Cottonwood Creek Trail: Pine Valley, CA

Trail Stats

2.51 miles
Elevation Gain
525 feet
Total Time
1 hours 8 minutes
Moving Time
1 hours 4 minutes

Cottonwood Creek Trail is a 2.51 mile out and back trail with 525 feet of elevation gain and is part of Cleveland National Forest located near Pine Valley, CA. This trail is one that does not appear to get much foot traffic but has a cool view of the creek at the end.

Note: Some users on AllTrails have reported there to be some overgrown sections of this trail. Please do additional research on current conditions before heading to this trail.

Parking & Getting There

Parking for this trail is easy to access just off Sunrise Highway. This area is used during the snow season as a place for people to pull over and inspect / put chains on their vehicles before heading into the mountains.

Directions: Google Maps

The trail is represented in Green and the parking in Red.

Hopefully the above parking image and below street view is helpful for finding trail head. As you can see in the above image in green the trailhead is just to the right of the guardrail. When you are on the ground looking at it like the image below, it looks to just drop off, but the trailhead is there.

The Trail

Once you find the trailhead as noted above in the parking section. This trail is fairly easy to follow. While going down the mountain you will find that the trail can be very rocky. Because of the bushes surrounding the beginning of the trail, it does provide some shade, but this is not a location that you would want to go on a hot day.

Note: In the above tracking there appears to be a small loop before hitting the bottom of the mountain and making the left to the creek. This was just some bad GPS point captures and not apart of the trail. You will go straight past that section.

Something to keep in mind about this trail is it is a reverse hike. You go down into the mountain until you reach the creek. Then on the way out, you get all your elevation gain heading back up to the trail.

For this hike, since you are really hidden in the mountains with little chance of running into others, I recommend hiking this with a friend. At a minimum have some sort of tracking setup that shares your location with someone. If you are hurt, I wouldn’t expect to see another hiker to help you.

Because of the location of this trail there is not any bathrooms. While there was shade, there was not a ton. Especially after you make it down the hill and start going across the field to get to the creek.

There is not any trail signage for this one. The trail is fairly easy to follow once you find the trailhead. From there you go down the mountain until you get to a field. Then you hang a left and that will take you all the way to the creek. Having a supplemental map is always recommended and understanding the trail before hand is even better so that you do not get lost.


Overall Cottonwood Creek Trail was an enjoyable one. I really liked seeing the creek tucked back into the mountains. People drive by everyday and never get the chance to see this beauty. I would love to see picture or visit again just after a rain when the water is really flowing. As you can see in my picture gallery below, the creek was more of a trickle.

Photo Gallery

Wrap Up

Is there a specific hike that you would like to see next? Leave a comment down below or reach out via the Contact Form and hopefully I will be able to get a recap and virtual hike posted soon! Thanks for stopping by, enjoy your adventure.

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