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Areas in El Cariso

Base Camp 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1
Boulder Hallway, The 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1
El Cariso - Misc Problems 2 / 4 / 4 / 31 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 36
First Hill 0 / 1 / 0 / 6 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 6
Grumpy Man 0 / 0 / 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Steve's Suggestion 0 / 0 / 0 / 10 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 10
Ven-tickular Rock 0 / 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 2
Elevation: 3,048 ft
GPS: 33.647, -117.442 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 30,139 total · 398/month
Shared By: Ronnie St. Jean on Aug 23, 2012
Admins: jt512, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes
Getting weather forecast...
Access Issue: Access Sensitive Details


This is the most secluded climbing i have come across in orange county. I have heard it is written about in an old school climbing guide and it appears in the "Southern California Bouldering Guide" written by Craig Fry. El Cariso seems to be almost forgotten about. When my friend Jeff Mumaugh and I first started climbing there it was completely covered in chaparral growth. Slowly but surely the climbs started to appear and now it is my favorite bouldering spot in the O.C. The Climbing sits on top of three main hills. Numerous Granite boulders make for seemingly endless bouldering. The first two hills have a lot of previous burn so access is easy. The third hill has the largest boulders but a lot of bushes stand in the way of some classic climbs. There are a few really fun sport climbs which I'm guessing Craig Fry put up. Also There is the Aid Boulder which is covered with old pitons and a bolt ladder for aid climbing. The surrounding hills to the west have even more bouldering and potential for sport, top rope, and maybe trad but, be quiet as you go that way because you will be going right next to private property. NOTE: you cannot enter through the neighborhood. The first hill on that side is worth it but it's not really worth going to the far hill yetÂ…
Lets keep this place clean and accessible; please be respectful, pick up trash, follow all general climbing rules, and Don't play loud music! this area echoes and we don't want to piss anyone off! lets all do our part - thank you

Getting There

If driving from O.C. you pass the Ortega waterfall and make your first left on forest route 3S04. drive past mystic oaks and park at the top of the hill. The parking spot is right before your next left turn that goes to the fire station (vehicles must display forest pass). the approach is a 30 min walk from car to the aid boulder. The first bouldering area is less than a 5 min. walk toward the fire station and head up the dirt road hill that goes to some electrical boxes. pass them and stay on the trail to the boulders on the left.

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Laguna Niguel, CA
Kevin.Riley   Laguna Niguel, CA
Little video showing some new problems... Jan 15, 2013
Matthew McMillan
Orange, CA
Matthew McMillan   Orange, CA
A buddy and I went here a few months ago and felt a little lost. Would anyone who knows the spot well be willing to make a trip here on a weekend sometime? We have plenty of sport climbing gear and boulder pads. Please just post here or message me. Thanks! Jan 16, 2014
Hi Matthew. I am one of the original developers of the area. We did most of the developing in the early 90's. Be glad to give you a tour of the place. I also sent you an e/mail. Let me know. Jan 21, 2014
Matthew McMillan
Orange, CA
Matthew McMillan   Orange, CA
Hey Dean, I got your email and finally responded. Me and a buddy are headed to Cariso this weekend and would really appreciate a tour. If you or anyone else (especially someone who knows the area) would like to join us that'd be great. Feb 3, 2014
Ricky McFerrin
San Diego, California
Ricky McFerrin   San Diego, California
How is the snake/poison oak situation here? Also, is there anyone available to show me and my friends around? We have plenty of crashpads and psych! Oct 30, 2014
Ronnie St. Jean
Orange County, CA
Ronnie St. Jean   Orange County, CA
Sorry i have not logged on in a while but to answer your question Rick, the poison oak really isn't that bad, however make sure you are familiar with what all stages of the plant look like because it is there. The first and second hill don't really have any poison oak at all from what i've seen. but its around in the wooded areas like the aid hill, and the sport climbs. There is so little of it though, that it can easily be avoided. Steve's Suggestion area has more poison oak but its still easily avoidable. As far as snakes ~ there's not many, i see more at the ortega waterfall, but like most places in so cal, you have a good chance of seeing one on hot days. I usually see them just before sunset as they are trying to catch the last of the days warmth by sitting in the middle of the trail. Remember dog owners - don't let them wander too far because they will be curious if they hear/see a rattler.
also I'm down to show you guys around i will email you when i go this week or next.
I heard the bushes filled the trail in a little bit so it would be helpful if you had a pair of garden sheers or loppers just incase. Dec 30, 2014
Costa Mesa, CA
Seabass   Costa Mesa, CA
there is a gate that blocks the path to the fire station is that new? or does the trail start before the closure? Oct 1, 2015
I just went here for the first time on Saturday. The gate was open on Saturday but closed today when I went in the morning. On the north side of the gate the fence stops so you can just walk across a small path around the fence and get directly onto the trail. Oct 20, 2015
Wanted to camp around here and check it out Nov. 14-15. I saw the el cariso campground was first come, first serve and they allow dogs. Do you know if there are any restrictions or permits you need? Is the adventure pass acceptable for parking? Better yet, anyone going that weekend willing to let me tag along? :) Nov 4, 2015
Ryan U.  
Can we have areas added to this page? Probably something along the lines of "First Hill" "Second Hill" and "Third Hill." Oct 1, 2016
Posted this on "El Cariso - Misc Problems" as well but think that everyone should be aware of this.

I was here this afternoon (4/23/17) and also caught the attention of a cop and some firefighters who told us not to enter this area via the gate. They were really cool about it and told us to use an alternate path about 100' down the road since they would be liable if we got hurt entering via their property.

GPS coordinates for the alternate path are 33.646703,-117.443247

Me and a couple friends spent the morning here trying out a few of the easier routes and had a blast. There are shrubs pretty much everywhere so wear long pants or be prepared to leave with more than a few scratches. I got the GPS coordinates for a handful of routes and will be adding them to the individual pages. Apr 23, 2017
Daniel Levine
Orange, CA
Daniel Levine   Orange, CA

Anyone in the OC area hit up this spot regularly. I live in OC and would love to tag along just to get a feel for the area! Oct 10, 2018
Pete Zagorski
Orange County
Pete Zagorski   Orange County
Hey Daniel!
My friends and I just started climbing here and I have a pretty good feel for the area. Would be more than happy to show you around one day! Oct 17, 2018

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