Distance: 10.9 miles round trip on dirt road and trail
Summit Elevation: 4604'
Elevation Gain: 2230'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.78
Round trip time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 80 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Trabuco Peak is the 3rd highest peak in the Santa Ana mountains. Like other Peaks in the range, it straddles the Orange County/Riverside County line. There are multiple routes to it, but all involve the Main Divide Road. If you have a 4x4 vehicle, you can drive up to the point where the firebreak/use trail heads up to the peak. Otherwise, all routes are in the 10 mile range. I approached from the same North Main Divide road trailhead that I used to reach Los Pinos Peak.
My daughter Shelby came along, but this hike was a little long for her taste. Still, she made it to the peak. From the North Main Divide trailhead, the dirt road heads up to the Los Pinos saddle. Then, it descends into a pine forest and wanders up, down, and around various unnamed bumps. For the price of a little elevation gain, you can shortcut parts of the road by going over firebreaks. We took a few of these shortcuts, but got burned on one coming back that didn't reconnect with the road.
On a clear day, there might have been nice views on both sides of the mountains, but the clouds were lower than the road so what we mostly saw was clouds drifting across the road and through the forest like the movie "The Mist". Eventually, we passed the intersection of West Horsetheif Trail coming up from the canyon. Another mile and change gets you to the base of Trabuco Peak, with a firebreak/use trail heading up toward what I call "The One Tree" that adorns the peak proper. The scramble up to the peak has a lot of loose dirt, but is only a few hundred feet above the road.
The peak itself is almost overgrown with six foot high Manzanita and other shrubs. The final use trail is well hidden and spurs sharply left about 50 feet to the benchmark and summit register. I walked right past it at first and found it on the way back. The key is to focus on "The One Tree" and look for the spur when you get near it. There were no views on the peak, none ascending, and none descending other than clouds. After signing the register, we returned along the road. Despite the lack of views, it was an enjoyable scramble to the top with cool weather in the 50s that was never quite cold.
Trabuco Peak via West Horsethief Trail