Mount Pinos

Mount Pinos is the highest point in the Los Padres National Forest as well as Ventura County at just over 8,800 feet.  Along the trail a short side trip leads to the summit of Sawmill Mountain, highest point in Kern County.  This was a tough trip.  I didn’t feel short of breath or have other symptoms related to the elevation, but by the end of the day I was totally wasted.

1   I drove almost three hours to get to the trailhead, but it was simple enough to find.  I exited the 5 freeway in Frazier Park and took Frazier Mountain Park Road to Cuddy Valley Road and on to Mil Portero Highway – a total of just over 20 miles.  I then turned left on to Cerro Noreste Road and wound my way up the mountain for seven miles to this sign on the right hand side of the road. Cerro Noreste Road ends in a half mile at a campground on the summit of Mount Abel.  There is room for two cars to park in front of this sign.

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I started steeply downhill for a 1/2 mile.  Going back up at the end of the day was tough.

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Photo 2 – Straight ahead is Grouse Mountain which the trail goes up and over.

5     7   There is lots of shade on the trail.  While this hike reaches high elevations there aren’t a whole lot of great views.  Mostly you will walk right through the center of the forest.

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I enjoy strange looking nature.  Most often I will see strangely shaped rocks.  Today it was all about weird trees.

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14   After a long climb I reached a cairn marking the turn-off for the summit of Grouse Mountain.  It’s on the right hand side.  I followed the trail up through the trees.  Sometimes it would disappear beneath a blanket of pine needles.  I reached a high point and noticed a pile of rocks marking the summit.  This wooden “cross” lay on top of the rocks.  Written on the cross is the misspelled “Grousse Mt.”

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Photo 1 – From the top of Grouse Mountain, I look back at Mount Abel where the hike began.  Photo 2 – And the ahead to Sawmill Mountain.

17     18     19   It is a short hike to the summit of Sawmill Mountain but I couldn’t find the turn-off.  I went off trail and hiked to what looked like a high point.  At the top I met a trail that was running along the top of the ridge, parallel to the main trail below.  I followed the trail, first going to the left.

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Views from Sawmill Mountain.  Looking at my map, I wondered if the big mountain to the south in photo 2 is Pine Mountain in the Ojai area.

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The ridge trail ended at this rock structure, a Chumash Spirit Tower, decorated with Tibetan prayer flags.

23     24   Photo 2 – Looking ahead from Sawmill Mountain I could make out the antenna at the top of Mount Pinos.  It looked like a short and easy stroll from here, but looks can be deceiving.

25       26      27       28     29       30   Photo 6 – At the foot of Mount Pinos you look up at these rocks and think that they must mark the top.  I kept telling myself just to get to the top of those rocks.  When I got to the top of the rocks I found there was still more climbing ahead.

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I reach the summit of Mount Pinos.  As with all of the mountains I hiked this day, there really isn’t a clearly defined high point, but rather a large flat area.  The long and numerous switchbacks to the top became a bit tedious.  The trail I followed on this day, from Mount Abel, over Grouse and Sawmill Mountain to the top of Mount Pinos is known as the Vincent Tumamait Trail.

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I walked over to get a photo of this antenna.  Looking around, I think it probably sits on the high point of the mountain.  Hard to tell.  Photo 2 – Part of my lunch, a pack of seaweed, looks ready to explode at this elevation.

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View from Mount Pinos

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Sawmill Mountain from Mount Pinos

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Photo 1 – Happy looking log  Photo 3 – Almost back to my car now.  I kept having to stop and rest as I climbed the final hill.  Photo 4 – I had to stop and get a picture of this cool sign on my way back to the freeway.  Tough but peaceful day in the mountains.

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