Cleveland National Forest


Cleveland National Forest encompasses 460,000 acres (720 sq mi (1,900 km2)), mostly of chaparral, with a few riparian areas. A warm dry mediterranean climate prevails over the forest. It is the southernmost U.S. National Forest of California. It is administered by the U.S. Forest Service, a government agency within the United States Department of Agriculture. It is divided into the Descanso, Palomar and Trabuco Ranger Districts and is located in the counties of San Diego, Riverside, and Orange.

Cleveland National Forest
Cleveland National Forest from Laguna Mountain
Map showing the location of Cleveland National Forest
Map showing the location of Cleveland National Forest
Map of the United States
LocationSan Diego / Riverside / Orange counties, California, United States
Nearest cityCorona, California
Coordinates33°18′N 116°48′W / 33.3°N 116.8°W / 33.3; -116.8Coordinates: 33°18′N 116°48′W / 33.3°N 116.8°W / 33.3; -116.8[1]
Area720 sq mi (1,900 km2)
Named forGrover Cleveland
Governing bodyU.S. Forest Service
WebsiteCleveland National Forest

Cleveland National Forest was created on July 1, 1908 with the consolidation of Trabuco Canyon National Reserve and San Jacinto National Reserve by President Theodore Roosevelt and named after former president Grover Cleveland. It is headquartered in San Diego. The Cleveland National Forest was the site of both the 2003 Cedar Fire, and the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889. Both fires widely consumed many sections of the area, as well as endangering many animal species.[citation needed]


Use restrictionsEdit

A National Forest Adventure Pass is required for parking in designated areas of the Cleveland National Forest as well as other National Forests in Southern California, and may be obtained from local merchants, visitor centers, or online.

Available on the Cleveland National Forest Official Site under Current Conditions are road, campground, picnic area, and trail closures.

"Law Enforcement Activities" are a common reason given for closures in the southern portion of the forest. These closures are implemented to limit back road access in hopes of circumnavigating US Border Patrol checkpoints. Bear Valley Road coming up from Buckman Springs, Kitchen Creek Road and Thing Valley Road are among routes that are routinely restricted.[3]

Elevated fire restrictions were announced in August 2020.[1]


Popular activities include picnic areas, hiking through the mountains on foot, exploring on horseback, trail running, trail mountain biking, camping overnight or driving on the Sunrise Scenic Highway. The Forest also includes Corral Canyon and Wildomar Off-Highway Vehicle Areas.

Besides climbers and wildlife advocates, the Forest also accommodates the needs of telecommunications companies, hunters, campers, utilities, off-road-vehicle enthusiasts, hikers, horse riders, neighbors and others.[4]


  • Campgrounds – The Cleveland National Forest has campgrounds available at the Descanso, Palomar, and Trabuco Ranger District. Sites normally serve 6-8 persons and 2 vehicles.[5]
    • Group camping – Group campgrounds are available.[6]
    • Remote camping – Visitor's permits are required.[5]

Hiking trailsEdit

  • Sunset Trail - Sunset Trail is a 4.6 mile loop trail accessible from Meadows Trailhead off Sunrise Highway, mile marker 19.1.[7] The trail, which offers several connection options, winds through pine forest leading one to open meadows, ponds and small lakes, and a popular lookout to the Pacific Ocean. The surrounding habitat supports numerous flora and fauna including native black oaks, Engelmann oaks, giant Jeffrey pines, Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus), hawks and turkey vultures.[8] Dogs are not allowed off leash.[9]
  • Big Laguna Trail - Starting nearby the Laguna Campground in the Descanso District is a 10 mile loop that connects to the Sunset Trail and the Nobel Canyon trail. The perennial Little Laguna Lake is featured on this trail.
  • Garnet Peak Trail - This trail features viewpoints of the Anza Borrego Desert at 6000 feet in elevation. It starts at the Garnet Peak Trailhead, but can also be accessed via the Penny Pines Trailhead which connects with the Pacific Crest Trail before joining the Garnet Peak trail.[10]


Fire lookout towersEdit

There are currently two operational fire lookout towers in the Cleveland National Forest.

  • High Point Lookout, Cleveland National Forest, Palomar Mountain[11]
  • Los Pinos Lookout, Cleveland National Forest, near Lake Morena[12]
  • Boucher Hill Lookout: While this fire lookout tower is also on Palomar Mountain, it actually sits inside the Palomar Mountain State Park and not the Cleveland National Forest. It is an operational tower and works in conjunction with the USFS but is owned by the State of California and is an historic building.

Wilderness areasEdit

There are 4 official wilderness areas in Cleveland National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. One of them extends into land that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Flora and faunaEdit

Cleveland National Forest is home to many wildlife species such as mountain lion, bobcat, mule deer, coyote, gray fox, ringtail cat, long-tailed weasel, opossum, black-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontails, California ground squirrel, and many other small species. A wildlife corridor is being created between the Cleveland National Forest and Orange County’s wild coastal terrains to ensure that animals can retreat fire safely if needed.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Cleveland National Forest". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
  2. ^ "Adventure Pass - Cleveland National Forest". Cleveland National Forest. Archived from the original on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-14. Retrieved 2011-05-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Lee, M. (2008, June 29). Forest Marks 100 Years. San Diego Union-Tribune , pp. 1-4.
  5. ^ a b "Cleveland National Forest Official Site". Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  6. ^ Archived 2012-02-23 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Sunset trail". Archived from the original on 4 February 2018. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-10-11. Retrieved 2015-06-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Garnet Peak Trail". Cleveland National Forest. Archived from the original on 2020-05-04.
  11. ^ "High Point Lookout – Forest Fire Lookout Association". Archived from the original on 6 July 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Los Pinos – Forest Fire Lookout Association". Archived from the original on 14 July 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2018.

External linksEdit

  • Cleveland National Forest Official Site
  • In-depth article by the San Diego Historical Society
  • Southern California Trails at Local Hikes
  • The Nature Conservancy: Santa Ana Mountains
  • Santa Ana Mountains Wild Heritage Project
  • Center For Biological Diversity
  • Santa Ana Mountains Natural History Association