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McGilll Trail- Los Padres National Forest

Hike Name: McGill Trail (21W02)

Name of area/general location:
Los Padres National Forest – Mt. Pinos Ranger District

Land Acknowledgement:
This trail is located in the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Chumash and Yokuts. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit

AllTrails Hike Link: (although the trail description on AllTrails includes additional mileage to Mount Pinos Peak which this hike description does not include)

Trail rating:
Depending if you go up the trail from the parking lot at the bottom on Cuddy Valley Road or go down from McGill Campground, the experience is an easy 3.7 miles downhill, or an easy to moderate 1,400-foot elevation gain from the bottom to the top. The round-trip version of this hike is moderate, due to the length (7.4 miles) and the elevation change.

Trail mileage:
This hike can be done in a few different ways.

You can park at the lower trailhead on Cuddy Valley Road and hike uphill to the upper trailhead at McGill Campground and then back downhill to your vehicle (7.4 miles). You can park at the upper trailhead located in McGill Campground and hike downhill to the lower trailhead and then back uphill to your vehicle (also 7.4 miles, but involves an “upside-down” hike). This scenario is perfect if you are camping at McGill Campground because your vehicle will already be parked near the upper trailhead. If you are not planning to camp at McGill, please note that the fee to park in the day use area of the campground is $10.00.

Two other hike options involve a car shuttle – park one vehicle at one of the trailheads, drive to and park the other vehicle at the trailhead at which you want to start hiking, hike to the other vehicle (and then drive that vehicle back to the first vehicle). Either of these options will only be 3.7 miles long.

For more information:
 Mt. Pinos Ranger District, 34580 Lockwood Valley Road, Frazier Park, CA  93225 – Phone: (661) 805-1057 (phones answered Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

Description of area, sights, wildlife and any key markers on the trail:

The McGill Trail is a multi-use trail that is popular with both hikers and mountain bikers. Rocky areas and several tight switchbacks make the bicycle trip downhill somewhat challenging. This can also increase the potential for user conflicts, so it is important to listen and watch for others on the trail.

The trail is nicely shaded and winds through meadows and pine forests on the northeastern side of Mt. Pinos.  The trail also provides scenic views of Cuddy Valley to the east, over the San Emigdio Mountains to the north, and down into the San Joaquin Valley. On a clear day, one can also see the Tehachapi Mountains to the northeast.

Dogs are allowed on this trail, but must be leashed.

The best time to hike this trail is in late May through July, especially after there has been good rainfall and/or snowfall in the prior winter months. While the trail is described as a “year-round” trail on the Los Padres National Forest website, it is important to note that the trail will sometimes not be accessible during winter months due to snowfall and/or dangerous road conditions. Trail users in winter months may include those snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The trail is also located near areas that are popular for snow play (tubing and sledding), which often causes significant traffic congestion and parking challenges on Cuddy Valley Road when fresh snow has fallen.

Directions from the Los Angeles area:
  drive north on I-5 to Frazier Park.  Take the Frazier Park exit (Frazier Mountain Park Road). Turn left (west) under the highway and travel 6.9 miles to an intersection with Lockwood Valley Road (on the left). The name of the road changes to Cuddy Valley Road at this point.  Continue straight on Cuddy Valley Road for 5.2 miles to a “Y” intersection. Bear left at the “Y” intersection, continuing on Cuddy Valley Road.  At this point, the road name changes again, to Mt. Pinos Highway.  If you find yourself on Mil Potrero Highway, you’re going the wrong direction. Follow Mt. Pinos Highway about 0.6 miles to a turnout on the right side of the road with a sign indicating the lower trail. Approximate coordinates are N 34.83417, W 119.08651. Alternatively, drive another 4.4 miles to McGill Campground where the upper trailhead is located. The entrance to the campground is also on the right side of the road.

* All photos taken from the Los Padres National Forest website



Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.