Cleveland National Forest

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Cleveland N.F.
Cleveland N.F.
Location 10845 Rancho Bernardo Road #200, San Diego, CA 92127
Cleveland N.F.

Cleveland National Forest encompasses 460,000 acres (720 sq mi (1,900 km2)), mostly of chaparral, with a few riparian areas. A warm dry mediterranean climate prevails over the Forest. It is the southernmost National forest of California. It is administered by the United States Forest Service, a government agency within the United States Department of Agriculture. It is divided into the Descanso, Palomar and Trabuco Ranger Districts and is located in the counties of San Diego, Riverside, and Orange.

Cleveland National Forest was created on July 1, 1908 with the consolidation of Trabuco Canyon National Reserve and San Jacinto National Reserve by President Theodore Roosevelt and named after former president Grover Cleveland. It is headquartered in San Diego. The Cleveland National Forest was the site of both of the largest wildfires in California history, the 2003 Cedar Fire, and the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889. Both fires widely consumed many sections of the area, and endangered many animal species as well.

There are four official wilderness areas in Cleveland National Forest that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. One of them extends into land that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Pacific Crest Trail

Much of the forest is bisected by the famous Pacific Crest Trail which runs 3000 miles from Mexican border, up the length of California, across Oregon and Washington, to the Canadian border. It provides numerous opportunities for both shorter and longer backpacking trips and high adventure training.


  • Hwy 79 crossing near Warner Springs
  • Mataguay Scout Camp (SDIC) - scout and family camping, backpacking and connector trail to PCT.

Trabuco Ranger District

The northernmost area of the Forest. Consists of most of the Santa Ana Mountains and is bisected by the Ortega Highway, which runs from San Juan Capistrano to Lake Elsinore. Its northern border is Corona.

Palomar Ranger District

Near the cities of Escondido and Ramona. Includes the "Highway to the Stars" from State Route 76 to the top of Palomar Mountain.

  1. Palomar Mountain State Park - a is densely wooded with abundant oak and conifer tree species (pine, cedar, fir). Ferns are abundant everywhere in the shady forest. The forest is supported by annual precipitation totals in excess of 30 inches. Palomar Moutain at 6,126 is the third tallest peak in San Diego County.
  2. Agua Tibia Wilderness - California rare plants

Descanso Ranger District

The southern district from east of Alpine. Includes Sunrise Highway, a National Scenic Byway.

District Activiites

  1. Cuyamaco Rancho State Park - The park's 26,000 acres feature pine, fir, and oak forests, with meadows and streams that exist due to the relatively high elevation of the area compared to its surroundings. The park includes 6,512-foot Cuyamaca Peak, the second-highest point in San Diego County.
  2. Sunset Trail - 4.6 mile loop trail accessible from Meadows Trailhead off Sunrise Highway, mile marker 19.1. The trail, which offers several connection options, winds through pine forest leading one to open meadows, ponds and small lakes, and a popular lookout to the Pacific Ocean. The surrounding habitat supports numerous flora and fauna including native black oaks, Engelmann oaks, giant Jeffrey pines, Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus), hawks and turkey vultures. Dogs are not allowed off leash.
  3. Mount Laguna Observatory - an astronomical observatory owned and operated by San Diego State University (SDSU).

Agua Tibia Wilderness

The highest landform is Agua Tibia Mountain with an elevation of 4,779 feet (1,457 m). It is mostly within the Palomar Ranger District. Though the summer climate is hot, with limited shade and no water sources, there were no fires in the ATW for 110 years, until 1987.

Located within the wilderness, comprises 480 acres (190 ha) of bigcone Douglas-fir – canyon live oak forest. Home to some of California's rarest plants:

  • Bigcone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa) is a relict species and is endemic to Southern California. This population on the ATRNA is unique for its relatively great age, size, genetic purity, placement near the southern extent of the species' range, and for its remoteness and lack of disturbance by man.
  • Laguna linanthus (Linanthus orcuttii ssp. pacificus)
  • Hall's monardella (Monardella macrantha ssp. hallii).

Hauser Wilderness

Pine Creek Wilderness

San Mateo Canyon Wilderness


See Also