Little Pine Mountain and 19 Oaks
Start in the overflow parking area at the far end of Upper Oso Campground.
The trail, which is actually called the Santa Cruz trail, begins on the dirt road. Pass through the metal gate to begin the dirt road. The dirt road parallels the creek, which offers inviting pools if you want to scramble down the hill.
At the 3/4 mile mark is the junction with the Santa Cruz Trail, marked by a sign announcing the trail and the distances. Some of the distances appear to be inaccurate.
At about 1.5 miles there are some unusual cinnabar rocks. Cinnabar is a mercury ore.
At about 1.75 miles you reach the junction with a small trail leading to 19 oaks. Turn right on this small trail to reach the camp, which is primitive. The trail to the camp is short.
To return to your car from 19 Oaks, turn around and head back the same way you came a total of 4 miles round trip.
To continue to Little Pine Mountain, cross the small creek crossing and begin heading up the hill.
The trail winds up steeply through meadows and steep slopes covered with sparse vegetation. There are many yucca plants, distinctive with their spear-like leaves. They hurt when you are punctured by the tips of the leaves, so be careful. The soil is a gray-green color, and in some places doesn't support much life at all. This gray-green soil is serpentine.
At the 5 and 1/4 mile mark you reach the saddle where there is a junction. To reach the summit, turn right at the junction and head very steeply up the hill.
At the wood and wire fence, turn right and continue steeply up the hill.
The summit is not a distinct point, but a nice place to end is beneath the small grove of oak trees, or in the field beside them. The views are beautiful, but the summit is often windy and cold. On rainy days it can even snow up here.
To return to the car, head back the way you came, a total of 10.5 miles round trip.
If you are interested in a long backpack trip, at the saddle, instead of turning right to summit Little Pine Mountain, continue straight ahead.
Descend into the valley. The camp is at the Santa Cruz Station, a small Forest Service cabin which will be locked. Camp out in back behind the cabin by the picnic tables.
To return, hike back the way you came in, a total of 20.5 miles round trip.