- Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Southern California Trails
Horsethief Canyon - #HorsethiefCanyon
Socal - Riverside County - Lake Elsinore NickNames: #HorsethiefCanyon
From the South, take Hwy 15 north to Hwy 74 exit. Take Hwy 74 west to Grand Ave. Turn right on Grand Ave. Look for El Cariso Truck Trail on the left. From the North, take Hwy 15 south to Lake St exit. Turn right on Lake St and follow it until it becomes Grand Ave. Look for El Cariso Truck Trail on the right. You can park off of Grand Ave in the turnouts or on nearby side streets. Thomas Guide page: 895, F-5
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- Trail UpdateEl Cariso Truck Trail-El Cariso Truck Trail (based on the directions above) is roughly a 3.5 mile climb up a semi-maintained fire road. It is no joke though, it is a climb. If you just do the fire road you get a killer climb, and an awesome fast down hill run coming back.
However is you want more such as the 1st 2 postings share, there are incredible options: bluejay, is one that is killer as well. You can cross Ortega Hwy and do whats called firmans loop, than come back down Cariso. Either way, its a good time.
ddbyrd3 a 41 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Giant Reign II from Lake Elsinore
- Trail UpdateEast Horsethief Trail-Be afraid; be very afraid ... of the E. Horsethief Trail. (Unless you possess expert downhill bike handling skills and enjoy endos.) This singletrack, that drops down the eastern side of the Santa Ana mountains near Lake Elsinore, is the nastiest downhill trail that I have ever seen. And, it barely has a single rock on the entire route. How is this possible? Simple, the trail is steep, rutted, and loose. Did I mention it was loose? From Main Divide Truck Trail, E. Horsethief drops 2500 ft in 4 miles. By comparison, this is the same elevation that the San Juan Trail loses in 3 times that length. I had expected the trail to be rocky and overgrown as well as steep. However, there was only minor overgrowth of manzanita and scrub bushes as the route was clear almost the whole way down. Also, the trail surface is similar to the lower section of the San Juan - eroding, coarse-grain sandstone. On a trail this steep, that means ruts and plenty of them. Some of the ruts are essentially chasms that will swallow you and your i-Drive. The trail follows the narrow spine between two canyons - Horsethief Cyn to the north and Rice Cyn to the south. This doesnít allow for many switchbacks (only 2 at the very bottom) but it does make for a sketchy descent that is scary to even walk in some spots due to the loose, scree-type trail surface. The first mile is the steepest as it loses 1000 ft. There are a few respites along the way. However, you never truly get a break. I rode maybe 50% of this trail (and that is being generous). And by the time I had reached the bottom, I had nearly lost my nerve from all of the intentional and unintentional bike dismounts. However, there were bike tracks the entire trail, proving that someone cleaned it. I salute this person as the King of Downhill. If you want to dethrone him (or her), be my guest. But donít say that you havenít been warned (and make sure your health/life insurance policies are current).
By the way, the views from this trail high above Lake Elsinore are extraordinary. The entire ride consisted of following the route described in the first post but starting on Main Divide (just north of Ortega Hwy), climbing for about 7.5 miles and descending E. Horsethief into Lake Elsinore. (The entrance to the singletrack is about 2 miles past Trabuco Trail. You will descend into and climb out of a saddle. Then, as you begin descending again, look for the wide trail entrance on the right as Main Divide makes a sharp left. There is no sign. If you reach W. Horsethief, youíve gone too far.) From the bottom of the trail (a beautiful shady area) continue straight out the dirt road until it becomes paved. Continue straight to Grand Ave. Turn right on Grand Ave and ride for about 2.5 miles to El Cariso Truck Trail. Turn right and climb El Cariso 3 miles to your car. Kiss your car because you made it back in one piece.
Ride rating: Expert
Ride distance: 17 miles Elevation change: 3800
Singletrack=24% Paved Path=41% Truck Trail=35%
SS a 32 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Catamount from OC
- Trail UpdateEl Cariso / Main Divide Truck Tr-El Cariso Truck Trail starts at 1400 ft. It ascends 1200 ft in 3 miles up to the intersection of Main Divide at the Ortega Hwy. This trail is a moderate climb and the trail surface is pretty good. It is mostly hardpack with occasional sandy corners and ruts. There is random tree cover on the way up. Along the way there are a few singletrack spurs that branch off to the left and right. I don't know where these lead. However, private property borders the trail the entire route. Stay on the main trail and you will soon be at the intersection with Main Divide. Turn right on Main Divide. It is paved for the 4.5 miles to Blue Jay Camp. It climbs easily until the pavement ends at a Y. The campgrounds are off to the left. However, continue to the right on Main Divide (3S04). The dirt road is somewhat sandy for the next 1.5 miles as it climbs (steeply) up to 4000 ft. However, if you keep a good cadence, you won't lose traction. This hill is the toughest part of the ride (granny gear for most). At the top of the hill, there is a right hand turn in the road. On the left is Trabuco Trail and Los Pinos, which drop down into Orange County. Continue to the right and the road descends for a bit and then regains the lost altitude until you reach the intersection with East Horsethief singletrack on the right (10.5 miles from the start). East Horsethief descends for 4 miles into Lake Elsinore. It will be reviewed in a subsequent post. For this ride, turn around and retrace the route back down Main Divide to El Cariso.
Overall the climb until the pavement ends on Main Divide is relatively easy (compared to climbing Indian Truck Trail or Black Star Canyon). However, the last push on Main Divide after the pavement ends is a real lung buster. The return trip is a high speed blast. You'll need to watch the speed down the steep pitch but when you hit pavement, it's 30 to 40 mph down to El Cariso. The descent down El Cariso is also super fast (just watch those sandy corners and ruts). The views on this ride are tremendous the entire route. At the bottom of El Cariso you get wonderful views of Lake Elsinore and the surrounding hills and canyons. At the top and along the ridge you see canyons down to the east and west as well as Santiago Peak. This route also serves as a good starting point for the loop that includes East Hosethief Trail or other routes that incorporate segments of the San Juan Trail and Chiquito Trail (through Blue Jay Camp). I give this route high marks for beauty and access to good singletrack in the southern end of the Santa Ana's (San Juan, Chiquito, Trabuco, Los Pinos, W. and E. Horsethief) from the eastern side of the mountain range. Watch for motor vehicles on the truck trails.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 21 miles Elevation change: 3800 ft
Paved Path=20% Truck Trail=80%
SS a 32 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Catamount from OC