Hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Horse Trail to Bear Campground

Rate this Adventure PCT - Horse Trail Campground

A tough, uphill hike through the chaparral, sub-alpine, and spotted-oak forests just east of the Grapevine and south of the Central Valley. Not for the novice - generally speaking.

This is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. If you're through-hiking or sectional hiking, you'll have to hit it eventually. Try and avoid it in the late summer or early fall because of heat, and gnats. Find a way to check the bug report, we got marauded by gnats 90% of the way (early October) and apparently my DEET must have expired. The gnats almost ruined the experience.

Park on the road below the very obvious turn, there are large gravel turnouts for cars to park. Don't worry, we saw all of two vehicles other than our own while we were able to see the road (which you can see for maybe 30% of the hike).

Bring lots of water, as there are no accessible points to hydrate during an emergency situation (I brought about 4.5L and drank 4). From where we parked, we walked back up the road to a dirt turnoff and headed straight up hill. This leads to a watering station for the PCT, there are some lawn chairs here, and a sign that says "Bear 4" as in 4 miles. That sign is a liar. Continue along the switchbacks and up the mountain, there are quite a few open spots among the scrub and some kind of native, wild nut trees (I don't know what they are, and I also don't recommend eating them). They offer sweeping views of the valley and agricultural areas west of Lancaster (including Neenach, home of Hikertown). Eventually, the trail starts taking you into pines and cedars as it straightens out. Roughly a mile and a half after that first sign (Bear 4) you'll see another sign (Bear 3.5). Bear 3.5 is not lying to you. At this point, you run into large patches of moon dust, and going uphill with a pack in moon dust is quite the calf workout. Scrub and live oak start to mix into the flora as well, and here, contrary to popular belief about southern California, the colors change. It may not be dramatic, but everything that's not a pine tree or a live oak is golden in the fall. Continuing further up, you'll run into wild flowers and the occasional spruce tree. At the next sign, take the sharp left to stay on the trail, or proceed up a few feet to get to the logging/fire road for a commanding view of the Angeles National Forest. Continue due east along the road until you see the trail posts (or if you're on the trail, wend your way around the hills and cross the road) and sit down for lunch at Bear campground. Take a load off, balance your pack, change your socks, drink water, and head out.

AND BRING BUG SPRAY! I had nightmares about the gnats.

Oh, and there's no flowing water, or surface water, for that matter, on the trail. 

Pack List

  • Broadbrim or floppy hat (the bug spray lets you keep it on your head so you don't get a sunburn)
  • Foot powder
  • Change of socks
  • Hiking shoes or boots - broken in
  • Sunglasses
  • Layers - depending on the season
  • GPS watch
  • Water, water, and more water
  • Lightweight snacks - trail mix, jerky, etc.
  • Citronella bands - just in case your bug spray doesn't work
  • Sunscreen
  • Long pants and shorts
  • Pocket knife, Life Straw, and first aid kit (always!)
Show More
RT Distance 11.63 Miles
Elevation Gain 2396 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Running, Backpacking, Hiking, Fitness
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Autumn, Winter
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking


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