Bluewater Canyon is a 20 mile loop with 4000' of gain into San Mateo and Bluewater Canyons with one heck of a drop and climb in the middle. It's normally only accessible by backpacking or a really long day hike.
1 Headed back to the same area I had run a couple times over the last month. This time I would be going past Four Corners down into San Mateo and Bluewater Canyons and then returning back to Four Corners and the Candy Store.
2 The trail starts getting much less maintained as soon as you get past Four Corners. I do get nervous not being able to see where my feet are landing during the Spring rattlesnake season, but it's nice trail.
3 A look at Bluewater Ridge. You can see the trail following along the ridge. It was about here that I came across a group of backpackers (the only humans I saw past Four Corners). They were doing the exact same loop as me, except in reverse, and in 2 days instead of 5 hours. I ended-up arriving back at the trailhead just after they did.
4 Looks I'm about to drop down into San Mateo Canyon. As it turns out, this sign is a bit deceptive. It is a 1300' drop, but the mileage includes a flat portion down at the creek. It's actually a 1000' mile drop on fairly loose switchbacks. Probably the hardest section of the entire loop if you're running.
5 Dropping down into the canyon. You can see the trail winding down and then the San Mateo Creek bed at the bottom.
6 Jumped over this little guy on the way down. There's no way you can stop your momentum in time on the steep downhills. I really didn't even see him until I was in mid-air on top of him.
7 The same spot of the creek bed from a few pictures ago, except now finally getting closer.
8 The trail starts getting back into taller vegatation as you near the bottom of San Mateo Canyon. The trail here is a bit of a slip and slide coming down.
9 Made it to the bottom, and it's nice down here!
10 San Mateo Creek. It's actually a good sized creek, especially for such a dry year. I wonder if those are native ducks?
11 Great creek scenery.
12 Another view of the creek.
13 The trail climbs and dips along the bottom of the canyon for a while with some great scenery.
14 The whole bottom of this valley was probably flooded in the Spring of 2011.
15 The trail now leaves the bottom of San Mateo Canyon and hops over to the smaller Bluewater Canyon. There are several small, dry creek beds here.
16 Another deceptive sign. Yes, it's 1800' up, but almost 2 miles of the 3.3 are flat!
17 Bluewater Creek. Smaller than San Mateo, but really nice. The trail crosses back and forth across the creek 7 or 8 times and gets hard to find in places.
18 Where's the trail? Things are pretty overgrown down by Bluewater Creek. As much I appreciate the work of trail maintenance volunteers, this was my favorite section of trail for the day.
19 Some great single track down by the creek.
20 Now the trail is officially starting to climb up out of Bluewater Canyon, and it's steep! It's about a 1300' mile, which is a power hike at best.
21 Coming up the Bluewater trail towards Oak Flat. My dad and I did trail mainentance on this trail the previous weekend with the Santa Ana Mountain Task Force. It's a great group of volunteers.
22 You wouldn't think there'd be large meadows in Orange or Riverside Counties, but here you go. The meadows at Oak Flat. Unfortunately, there's a small herd of cows (and 1 big bull) that grazes here, but I didn't seen them today.
23 The trail starts to loop back around to the North now as it heads towards Oak Flat. The private community of Rancho Carillo is just West of here, seven miles up a winding road from Ortega Highway. Those residents have easy access to these trails, but for anyone else, you have to do the 20 mile loop.
24 Into Oak Flat, where there are actually a lot of big oak trees. Unfortunately though, I'm starting to hit the wall.
25 Coming back up the Verdugo trail. The trail here is rolling up and down, which is always tough at the end of the day. But I eventually made it back. 5:10 for the full loop including stops.
26 The Bluewater Canyon 20 mile lollipop loop. There's only one mile of repeat.
27 Elevation profile for the run. That's San Mateo Canyon in the middle.
28 A picture of Dad from the previous weekend doing trail maintenance on the Bluewater trail.
29 I picture of me doing trail maintenance the previous weekend.