer   Where: Outskirts of Lake Arrowhead Length: 4.5-mile round trip Elevation gain: 1,100 feet Challenge: moderate to difficult   Let’s begin with a simple declaration: This is a hike! Rising more than 1,000 feet...

LET’S GO HIKING  Keller Peak Fire Lookout

LET’S GO HIKING Keller Peak Fire Lookout

By TIM WILCOX Special to the Alpine Mountaineer   Where: Running Springs Length: 3.8-mile round trip Elevation gain: 512 feet Challenge: moderate   Not every hike has to be on a trail. This one follows the paved route from the upper exit/entry point of the...

LET’S GO HIKING – Will Abell Memorial Trail

LET’S GO HIKING – Will Abell Memorial Trail

By TIM WILCOX Special to the Alpine Mountaineer   Where: Lake Arrowhead Length: 2.5-mile loop Elevation gain: 483 feet Challenge: moderate to semi-difficult   Situated on Grass Valley Road across from the Lake Arrowhead Country Club is an 80-acre site that...