This is definitely a trail you want to ride when you develop technical skills and leg endurance. It is by far one of my favorites because of the challenge it provides, but is is also one of the most beautiful rides out there. It is all singletrack, lots of shade, and plenty of scenery to enjoy. The first section of the loop is not terribly technical, but there are some rock gardens to traverse through, as well as a few short hops and jumps. After about 4 miles in, the trail begins to ascend until you reach Cocktail Rock. From there you loop back through the Old San Juan trail. It starts with a steep but short climb and before you know it, you are navigating your way through big ruts in the ground, as well as roots and other obstacles. Finally, you get to climb 2 miles back to the trailhead, which can be a tiring and grueling experience back to the car! Don’t let that keep you from enjoying this trail though as it is one of the best singletracks in So Cal.
Distance: 8.46 mi
Avg Speed: 5.0 mph
Elevation Gain: 1,319 ft
Calories: 766 C
Avg Temperature: 93.2 °F
Forest Adventure Pass required
Exit Nichols and turn right.
Right on Collier
Right on Riverside
Right on Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74)
Drive up the mountain. There is a popular biker restaurant called Hell’s Kitchen that you will see on your right as you enter Cariso Village. Once you exit Cariso Village, you will enter El Cariso Campground on your right. It comes up quick so keep your eyes open for it. Drive up about a mile as the road ascends. The road will end and you will see a sign that directs you to Blue Jay Campground. Make a right. This is where the road becomes dirt. Ascend the mountain for another mile or so. The trailhead will be on your left.
Directions from OC/LA
5 South freeway
exit Ortega Hwy and head east (towards Lake Elsinore) for approximately 23 miles
Enter Cariso Camprground on your left. Drive up about a mile as the road ascends. The road will end and you will see a sign that directs you to Blue Jay Campground. Make a right. This is where the road becomes dirt. Ascend the mountain for another mile or so. The trailhead will be on your left.
(hover over steps for images – some steps may not have images)
Start at the San Juan trailhead and begin with a descent. The trail is a bit rocky at first and you can expect several rock gardens throughout this ride.
1.42 – As you make your way down you will encounter a Y at the trail. Follow the trail towards the right and continue weaving you way throughout the path.
1.96 – Continue straight as you pass the old San Juan intersection.
2.08 – Continue straight past the Chiquita trail intersection. The Chiquita trailhead is within sight on your left.
2.64 – Pass the Viejo Tie trail, which is on your left and continue straight on San Juan. Enjoy the next mile and a half as you make your way through the loop and begin a gradual ascent at approximately 4 miles. After about a mile you will reach cocktail rock
4.9 – The old San Juan trail connects at cocktail rock. It begins with a climb. Continue making your way down old San Juan.
5.49 – Continue on old San Juan. At this point you can expect a fairly technical descent over ruts, large roots and boulders. Its one of the reasons we ride this loop!
6.08 – As you finish your descent the trail curves right at an open meadow. Continue to follow the trail as you begin a gradual ascent back to the intersection of San Juan trail.
6.25 – Make your way up the short but steep climb and make left at the intersection to get back on San Juan. Climb for approximately 2 miles back to the car.