Hiking Mount Rubidoux
by R. R. Alexander
Since the 1880s when Riverside began emerging as a quintessential California citrus town, Mount Rubidoux has been a landmark to travelers and a popular day destination for local residents. Named after wealthy rancher Louis Rubidoux, Mt. Rubidoux is a prominent granite hill located west of downtown Riverside and southeast of the Santa Ana River.
Mount Rubidoux viewed from a field in the Rubidoux area of the city
The mountain was developed largely through the efforts of Frank A. Miller, owner of the luxuriant Mission Inn. With the financial help of Henry E. Huntington, a Southern Pacific Railroad magnate, Miller purchased the mountain in 1906. Their intention was to use the mountain to add to the attractiveness of residential lots for sale at its base.
A single-lane road was constructed to the summit. Landscaping was performed and a cross honoring Father Junipero Serra was erected at the 1,337’ summit. It is widely believed that the first Easter sunrise service in America took place on the peak of the mountain in 1909, and inspired similar services throughout the continent. In 1955 the Miller estate donated Mt. Rubidoux to the people of Riverside.
Downtown Riverside, Box Springs Mountain, and snow-covered Mt. San Gorgonio viewed from Mt. Rubidoux
A walk around the mountain provides a 360 degree vista of the surrounding valleys and mountains. On a clear day it is possible to see Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio in the east, the long east-west ridge of the San Bernardino Mountains in the north, Mt. Baldy in the northeast, the Santa Ana River valley snaking into the west toward Orange County, and the ridges of the Cleveland National Forest in the south.
Lower trail leading up toward the Ben Lewis Bridge and upper loop
More than a recreational walk, the monuments, memorials, and plaques that dot the trailsides give a casual hike the feeling of a pilgrimage. Perhaps the most distinctive monuments are the Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge. Friends had the monument constructed in 1925 to honor Frank Miller, an advocate for world peace.
The Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge at dawn
Mt. Rubidoux was most frequently used as a drive until 1992, when the park was closed to vehicles. Today the mountain hosts hundreds of hikers, runners, bicyclists, and parents pushing strollers daily.
The Ben Lewis Bridge leading to the upper loop and mountain peak
To the 9th Street Gate
To go to the 9th Street Gate, turn right on Redwood Drive. There are multiple stop signs on Redwood Drive. At 9th Street, turn left. The trail gate is at the end of the uphill on the left. Look for parking in the surrounding residential area. It is frequently difficult to find parking space in this area.
To the Glenwood Gate
To go to the Glenwood Gate, turn left one block past Redwood Drive onto Glenwood Drive. Drive cautiously on the blind curve. Parking is on the left beyond the curve. Additional parking was provided by the City of Riverside in 2009, and is designated on one side of the street the length of the long block.
Topo map is courtesy of and copyright by Delorme http//www.delorme.com/
The slopes of Mt. Rubidoux are frequently windy in the winter months and relatively cold sundown to sunrise. Due to erosion after rainstorms, mud flows may cross the asphalt surface of the trail.
Yearly in June, a marine layer from the Pacific Ocean covers the Inland Empire in a dense cloud in the mornings. The cloud usually burns off, revealing clear skies in the afternoons. The cooling effect of the cloud layer keeps the summer temperatures at bay until the weather effect ends, typically in three to four weeks. The marine layer infrequently lasts into July.
Summer weather is very warm during the middle of the day, typically over 100° F, so hiking is best in the early morning, long before the daily heat peaks in the afternoon. It is advisable to carry drinking water in all seasons, but particularly important in the summer.
Full loop from the 9th Street Gate
From the 9th Street Gate, walk south along a lane bordered by cactus and eucalyptus and pepper trees. At the trail crossover, turn sharply right on the hairpin turn to walk north. The trail ascends somewhat bare slopes of brittle brush, century plants, cactus, and boulders. After rounding a knoll at the northeast shoulder of the mountain, and passing a memorial to Henry E. Huntington, the trail turns west, then south.
At the junction of the trail with the circular summit loop, pass under the Ben Lewis Bridge, taking the trail east, then north. Continue on the upper loop as it turns west, then south, sloping down to the Ben Lewis Bridge. Walk over the bridge and continue on the (right-hand) trail down to the south. The trail turns east, then north around the south shoulder of the ridge, then continues north to the trail crossover. At the crossover, take the trail north to the 9th Street Gate. Length: 4 miles. Elevation Gain: 500’.
Top loop from the Glenwood Gate
From the Glenwood Dr. Gate, walk north along the trail to the crossover. At the crossover, take a sharp left to walk south. In this direction the trail is noticeably steeper than the northern trail. Continue as the trail turns west, then north to the Ben Lewis Bridge. At the bridge turn to either right or left on the upper loop. Walk the upper loop, then descend on the southern trail again to the trail crossover. At the crossover turn sharply to the right to take the trail south to the Glenwood Dr. Gate. Length: unknown. Elevation Gain: 500’.