The Chiquito Trail
If you’ve ever ridden the San Juan Trail, then you’re familiar with the area. This trail is more difficult. Don’t let the mileage fool you! Although this ride is just over 8 miles, it will feel like twice as much distance. This is an advanced single track trail with a lot of technical descents and climbing. While you lose 2100′ of elevation over 8 miles, you also gain 750′ of elevation. At some points, you’ll wonder whether this is a downhill ride at all!
The trail itself is a constant challenge of watching out for sharp rocks, roots, cliff edges, low-hanging branches, tight switchbacks, boulder hopping, and occasional big drops. Once in a while you’ll also find a man-made “bridge” that if done correctly will get you down the big drops easily, but if done incorrectly, could lead to serious injury.
Thinking About Riding Up the Road to Blue Jay?
Although not recommended, it’s certainly possible to ride up the paved road from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store to the Blue Jay Campground. Add 1500′ of climbing and approx 5 miles to the maps below. Here’s an elevation profile of the road ride up:
What to Bring:
Unless you enjoy pedaling your 35+ pound bike up hills and carrying it up hike-a-bike sections, downhill-specific bikes are not recommended. This trail is probably doable with a hard tail bike, but for best enjoyment I would recommend a full-suspension cross-country bike with at least 4 inches of travel front and rear. Elbow and knee pads are definitely recommended! A full-face helmet is optional. Just remember all of that climbing you’ll be doing in the heat!
On your first trip down the Chiquito Trail, you’ll likely find yourself pushing your bike up and walking down many sections, but with practice and courage you may eventually ride down this entire trail system without stopping anywhere. (NOTE: Pure courage and no technical skills will not get you down this route safely. You really have to love single track trails to love this trail!)
The guys in the video below make this trail look easy; and by the way, they aren’t showing you the difficult stuff in this video. It’s anything BUT easy! Your first trip down will likely take 2 hours. It can be very hot in the summer so bring a lot of water.
A typical view along the trail:
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If you are camping at the Upper San Juan Campground, the Chiquito trail ends at your campsite. Parking is also available a half mile way and a 200′ climb across from the Ortega Oaks Candy Store (34950 Ortega Highway, Lake Elsinore, CA 92530-6522). A Forest Adventure Pass is required to park anywhere around this area.
Parking Across from the Candy Store:
Up and Back or Shuttle?
This ride can be done as an up and back but the maps below represent a shuttle ride. To do a shuttle ride, leave a car across from the Candy Store and drive another up Long Canyon Rd to the Blue Jay Campground area. Park outside of that area near the meadow. (Click here for a map to the parking area just outside Blue Jay Campground.) Forest Adventure Pass Required!