September 16-18, 2011
Latitude: 34° 48.840 N
Longitude: 119° 06.139 W
Elevation: 7,480 feet
Introduction: McGill Campground is located in the Los Padres National Forest, Mt. Pinos Ranger District. The Los Padres National Forest is the third largest national forest in California and covers approximately two million acres.
Directions: From Santa Clarita, take the I-5 north. Take the Frazier Park exit. Go west (left) on Frazier Mountain Park Road, 6.9 miles to an intersection. The name of the road changes to Cuddy Valley Road at this point. Continue straight on Cuddy Valley Road for 5.2 miles to a “Y” intersection. Bear left at the “Y” intersection, continuing on Cuddy Valley Road. At this point, the road name changes again, to Mt. Pinos Highway. McGill Campground is an additional 5 miles up the road. The entrance to the campground is on the north (right) side of the road. The entire mileage from I-5 to the entrance of the campground is 17.1 miles. Drive time from Santa Clarita is slightly more than an hour.
The last mile marker that you will be able to see before you get to the entrance of the campground is 9.80. It appears that a couple of the markers were torn out of the ground by snowplows and one is covered by plants. The GPS coordinates of the entrance are 34º 48.757 N and 119º 06.200 W.
Description: The campground is composed of two loops. The larger loop is unnamed and is actually a series of three overlapping loops in a dense stand of Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines. While there is little understory in this loop, spacing between campsites provides a fair amount of privacy. The second loop, known as the Lower Loop, is on an open slope of a mountainside with most sites somewhat terraced. Some of these campsites have a view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
Amenities, Fees, and Rules: McGill Campground has 78 campsites, most of which are on a first-come-first-served basis. Each campsite is limited to two vehicles and a maximum of eight people. There is a $20.00 per night fee for each campsite and a $8.00 per night fee for parking a second vehicle at each campsite. However, if you have a Golden Age or Golden Access Pass, you only have to pay half of that per night. Please note that some parking aprons only fit one vehicle. There is over-flow parking near the entrance of the campground. There are no RV sites or RV hookups. A campsite must be occupied the first night and cannot be left unattended over 24 hours thereafter. You do not need an Adventure Pass to park within the campground, but bring your Adventure Pass with you, in the event that you need to park outside of the campground (e.g., at the Nordic hut for Saturday’s hike).
Shortly after you enter, you will see boards with signs (containing the rules and regulations of the campground) and a metal container with envelopes to the left of the signs. Take one of the envelopes before you head into the campground. You will need to fill it out and put your payment in the envelope. You can put your payment in the metal container or you can wait until the slightly overzealous camp host comes to take your payment from you.
Each campsite has a paved parking apron, wood picnic table and fire ring (with a grill on top). The average parking apron size is 11’ x 45’. Fires are permitted in the fire rings only. Remember to bring firewood if you want to have a fire.
There are numerous vault toilets throughout the campground which are usually pretty well maintained. There are a limited number of trash dumpsters. You may therefore want to consider bringing your own trashcan, which you can keep at your campsite and use throughout the day, so that you will only have to make one trip at the end of the day to empty your trashcan into the dumpster.
The campground has a camp host located at campsites 7 and 8. Dogs are allowed, as long as they are on a leash. There is NO water available at this campground. PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN WATER. Check out time is 12:00 noon.
Weather: The average temperatures this time of year are highs in the mid 80s and lows in the low 60s.
Important Advisories: As a reminder, whenever you camp, there is a possibility that you will encounter wildlife, including bears. It is imperative to practice safe food storage techniques. Do not keep any food, lotion, soap, deodorant, or anything with a scent in your tent. Do not leave any food or drink items out of your car or out of a secure container, if you are leaving the campground or going to sleep. The safest place to keep food and other scented items is in a bear proof container, which is what we recommend. However, many people have kept these items safely in their locked vehicles in the Los Padres National Forest.
Flies and gnats can be an annoyance at McGill Campground. For your comfort, it is a good idea to bring a hat with bug netting sewn in, or bug netting that can be placed over your hat and/or head. DEET insect spray is also recommended.
Hikes: We will be going on the following hikes:
McGill Trail – one trailhead located at McGill Campground – 3.5 mile (7 mile round trip) with an approximate 1,300 ft. elevation change. The other trailhead is located on Mt. Pinos Highway (about 4 ½ miles before the entrance to the campground). We will do this hike Friday afternoon/evening. It can also be done on Sunday by yourself, but if you do, it is recommended that you try to complete the hike by 10:30 a.m., so that you can hopefully avoid the onslaught of mountain bikers who use this trail.
Mt. Pinos to Sawmill Mountain to Grouse Mountain to Mt. Abel. Mt. Pinos is 8,831 feet high. The Nordic hut is the last reachable parking area and is the beginning point for the 15 mile hike on Saturday. (You will need your Adventure Passes to park.) You will summit up to 4 peaks in one day if you complete this hike!! If you are only up for one or two or three summits, that is fine too. The choice is yours. This is about a 15 mile round trip hike with about a 1,800 ft. gain in altitude.
RSVP: To sign up for this camping trip, contact Dianne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that by reserving early with Dianne, and giving her the camp site fees. She will do her utmost to get you a camping site. However, campsites cannot be guaranteed for any of us, due to the first-come-first-served rule enforced at the campground. Unused camp site fees will, of course, be refunded. If you pay in advance and do not show up, your fees will not be refunded. (They will have already been deposited at the campsite check-in on your behalf.)