It was the last Friday of March and I had the day off, so naturally I decided to go for a hike. I originally was supposed to be off on Thursday for San Diego Padres opening day, but with no sports for the foreseeable future, I decided to switch my day off to Friday to make it a long weekend. I was planning on doing a 2 day trip out to Anza Borrego, but then an unusually cold winter storm came through Thursday night and dumped snow on all the higher elevation parts of the county. I checked the Cal Trans website in the morning, and it appeared all of the highways over the mountains were closed or had chain controls. There didn’t seem to be any safe way to get to the desert (every route from SD to Anza Borrego requires going over the mountains). My next plan was to head back to the Santa Ana Mountains, where I had just been the week before with Stella to climb Sugarloaf and Old Sugarloaf. The Santa Anas are relatively low, and I didn’t think snow would be an issue. I settled on climbing 4604 foot Trabuco Peak, and I had Stella along with me once more. Leaving around 8am, we made it pretty close to the trailhead just after 10, only to find the whole area gated off. This entire section of the mountain range was closed to all use as it recovers from the 2018 Holy Fire. I was pretty frustrated at this point. I had my first day off in months and all my plans were being thwarted. I changed plans once again and decided to climb 1567 foot Monserate Mountain, an insignificant little peak just east of the 15 in Fallbrook. This would be a rather short and easy hike, but at least it would be on the way back home (so no extra driving). We arrived at the large parking area around 11, where there were already about 20 cars parked. I nearly got coronavirus just thinking about how crowded the trail would be. We finally got started at 11:10am from about 361 feet.
We passed through a gate a short distance up the trail.
The trail was pretty wide. I kept Stella on the leash due to the crowds. It was probably around 60 degrees but felt very warm in the sun.
At 0.7 mile, we reached a fork. Both ways lead to the peak, so we decided to make a nice loop out of it. We went right (counterclockwise).
This part of the trail was paved. We could see it winding its way along the hillside ahead of us.
We were on the long way to the peak. Most hikers go the other way directly to the peak, so we had some space on this section.
There were markers with GPS coordinates along the trail. I suppose these are for hikers who need to be rescued off the mountain, but it’s hard to imagine anyone needing rescue on such an urban trail.
We passed through another gate.
At 1.43 miles we followed a little spur trail to a minor peak. This peak isn’t on Peakbagger so I’m not sure its exact elevation, but my phone showed us to be at 870 feet. We had a nice view of Fallbrook and I-15 heading south.
From this point, the trail turns northeast.
There was another paved section as we headed up towards a water tower.
The water tower is on top of Peak 1208. We went around the peak and approached it from the northeast. We were on top right at noon.
Monserate Mountain was a short distance to the north.
We went back to the trail and continued towards Monserate. We went up some stairs.
The trail goes right over Peak 1309, where we stopped for just a second. We were close now.
Right before reaching the summit of Monserate, we made a short side trip to Little Red Hill (1530 feet). The red color was distinctive.
We lingered for just a moment on Little Red Hill.
Back on the trail, it was a short hike to the summit of Monserate. We reached the top at 12:32pm after hiking for 3.24 miles. There was a large cairn on the summit.
The views were nice for being at such a low elevation. I-15 and the community of Fallbrook occupied most of the foreground. Far to the west I could see the Pacific Ocean.
To the east I had a good view of 6140 foot Palomar Mountain. It looked like last night’s storm had dumped a good amount of snow on the mountain.
After a 10 minute break, we started back down. We made one more small side trip to a viewpoint before completing the loop and rejoining the trail from the parking lot. We reached the car once more at 1:25pm. We clocked 5.4 miles, 1519 feet elevation gain, and 2:17:42 total time.