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Hiking Box Springs Mountain Park

The "M" above Moreno Valley on the east side of Box Springs Mountain
The "M" above Moreno Valley on the east side of Box Springs MountainDavid Lockeretz

Perched on the outskirts of Riverside, Box Springs Mountain Park is a valuable recreational resource for Inland Empire hikers. The park's challenging trails--and excellent views when visibility is good--make it a worthwhile day trip from Orange County or L.A. as well. Sadly, several of the trails - notably the route to the big "C" that is visible from the 91 and 60 Freeways - suffer from trash and vandalism, but perhaps with more awareness of Box Springs' potential as a great hiking destination, the communities surrounding the park will take more pride in the urban oasis sitting in their backyards. Here are five hikes in Box Springs Mountain Park.

Big "C" Trail. The giant concrete "C" - honoring nearby University of California Riverside - can be reached with a short but very steep hike up the west side of Box Springs Mountain. If the visibility is good, the trail offers excellent views of the San Gabriels and Santa Ana Mountains. Even if there is smog, the nearly aerial views of the neighborhood are quite impressive.

"M" Trail. If you've noticed the "C", chances are you've also seen the "M" from the 60 Freeway, standing for the city of Moreno Valley. The hike to the "M" provides excellent views of San Gorgonio and San Jacinto.

Skyline Loops. For an urban trail, the two Skyline Loops - especially #2 - are surprisingly rugged. Interesting geology and panoramic city/mountain views are among the highlights of this trip.

Towers Loop. The radio towers may be a deterrent to some hikers, but the views--which include excellent panoramas to the south, east and west--are hard to beat.

Two Trees Trail. Workouts don't get much more efficient than this one, which climbs over 1,000 feet in an expeditious mile and a half.