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Tenaja Trail to Fisherman’s Camp

Features: There are several hike options located within the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness in southwest Riverside County, the most well-known of which is the Tenaja Falls trail (also featured on our website). However, there are other hikes in the area that warrant exploration. One such hike is on the Tenaja Trail.

The Tenaja Trail stretches 8.5 miles within the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness. Mountains covered with chaparral and coastal sage dominate the landscape of this wilderness area. Many deep drainages hide a lush growth of vegetation, with thick oak woodlands in the lower elevations. The area is habitat for 139 bird species, 37 mammal species, 46 reptile and amphibian species, and seven species of fish.

This hike follows the lush southern section of the trail through Tenaja Canyon along Tenaja Canyon Creek, reaching the mouth of the canyon at Fisherman’s Camp and San Mateo Canyon. Fisherman’s Camp, once accessible to vehicles, is an abandoned camp that lies in a grassy meadow with sycamores and oaks. The hike can be done as an in-and-out hike (7 miles round trip) or can be done in conjunction with other trails in the area for a longer distance hike. The best time of year to do this hike is spring, when wildflowers spring up along the trail and throughout the canyon. While some parts of the trail are well-shaded others are completely unshaded, making this hike unadvisable in the midday heat of the summer.

Driving Directions: From the I-15 freeway in Wildomar (which is north of Murrieta), take the Clinton Keith Road exit (exit number 68). Drive 6.8 miles south to a stop sign at Tenaja Road. (Clinton Keith Road seamlessly turns into Tenaja Road). Turn right, to stay on Tenaja Road. Drive 4.2 miles to Cleveland Forest Road. Turn right and drive 0.9 miles to the large trailhead parking lot on the left. Important note: a National Forest Adventure Pass is required to park at the trailhead.

Hiking Directions: From the kiosk, head left on the well-defined trail. Descend on the trail through chaparral and sagebrush to the oak woodland in Tenaja Canyon. Cross the creek, passing granite boulders into the canyon. The path loops around a small rock-walled box canyon lined with ferns and sycamores. Loop around a second side canyon and continue northwest. Return to the canyon floor and cross the drainage. Follow the northeast canyon wall a quarter mile and re-cross Tenaja Creek, returning to the north-facing slope. Drop into Fisherman’s Camp at 3.5 miles. Enjoy a short break and/or snack and return the same way that you hiked in. Poison oak is abundant along, and hanging into, the trail. Please take appropriate precautions.

 

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Caution: 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.