Sunday, August 28, 2016

Bluewater Crown and Cub Scout Peak (Peak 3163)

Hiked: 8/28/2016
Distance: 10 miles round trip on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 3231' (Bluewater), 3163' (Cub Scout)
Elevation Gain: 1840'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.4
Round trip time: 5 hours
Recommended water: 84 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Difficulty: Moderate

The San Mateo Wilderness is a lightly traveled area southeast of the Santa Ana Mountains. Bluewater Canyon runs north-south near the heart of the wilderness and is surrounded by the Verdugo Trail to the west and North Tenaja Trail to the east (the USFS topo calls this trail Bluewater Ridge Trail). The canyon itself deserves further exploration and is high on my to do list. Looking at the topo map, my target was the highest peak along the perimeter of the canyon I dubbed Bluewater Crown. At roughly 3231' and right at the top of the canyon, it is only 40' lower than the local monarch, Sitton Peak. I couldn't find any beta on this peak, no benchmark on the topo, no firebreak and no use trail to the top. There did appear to be a use trail up part of peak 3163 that could be used as an approach.

I started on the Bear Canyon Trail by the Candy Store on Ortega Highway. This is the same trail to get to Sitton Peak. I took the Bear Canyon Trail to Four Corners, where five trails intersect. The Crown looms over Four Corners, but the bushwhack looks unusually harsh from there. I followed the Sitton Peak trail up to the saddle between Boy Scout Peak and the smaller Peak 3163 I named "Cub Scout Peak". The obvious use trail leaves on the left side to what looks like a camp site. Some light bushwhacking got me up Cub Scout Peak where two metal poles marked the top.

Bluewater Crown dead ahead

Four Corners, five trails

Use trail heading toward Cub Scout Peak

Two metal poles on the Cub Scout summit

Heading toward Bluewater Crown

Between Cub Scout and Bluewater Crown is moderate to heavy bushwhacking. Along the way are some channels with lighter brush. They aren't contiguous, but I could usually find one within 20' of where the current one ended. Good route choices are the difference between moderate and heavy thrashing. I did some of both. The summit of the Crown has five bumps, one at the north end, one at the south end, and three in the middle. The two highest were along the east (right) side. It was a very close call, but the first eastern bump seems slightly higher than the other. A tree growing there is clearly higher than anything else. I dropped a register there in an artisinal glass jar. I set it up at the base of the tree below the highest boulder.

Sidebar on the summit height: The waypoint I took standing on the highest boulder read 3247' so that is what I wrote in the register. Later, I checked and it doesn't have a 3240' topo line so the GPS was off. Google Earth has it at 3231' so I revised my report to 3231'.

Being in the middle of a large summit area, the views were good but not the best. I continued over the south bump down to a perfect lookout over Bluewater Canyon. Views there were commanding and I lingered longer than usual. I tried creating a photosphere from the lookout but it turned out broken. The south ridge appeared to be another viable ascent/descent route to the Verdugo Trail. I debated whether to descend that way, but ended up returning the way I came. I visited the final middle bump on the summit on the way back for completeness. Then, I got tangled up in some manzanita heading back to Cub Scout, escaping with minor scratches. I was extra grubby by the time I got back to the trail. From Four Corners, I took the slightly longer Bear Ridge trail back.

Busy spiders

The highest point on the Crown

Summit boulders

Looking back at Cub Scout Peak (lower left) and Boy Scout Peak (behind)

Sitton Peak, only a little higher

New register

Register placement

Heading to the south bump for a better view

Bluewater Canyon view, the reason I made the trip

Tangled up heading back up Cub Scout Peak

Returning on Bear Ridge Trail


  1. Cool trip. Do you have to hit all five points to say you bagged the Crown?

    1. Sean,

      Haha, no, only the high point. That was my OCD telling me to hit every point.