Yucaipa Ridge From Oak Glen
Our group of four left the parking lot at Pilgrim Pines Church Camp and headed up the paved camp road. After several hundred yards the road ended at a creek crossing where a Forest Service sign announced "Wilshire Peak 3M 1W21 ". We started up an old fire road on the other side of the creek. After 1/2 mile two unmarked trails quite near each other lead up the ridge. The second starts at an overgrown helicopter pad on the right. The trails join together after several hundred feet. The fire road ends shortly at a second helicopter pad. This is the old Forest Service Ford Canyon Trail (called the Pinnacle Trail by camp personnel). The trail starts at 5600' and ends at 8200' on Yucaipa Ridge, a gain of 2600' over a distance of two miles.
The trail starts through open chaparral and after a mile enters a forest of pine and cedar. Trail's end at Yucaipa Ridge is noted by an old Forest Service marker lying on the ground stating "Ford Canyon Trail 1W21". The middle portion of the trail has some sections approaching 3rd class which are quite steep and consist of crumbling unstable rock. The entire trail shows extensive cutting and is marked by flagging and small metal trail arrows attached to trees, presumably placed by visitors to the camp. The trail fades toward the end but the ridge at that point is open and easy to follow and the trail markers continue to the ridge line.
It took our party which proceeded rather deliberately with several rest stops three hours to reach the ridge line. Cedar Mountain (8324') lies several hundred feet above the ridge line. The register contains entries from both hundred peakers and camp visitors. We then swung west eventually picking up a use trail and headed down to Birch Mountain (7826') 1.8 miles away. It took about an hour to reach the summit. There were a few patches of snow but not enough to cause inconvenience. We returned the way we came. It was a delightful hiking day and offered many photo opportunities of the San Bernardino Peak Divide and the Galena head wall.
The information given on the 1993 Cedar Mountain Peak Guide states that this route should not be used since it involves improper trespassing on private property. This information is no longer accurate since camp personnel have no objection to hikers using the trail. During my several visits they have always been friendly and courteous. All they request is that hikers sign in and out on a hiking sheet in the Administration Building. If the Administration Building is closed when you begin or end a hike (the building closes at 5 PM) you should attach a note on the door stating how many are in your party and your destination. There is no objection to parking in reasonable numbers in the adjacent parking area.
This route provides by far the shortest and easiest approach to Cedar and Birch and is the only trail presently available to reach Yucaipa Ridge. It is less efficient for reaching the two Wilshires and Little San Gorgonio since a round trip gain of 1600' and 6.6 miles is necessary to reach Little San Gorgonio from Cedar and return. The Camp Creek area cross country routes remain the shortest and most reasonable routes for these three peaks at least when weather permits and the trip leader is familiar with the rather obscure cross country routes. However the Ford Canyon Trail enables trip leaders to do the entire Yucaipa Ridge (except for Allen) in two moderate hikes instead of one 'killer' hike which has previously been the practice. Use of this trail also eliminates the time consuming need of car shuttling. Pilgrim Pines Camp is on Glen Road off of Oak Glen Road just before the Forest Service station.
Thanks and appreciation to fellow hikers Tom Hill, Dorothy Danziger and Mars Bonfire.