Off the Grid in Riverside County: Harford Springs Reserve

Photo by David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A.

By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

Some hiking trails are well-known, well-documented and well-traveled: you start at point A, do a lot of climbing, and then you arrive at point B. Other hiking destinations are less-known, less-documented and less-traveled; you might start at point A, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up at point B. Harford Springs Reserve falls into that category.

Even veteran hikers will find Harford Springs Reserve to be a unique place, quite different from even its closest relative, the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve in Murrieta. The park’s location itself is even unlikely: an unincorporated part of Riverside County, south of the city itself, east of Perris, between I-215 and I-15.

However, the park sits on a plateau at about 2,000 feet above sea level, and it supports a diverse habitat including oaks, eucalyptus trees, spring wildflowers and more. Interesting geology and wide-ranging views (on clear days) that include the Santa Ana Mountains are among the highlights here.

If you are looking for a well-designed, clearly labeled network of trails, try another park. However, if you are in the mood for a more spontaneous, less-defined adventure, Harford is a fun place to explore. You can lose yourself, figuratively and literally, here. While having some sort of personal GPS unit may be helpful, keep in mind the park’s borders: Gavilan Road on the west, Idaleona on the south and a dirt fire road on the east. A second fire road cuts across the park, diagonally from northeast to southwest. Of the many smaller trails that lace the park, some are named for organizations that have “adopted” them. It’s possible to piece together a moderately challenging hike of several miles or more on the various trails. No matter how much time you spend here, it’s an enjoyable little oasis in an area that is certainly not known for its hiking trails.

To get to Harford Springs Reserve from the 91 Freeway, take the La Sierra exit. Head southeast for 3.2 miles and turn left on El Sobrante. Go 5.8 miles and turn left on Cajalco. In 0.3 miles, turn right on Gavilan, and in two miles, park in a small dirt lot on the left side of the road. From I-215, take the Ramona Expressway exit. Head west for a total of 6.7 miles. On the way, Ramona changes its name to Cajalco Road). Turn left on Gavilan and drive two miles to the parking lot.

For more information about Harford Springs, visit their Yelp page.

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