Hiking Skyline Drive, Cleveland National Forest in Corona’s Backyard

Aaron, Lauralynn, and Dan Hake on Skyline Trail

2 miles up Skyline Trail, looking out on Corona and the Inland Empire

When I lived in Washington, DC for 3 years while going to college, it didn’t take long for me to take for granted all of the great American history that was just a few blocks away from me: the Smithsonian, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the National Mall, the Potomac River, Georgetown.  When you live right next to something for so long, you tend to think more about the greener pastures elsewhere rather than the amazing things that are right in front of you.  Nowhere is this more apparent than the beautiful green mountains that surround my hometown of Corona, CA.

The Cleveland National Forest is often thought of as the geologic barrier that causes us traffic nightmares to get to Orange County.  All of us look at this gigantic mountain range every day when we drive about town.  However, the Cleveland National Forest is a classic Southern California wilderness that is beautiful and worth cherishing.  This morning, Lauralynn, my father and I, took our first hike up Skyline Drive – a fire access road that serves as a hiking and mountain biking trail into the forest.  We were motivated to do this by the 100 Mile Club as part of their Club 262 summer fitness series.

Vegetation in Cleveland National Forest

Vegetation and Wildlife in Cleveland Nat'l Forest

We observed many bird species, including hummingbirds and a large hawk.  We quickly spotted a rattlesnake slithering across the trail (Laura was on-guard the rest of the hike), and many lizards.  The views of the inland valleys were amazing, even though it was a hazy morning.  A clear day would be spectacular.  Even though we only hiked 2 miles up the trail and back, it is only 5.5 miles up to the ridge-line where you can see Orange County and the Pacific Ocean.  Laura and I resolved to make that trek soon.

There were many mountain bikers and other day hikers on the trail.  Experienced hikers commented that today was not as busy because of the heat, so I imagine that this trail is far more popular than I or many others realize.  Looking at a map along the trail, we realized how extensive the trail network is in these mountains.  You could hike all the way to Lake Elsinore and the Ortega Highway!  While the trails are remote and you’re on  your own the whole way, the trails seem well-maintained.

When you think of Corona or the Inland Empire do you automatically think of nature, wilderness, hiking, and adventure?  Maybe some do – and maybe more people should (I think).  All of this makes me wonder whether we showcase our community’s natural assets well enough? (Such as a huge National Forest).

Aaron & Laura hiking

It was a beautiful, warm, morning on Skyline Trail

While I’m not talking about exploiting the environment, I am talking about whether or not we contemplate this beautiful and perfectly located forest in our city’s planning and development?  How can we use this opportunity to better connect our kids to nature and respect of the environment (I know that our local Boy Scout Troops definitely take advantage of these local wonders)?  Do we market this as a destination for eco-tourists?  I always wonder how we can raise greater awareness of the awesome things that in our own backyards.  This is just one example.

I would be interested to hear from others how you enjoy our national forest?  Do you hike, mountain bike?  Any tips?  Great experiences?  Ideas on how we could help preserve and promote this environment?

I hope to return to Skyline soon – perhaps earlier in the morning before it heats up too much!  We love to hike with friends, so let us know if you’d like to join us soon.  Finally, I have to thank Kara Lubin and the 100 Mile Club for this wonderful experience.  Again, they are fulfilling their mission to make health & fitness fun for families, and a signature part of our community.  God Bless the 100 Mile Club!


Doppler on the mountaintop

The Doppler is 5.5 miles up the trail, on the ridge-line

About Aaron Hake

A lifelong resident of Corona, I am active in civic life, striving to bring leadership and greater quality of life to Inland Southern California. Join me!


  1. Chrisjohn says:

    Thank you, Aaron for the information.

    Do I need a national forest pass for parking or is ther any where I can park free and do hiking ?


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