The West Side of the North Hills Trail
After a fun hike out and back starting from the east trailhead of the North Hills Trail, outlined in yellow on the map above, Jeff and I decide to find the west trailhead. As we head west on Domenigoni Parkway, we also notice a sign directing us to the Diamond Valley Lake Viewpoint. However, like so many signs and trail markers, the directions are vague and insufficiently marked. But Jeff and I don’t give up. Actually we stumble upon it from Winchester Road only to find out the Viewpoint is not open. But aha, we also find the trailhead for the North Hills Trail. Not discouraged, we return a few days later when we can explore both.
After registering at a guard house and driving up a winding road, another guard greets us at the Clayton A. Record Jr. Viewpoint.
Clayton was a 4th generation San Jacinto native, a dairy farmer, businessman, community leader, and an elected official who helped develop regional water policy. Before the Metropolitan Sewer District of Southern California began constructing the reservoir known as Diamond Valley Lake in 1995, Clayton spent many mornings on a bench here, gazing out at the trickling waters from Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio. The Viewpoint was dedicated in 2002 to commemorate his service and leadership. (dvlake.com)
No dogs are allowed here and accessing the Lakeview Trail is prohibited.
On foot we spiral up to the top and enjoy the scenery of Hemet down below. A compass rose gives us our bearings.
Mt. San Jacinto is to the east.
To the north is Mt. San Gorgonio and the Domenigoni Hills of the North Hills Trail.
The Saddle Dam can also be seen in the picture above. This dam was built to increase the storage capacity of the lake. It rises 130 feet above the lowest point of the Domenigoni Hills ridgeline and is .5 miles long. The inlet/outlet tower controls the amount of water in the reservoir. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
To the south are more hills and a great view of the West Dam.
Just below the dam is the forebay and the pumping station.
We enjoy the scenery…
…and head to the West Trailhead of the North Hills Trail.
The parking area is huge and beautiful, filled with picnic areas and lots of places to tie up horses. I’m not sure why.
But the hike starts out crossing an aqueduct…
…and leads to a dry grassy area that runs parallel to the water canal. It is difficult to walk through and the mile markers are confusing. Not sure where the “trail” is leading, we alternate between staying the course that hugs the boundary fencing and climbing the steep incline to the gravel road that follows the aqueduct.
After a mile or so, we cross the irrigation canal again and head toward the hills. At last the trail looks promising and is easy to follow and well marked.
Our goal is to get near the halfway point leading to the overlook of the lake.
We start to encounter dams of tumbleweeds blocking the trail and manage to plunge through them, until finally we reach an impassable thicket.
We are tired of dealing with the disappointments of the trail, especially of the reality of having to return this way again.
Discouraged, we cut our losses and head back. Bummer…