It’s not pretty. The hike up Skyline Drive to Beeks Place and the Doppler is one of those hikes you do because it is there. Other than the first half mile, which is paved, the entire hike is a tedious 12 mile round trip walk up a dirt fire road. With lots of sun exposure. You DO, however, get some nice views along the way to the mysterious Beeks Place Ruins and the iconic looking Doppler Tower. Plus, the Skyline Drive route is shorter than the route from Black Star Canyon.
Distance: 12.0 miles
Duration: 6.0 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,960 feet
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
From the 91 freeway in Corona, exit on Lincoln Ave and head south for about 2.5 miles to Foothill Pkwy. Turn right on Foothill Pkwy heading west about 0.6 mile and park on the street near the Skyline Drive trailhead.
Trail Journal: Skyline Drive Hike to Beeks Place and the Doppler
It’s a Saturday morning. Me and my friends Kim and Georganna are ready to hike Skyline Drive. Our destination is Beeks Place and then the neighboring Doppler Tower. Beeks Place is a dilapidated stone cabin built in the 1930s by the Secretary of the California Senate, Joseph Beek, who used it as a weekend getaway. The Doppler is a weather radar tower installed by the National Weather Service that looks like an oversized golf ball.
Our goal is to meet up with our friends who are hiking up from Black Star Canyon. The parking spots along Foothill Pkwy are all taken. We have to park almost a half mile up the street and walk back to the trail head. It’s mid December and this is going to be a Christmas hike. Kim is sporting her decorative antlers.
We take our obligatory “trailhead” picture and stoll down the paved path winding around a residential track. Back in the day, we used to park near the real trailhead. But then the local residents got the City to prohibit parking for non-residents. Oh well, it’s a half mile warm-up for the actual hike.
It takes us about 12 minutes to walk around the housing track to the real traihead. We pass the spur trail leading to Hagador Canyon on the way. From there it’s a dirt fire road the rest of the way up. In another ten minutes, we reach the cutoff for Tin Min Canyon on our left. Tin Mine is a nice hike, but today we’re there to do the Doppler. We make a hard right up the Skyline Drive fire road, which starts climbing at a steady incline.
Georganna and Kim trudge up the Skyline Drive Trail
As we trudge up the hill, we can see the Doppler in the distance. It looks ridiculously tiny and far away. This is not the kind of hike you would want to do on a hot day. Fortunately for us, it’s just a warm mid December day.
It’s a clear day and we get some great views of the various mountain ranges from the overlooks located along the way. We spot San Gorgonio, Cucamonga Peak, Baldy, Iron Mountain and even Mt Wilson.
As we continue up the long and tedious fire road, we occasionally look over the side of the trail at the wrecked cars. Vehicles that had either been pushed or driven off the steep edges of the trail. The vehicles are marked with a huge X, presumably meaning that they had been checked out.
One foot up, one foot down, that’s the way to Doppler town. We continue onward and eventually it seems like the Doppler is actually getting closer. But not by much. The fire road takes a meandering, roundabout path to the Doppler.
Me and the girls inch closer to the Doppler
Eventually, we get to the three way junction with Black Star Canyon Road and Leonard Road. Actually, Skyline Drive just sort of turns into Black Star Canyon Road and Leonard Road peels off to the right toward Sierra Peak. We follow Black Star Canyon Road to the junction with Main Divide Truck Trail. The Doppler pops in and out of view, but its now much closer.
We hook a left up the Main Divide Truck Trail and take a quick break at Beeks Place on the right. Beeks Place is a small stone cabin that is loaded with windows. The walls and chimney are still up, but the roof and floor are gone. The area around the cabin is flat and delineated by low stone walks. Sort of like a compound. We take a few pictures and continue on.
Beeks Place Ruins just down the trail from the Doppler
We’re close now. Just a short walk up the fire road and we see the fenced in Doppler Tower. I touch the fence to make it official and then sit down with the girls on the concrete pad. We have lunch. Our friends arrive a few minutes later and we take a few photos, including the featured image shown at the top of the page. There’s still a few others working their way up from Black Star Canyon.
After a while, me and girls decide to head back down with David and a gal named Lee. As we head down, we meet up with the others coming up and stop for a group photo before continuing down. Some of them are wearing Santa Claus hats which makes for a colorful group photo.
The rest of the hiking group between Beeks Place and the Doppler
On our way down, David points out an extremely steep and ominous looking extra credit hill that he says is a shorcut. It looks steeper and more slipperier than Potato Mountain’s East Face. David says it is much tougher than East Face. Lee is halfway up the hill and climbing steadily. But David says he’s going to catch her. Me and the girls stay on the fire road and David starts up the hill. None of us think he has even a ghost of a chance of catching her, but we wish him well.
We eventually cross paths again. Lee is in a hurry to get down the hill and starts running down the trail. David falls back with us. He tells us he managed to pass her before they got to the top. That explains the shouting we thought we heard.
We take our time walking down the fire road. Before long, me and David separate from Kim and Georganna and take various single track shortcut trails down the hill. Some of the shortcut trails parallel the main trail and others actually shave off some distance. The girls are content to stay on the fire road.
David on one of the Skyline shortcut trails
David and I eventually end up on the fire road near the bottom of the Skyline Drive Trail and wait for the girls. It was long hike, but doing it with cool friends make it a super nice day. In some ways, this hike is similar to the Potato Mountain hike from the Claremont Loop, but ultimately, much more interesting. The girls arrive and we all head down to Chronic Tacos in Corona for well deserved cold beers and tacos. Cheers!
Portions of this hike are also featured in the SoCal Hiker blog, the OC Register newspaper and the hiking guide, Afoot and Afield Orange County, as listed below:
- OC Register: The Mystery Above Black Star Canyon
- SoCal Hiker: Hiking Beeks Place via Black Star Canyon
- Afoot and Afield Orange County, Jerry Schad & David Money Harris: North Main Divide Traverse