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Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area

Miller Canyon Trail
To Serrano Beach is 3.5 miles round trip; to Marina is 6 miles round trip

Silverwood Lake has a noisy side and a quiet side, a developed side and a wild side. The lake has a split personality: On summer weekends, it’s a place to water-ski, swim, and camp. During other seasons, people come for quieter pursuits—bird-watching, fishing, hiking.

The lake was formed 20 years when Cedar Springs Dam was constructed and waters from the State Water Project filled a little valley that was formed long ago by the meandering West Fork of the Mojave River. Water for the lake comes more than four hundred miles from northern California through a truly astonishing maze of plumbing.

Early in this century, at the bottom of what is now Silverwood Lake, about a hundred families worked the land and founded the town of Cedar Springs. Strawberries put the town on the map; tourists traveled for miles to buy jars of strawberry jam.

By the mid-1920s, Seventh-Day Adventists, who developed a small tuberculosis sanitarium in the area, were the pillars of the community. Cedar Springs remained a popular weekend outing through the Depression years. The rustic community was razed, then covered when Silverwood Lake was filled in 1972.

Around the lake is a diversity of habitats. Thick chaparral—manzanita, ceanothus, chamise, mountain mahogany, plus oak and scrub oak—crowds the lakeshore. Alder, willow and sycamore line nearby creeks. On higher slopes is a thriving forest of ponderosa pine, fir and incense cedar.

A diversity of habitats means many different bird species. The serious birder will pick up a bird checklist at the park’s entrance station.

Silverwood Lake’s trail system surprises. Experienced hikers might figure the park’s premier path is the Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses a portion of the recreation area; actually, this stretch of PCT offers a less-than-thrilling day hike. PCT fans will much prefer day hiking along the nearby Deep Creek section of the trail.

The walker might also figure that the lakeside bikepath is not for pedestrians; actually, walkers are welcome to use the paved path, officially known as “Bike and Hike Trail.” The aesthetically pleasing trail gives access to portions of lakeshore that cannot be reached by auto.

Silverwood’s best hike is the part footpath/part bikepath route through Miller Canyon. Miller Canyon Trail leads to some woodsy retreats, grand views, and Serrano Beach, an inviting sand strand and picnic area.

Directions to trailhead: From Interstate 15 at Cajon Junction, take the Highway 138/Silverwood Lake exit. Drive ten miles east to the main entrance of Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area. Continue four more miles past the entrance on Highway 138 to the signed Miller Canyon turnoff. Turn left. The actual signed trailhead is at the edge of the Miller Canyon Group Camp; however, parking is awkward hereabouts because parking is restricted to cars registered in the group camps.

The hike:
From the signed trailhead at the Miller Canyon Group Camp, join the footpath dropping into the canyon. You soon begin sauntering along Miller Creek, one of the far-flung tributaries of the Mojave River.

First stop along the trail is Devil’s Pit, a not-very-appropriate name for what can be a heavenly swimming hole in spring and summer. Above this “pit” is an observation platform, offering views down Miller Canyon and up at nearby peaks of the San Bernardino Mountains.

At Lynx Point (another inappropriate name; there aren’t any lynx in the area) is another vista point. The panorama includes a view of Mt. Baldy, highest summit in the nearby San Gabriel Mountains.

Below Lynx Point, Miller Canyon Trail intersects the paved bike and hike trail. A short walk on the left fork of the trail brings you to a little-used hike-bike camp—perfect for a picnic. From the camp, you can continue on the Bike and Hike Trail along the south lakeshore to park’s marina.

Taking the right fork of the trail leads to Miller Canyon Road. Follow the road a few hundred feet to its end, then resume walking on the paved Bike and Hike Trail. Serrano Beach is a short 0.25 mile up the trail.

After another 0.25 mile, the paved Bike and Hike Trail ends at Jamajab Point, which offers good views across the lake to the park’s marina. A narrow trail, used mostly by fishermen, winds another 0.5 mile along the lakeshore.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at