Your 2020 vision quest awaits at Sitton Peak, a 3,273-foot summit in the Santa Ana Mountains. All in, a 10-mile (round-trip) hike gets you to a panoramic summit filled with hills galloping toward the Pacific. Start up Bear Canyon Trail from Ortega Highway, just across from San Juan Loop Trail. Views broaden over boulder-strewn ridges and the wide canyon as you hike south at a moderate incline before the final, somewhat punishing 0.33-mile push to the peak.
Grab a seat on one of the boulder outcroppings above the chaparral. As one of the highest summits on the south side of Ortega Highway, Sitton offers towering views of Riverside and Orange counties with an expanding vista across countless green peaks. On clear winter days Catalina Island is visible to the west.
Take I-5 to exit 82 in San Juan Capistrano and drive east on Ortega Hwy. (CA-74) for 19.4 miles to the trailhead parking area on the left for San Juan Loop Trail across from Ortega Oaks Candy Store (34040 Ortega Hwy., Lake Elsinore). Cross to the south side of the highway and begin up Bear Canyon Trail. After 1 mile, turn right to stay on Bear Canyon Trail. After another mile, you can stay right on Bear Canyon Trail or turn left up Bear Ridge Trail, a more scenic but slightly longer alternate route (1.5 miles vs. 1.2 miles) to the next junction called Four Corners (where five trails actually meet). Turn right and hike 1.6 miles to a turnoff for Sitton Peak, which comes in a saddle after a half-mile descent. Turn right up the single track to the summit. All junctions are well-marked. Adventure pass required and can be purchased at the candy store. Dog-friendly!