Los Pinos is the only trail marked as strenuous on the map of that area: even infamous Holy Jim is called "moderate to strenuous".
Distance: 8.2 miles (one way or 16.4 miles overall)
Net elevation gain: 3,300 feet
Access: The upper trailhead is on North Main Divide road 5.8 miles from Ortega Highway (Hwy 74). The lower trailhead is in Hot Springs Canyon, 1.5 miles beyond the San Juan Fire Station off the Ortega Highway on the Lazy W Ranch.
Map of the area: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/cleveland/recreation/trails/non-wild-trails.pdf
As I had some questions about directions to the trailhead, I asked OCTR about it. I guess even if I announced I wanted to do Badwater without any support and right after that run back to the start line where I planed to park my car, it would cause less response than my question about our little Los Pinos run this Sunday.
In a word, I never remember being so nervous before a training run. I guess I was less agitated even before my first marathon or my first ultra. As I am trying to pull myself together, I decided to publish most interesting answers in my blog for the next rookie that might dare to challenge Los Pinos after me (and in case I do not manage to come back from there):
Go straight to Hell, take a quick left at Hades, then a right at Eternal Misery, and finally you will arrive at the cul-de-sac locals refer to as Complete Agony. Have fun.
It's up and down, up and down, on pretty technical, overgrown singletrack. Bring lots of fluids and food. It seemingly never ends. Don't do it alone. It's in one of the most remote areas of the Santa Ana Mountains. Awesome views, if you can see through your tears. If I had to pick a worse fate, it would be being forced to watch a season-long DVD of "Grey's Anatomy" or "Scrubs." Los Pinos is the kinder of the options.
The Los Pinos trail snakes up and down (and I mean up and down) on the spine of a ridge, starting at about the 4,200 level and eventually ending somewhere in the high 100s. There are steep ascents and descents too numerous to count. Most of the trail is on loose dirt and rock, and portions are seriously overgrown, making it a very technical challenge (or nightmare -- again, depending on your mood).
Here is the full recap of Greg’s first acquaintance with Los Pinos trail:
Robo and I did Option #2 and added 20 miles on the San Juan Loop trail for one hell of a run the other weekend, and it was awesome! It took Rob and I two and a half hours to climb it (8 miles), and we were freaking pushing it and ran the whole thing (no I am not kidding).
Sunday is gonna be warm and I swear this trail is gnarly! Bring lots of water (camelbacks are a must). It is exposed, very steep and just down right rocky and tough, but by far my favorite trail anywhere! You can also hit it off the bell ridge trail, or from Blue Jay take Main Divide. I have done a few different loops using Los Pinos, and never once has it been anything but a bear!
Dmitri, I'm only echoing what's already been said, but this trail's the real deal. If you find yourself looking up, and you see another trail segment that you sincerely hope you don't have to climb, chances are that's where you're headed. There's more up and down than I can find a comparison to (at least not one that's not ribald).
I guess that in its own way, Pinos is just one of those trails that exposes your weaknesses in a manner that sort of sneaks up on you as the miles progress. Everyone that traverses it has their own impression of the thing.
It, as with any particularly difficult trail, demands of you a high level of humility. When at last you finish, if you think that you've conquered Los Pinos, take a look back over your shoulder. It will still be there, very much unconquered, waiting for the next runner. The only thing that will be conquered would be your own body, tired from your efforts. So, approach your run with the idea that, though challenging, the strenuous nature of the trail will be your silent companion on a path of personal strengthening. Win, lose, or draw, you will discover that you are only human after all.
Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger."
Be very conservative for this run. If it's really hot, I would bag it. We kid around but if something happens to you halfway up Los Pinos, you're in serious trouble; there’s no relief and no easy way out. BE CAREFUL and SMART. I've seen seasoned runners get absolutely crushed by this trail so hit it first. Eight miles of hell. Make sure you’re will is in order.
How to get to Los Pinos Trail? - Train, Train, Train!
The only time I did this trail, I found myself questioning the meaning of life.
Just Run It. What could happen? Bring lots of water and fuel.