WARNING: Biking in the San Mateo Wilderness to the south is prohibited!
The Santa Ana Mountains are a small range of peaks located just east of Orange County. The range, dwarfed by neighboring ranges, tops out at 5,680 foot Santiago Peak; reachable by bike.
Trails and dirt roads fill the area. They climb over virtually every named peak in the range. Yet, due to its lesser prominence, it is rare, on most trails, to encounter another biker for serveral miles at a time.
Despite its location only a few miles inland, the range is very dry. On average, only 20 inches of rain fall on the wetter western slopes. This amount drops down to less than 10 inches on the eastern side.
The mountains are primarily located within the Cleveland National Forest and includes the subrange of the Elsinore Mountains.
Getting ThereThis range is surrounded by communities on every side. One major highway, CA-74 (Ortega Highway) runs through the southern section.
From Los Angeles
Los Angeles, at over 4 million people, is the 2rd largest city in the United States as well as being only an hour or two away from the range.
From the downtown area, take the I-5 south through Orange County. Exit in San Juan Capistrano at the Ortega Highway and turn left. The highway steadily climbs up and over the mountains.
Take one of the many unpaved roads in the area to a trailhead and begin.
Riverside is another large city, this time, only 250,000 people, is located just north of the mountains.
Begin southbound on I-215 to Perris. Exit at D-Street which comes to an intersection at CA-74. Turn right and drive through the countryside to Lake Elsinore. Coninue on CA-74 as the highway becomes a series of local roads.
Continue up the Ortega Highway upon reaching the west side of the lake. The highway climbs up to a pass where just beyond it, a number of dirt roads are present leading to several trailheads.
Not all routes are located off the Ortega. There are quite a few that begin in Trabuco Canyon, near Santa Rosa Plateau and in the Corona area. Often however, these are in one way or another, connected to the trails near the Ortega Highway.
Passes, Permits, FeesA fee of $5 to pay for an Adventure Pass is required if parking within the national forest. These may be obtained at vaious ranger stations in the area. No permits are required for biking though.
The Santa Ana Mountains experiences various extremes different parts of the year. Sometimes, it's like being in a blizzard. At other times, it may feel like being in the middle of the Sahara desert.
Winter is the region's wet season for the lower areas. Flooding may be possible in areas as are landslides after heavy rain. The snow line hits bottom usually in December or January when the powder falls as low as 2000' above sea level. The heavier snow is found at higher elevations of 4000' and above where more than a foot can fall after a strong winter storm. Winter also happens to be when the mountains are at their greenest with the abundant rain.
Wildflowers may sometimes bloom in these mountains in the spring. Generally, the more rain that falls, the more impressive the bloom. Temperatures immediately following the rains may also affect it. Don't expect to find anything like what's found in say Anza-Borrego DSP.
Summer is a time of dryness and heat. Temperatures top 100 regularly in July and August in the lower elevations and may occasionally spike to 110 or more. The lack of water and the heat also create a fire hazard meaning wildfires this time of year are common. Keep off the ridges or any high areas during thunderstorms which often move through the are this time of year.
Autumn hosts the peak of wildfire season when there may be several fires burning in these mountains at once. The fires are fueled by the infamous northeast winds known as the Santa Ana winds or the Santa Anas for short. These winds may top hurricane strength and can be damaging by themselves.
External LinksHere are some important sites to visit before your bike:
Cleveland National Forest -The national forest service's frequently updated site for the national forest.
Santa Ana Mountains - Woodzy's page on SummitPost.