Wilderness Areas

Pine Creek Wilderness | San Mateo Canyon Wilderness  Backcountry Safety


Pine Creek Wilderness

This 13,000 acre area was designated by Congress in October, 1984 to the National Wilderness System. Being a wilderness area, it is managed differently from the rest of the Forest.

"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his work dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" (Wilderness Act of 1964).

The Pine Creek Wilderness is a gently sloping area ranging from 2,000 feet elevation in the south to 4,000 feet in the north. Pine Creek and its numerous tributaries drain the area north to south. Most streams are dry for parts of the year. Vegetation is mostly chamise chaparral and scrub oak with riparian and oak woodland vegetation in stream bottoms and benches. Several trails provide access to the area.

Clicking on the hiker icon in the upper right-hand corner of the map will take you to a page with more information on the Pine Creek Trail.

Map showing Pine Creek Wilderness Area[Link]: Link to Pine Creek Trail information

Some of the key elements in a wilderness setting are solitude and freedom. These essential qualities are most sensitive to visitor behavior and the degree of restrictions placed on the use of a wilderness. To avoid over regulation, wilderness management must rely on the wilderness user to assume responsibility to practice appropriate backcountry techniques.

Some of the major restrictions you will need to observe are:

  1. A Free Visitor Permit is required for entrance into the wilderness areas, whether you are going in for several hours or overnight.
  2. Shooting is not allowed unless you are in legal pursuit of game. You will need to have the required California Dept. of Fish and game licenses.
  3. No mechanized vehicle or equipment use is permitted; this includes bicycles.
  4. Campfire, barbecue or hibachi use is not allowed. Propane or sterno fuel stoves are allowed.
  5. Your help is needed to pack out litter or anything you or others may have packed in.

You may see cattle in the wilderness area. Grazing of livestock by permit is allowed where it was authorized when the area was initially designated as wilderness. As you explore the area, you may encounter Volunteer Wilderness Patrol Rangers. They will be performing trail maintenance, public contact, boundary sign installation, and litter cleanup duties. Volunteers are recruited and trained every spring. If you want to find out how you can become a volunteer, contact the Volunteer Program Manager.

For more information about the wilderness area and other forest activities, please contact:

Cleveland National Forest, Supervisor's Office
10845 Rancho Bernardo Rd., Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92127-2107
(858) 673– 6180

Descanso Ranger District
3348 Alpine Blvd.
Alpine, CA 91901
(619) 445-6235

San Mateo Canyon Wilderness

Wilderness contributes to the ecologic, economic, and social health and well being of our citizens. Wilderness is land that is rare, wild places where one can retreat from civilization, reconnect with the Earth, and find healing, meaning and significance.

This 38,484-acre San Mateo Canyon wilderness is located in Orange, Riverside, and San Diego Counties. The area is managed by the Trabuco Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest. It is a place for solitude and rest from the busier forest areas in southern California. It is surrounded by large urban population centers. As a result, you may still heard noises from surrounding development in some areas of the wilderness. The wilderness also contains grazing allotments, so you may see cattle as you travel through some of the remote areas.

San Mateo Canyon wilderness regulations include a 15 heartbeat limit (includes people, horses, dogs) on the number in a group who may travel and camp together at one time. Overnight permits and no trace camping are required.

Welcome to the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness, a place for solitude and renewal.

Tread Lightly…..Leave No Trace.