Santa Ana River Trail

You would think that traveling from the beaches of Huntington and Newport to the Chino Hills would be a tough workout. But surprisingly, the elevation climb of west to east was easier than vice-versa. But more on that later.

The best route for starting this trail is from the Huntington Beach Trail to Weir Canyon Road. You will notice very little difference, exertion-wise, when going either way on the trail due to the winds usually blowing west to east. So you’ve got elevation gain going west to east, but you’re bucking headwinds going east to west. So it’s a wash.

Even on the weekend, this trail isn’t nearly as crowded as its sister trail, the Huntington Beach Trail. But if you want a relaxing and leisurely journey, your best bet is to ride the trail on a weekday. Either way, you’ll love the fact that you don’t have to spend any time crossing or riding on a road. The trail burrows under all roads as it wends eastward towards the source of the Santa Ana River.

Since the elevation change is mellow, you can enjoy the Santa Ana River Trail with nearly any non-motorized vehicle. It is quite enjoyable on foot, bike, recumbent, or inline skates. In fact, one-speed cruisers were by far the most common bikes on the trail.

One of the outstanding characteristics of the Huntington Beach Trail, besides the beach of cours, was the abundance of seaside flowers. Reds and yellows lined the trail with drought-tolerant floral arrangements climbing the walls and hugging the ground. A botanist would delight in noticing the change in flower varieties from the coastal type along the beach trail to the inland flowers found further east.

Another interesting feature found the length of the trail was the channel of the Santa Ana River. For those of us used to seeing rivers in their wild state, the Santa Ana riverbed is a stark and interesting change of scenery. To control flooding the riverbed has been channelized to the extreme with large portions of the riverbed completely encased in concrete.

Finally, numerous parks, side-trails, and nature centers dotted the landscape of the trail providing resting spots and wonderful diversions. One children’s play area, called Moon Park, even had a replica of the moon for kids to play on. It came replete with craters and a simulated lunar surface. Of course this was in addition to the abundance of playground structures found at many of the parks. And for the weak of bladder and strong of thirst, there were numerous restrooms and drinking fountains along the path.

One of the finest and most unique characteristics of the Santa Ana River Trail was its proximity to the seashore areas of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. If you get too hot, want to play in the surf, or just have a craving for a corndog and milkshake, you can head on down to the ocean for a complete change of pace and scenery. It’s also nice to have lots of options for rental bikes and other trail toys that are found at the beachside stands in the two oceanfront towns.

Whether you’re a hard-core road biker or a laid-back cruiser, you should find the trail of your dreams in the southern California communities that surround the Santa Ana River Trail.

Tips: – Rent a cruiser bike in Newport Beach or Huntington Beach.
– Try this trail in the spring if you want to see miles and miles of colorful blooms along the path.
– A little courtesy goes a long way. Gently notify other trail users that you will be passing them by an “on your left” or a short ring of your handlebar bell.
– You will find numerous clean drinking fountains along the route, but pack water anyway, just to make sure you have plenty. Shade is scarce on this trail. You will not find many convenience stores along the trail but there is one at around the halfway point that is good for restocking your larder & bladder.


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