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Palm Canyon - Pinyon Flats Loop

      Located on the north slope of Santa Rosa Mountain near the little hamlets of Spring Crest and Pinyon Pines this 11.1 mile loop offers some narrow singletrack with impressive canyon and ridge top views.  The terrain is mostly rocky with some of really narrow sections that have cactus just off the trail to punish those who can't keep on the line.    The first part of the ride has you descending on a bit of 4WD roads and the narrow single track on the Palm Canyon trail.   The trail eventually takes you down to a wash where you will hook up with the Pinyon Pines trail for a mostly gradual climb up through desert scrub terrain on singletrack.  If you like grand views and singletrack and can stay online on narrow trails, you are going to really like this ride.  

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon PostsPDF Map of the Loop.

Electronic Files: TOPO, GDB, GPX, KML

Directions:  This loop includes a 3 mile section of pavement that you can either do at the end or the beginning of the ride according to where you park.  

    COMMON - From the San Diego Area - Head North on the I-15 and take the CA-79 South exit when coming into Temecula. Take CA-79 South (its actually more like east) 17.8 miles to the CA-371.  Turn left (North) onto CA-371 and take it for 20.7 miles. to CA-74. Turn right on CA-74

Pavement at the beginning -  Continue on CA-74 8.8 miles and turn left onto Pinyon Drive.  Travel .2 miles were you will see the Pinyon Flats campground on your left.  Park along the road outside of the campground.
Pavement at the end -  Continue on CA-74 6.0 miles and turn left onto Pine View Road travel .2 miles until the pavement ends, park here.

HAZARDS:  Cacti - Many types that are just off the trail and often infringing into the trail's airspace.  Exposure along canyon sides and some technical spots as well as a few steep descents.

Ride Description: The points that I refer in this description are from the map.  Also place your mouse over the thumbnails  as some of them have additional information.  This loop includes a 3 mile section of pavement that you can either do at the end or the beginning of the ride according to where you park.  I prefer to knock out the pavement at the beginning so I park at the along Pinyon Drive just out side out of the campground.   

  From Pinyon Drive just outside the campground entrance take the dirt road a couple of hundred yards back to highway 74 and hang a right onto the pavement.  You road rolls up and down but is mostly uphill.   You will notice off to the right that there are some dirt/4WD roads that parallel the highway here and there.  I am pretty sure you could find a route that would mostly keep you off the pavement but I have not felt like spending the time to figure it out.   After 2.8 miles you will come to Pine View Road on your right.   Take the right and in 2/10ths of a mile the road dead ends.   (This is where you park if you want to finish the ride off with the road return.)

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop  From the end of Pine View Road travel along the old 4WD road that is nearly singletrack now .1 miles until you see a split in the trail where you will go to the right and slightly downhill.  The trail to the right is marked by an old square sign that is so rusted you can not read what used to be on it.  This trail curves around this way at that while heading downhill and at 3.2 miles it will make a large sweeping right turn at some stone cairns while another less used trail heads off slightly to the left.   (Point B on the map) Continue to the right and downhill while the views of Palm Canyon start opening up to you left.     You will continue gently rolling down hill as the trail twists back and forth for a little over a mile.

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopAs you near point C at 4.3 miles the trail descends sharply to a four-way junction, with a sign making that you are on the Palm Canyon trail, Forest Service Trail 4E01.  You have the option of taking the canyon bottom route or a ridge top route.   Take the ridge top route and climb just a bit and then you are back to the descending thing.  You soon come out to flat section where the trail is back to being a full-size double track.   The view down into Palm Canyon to  your left is quite impressive.  The double track ends abruptly at the foot on a hill and the trail continues on as singlte off to the right.   

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopThe single track in the next section is nothing short of great.  The trail is fairly narrow and travels either right along the top of the ridge or clings to the side of the canyon.  Between the occasional technical spots and the ever present cacti nudging its way into the trail's airspace you will find enough features to keep you on you toes.  Of course with picturesque views in every direction you may find it hard to keep your eyes on the trail.   Please do stop in a spot or two and take it all in as this is singletrack of the "Top Flite" variety.

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopAt around mile 5.5 the trail switching from riding along the ridge top or along the west slope over to the east slope and starts descending toward Omscott Wash.  The trail has some exposure in spots as the start descending in earnest.   You will also have a few switchbacks to deal with as well.

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop   The Palm Canyon trail will dump you out into Omscott Wash at 6.7 miles.  As soon as you go into the wash look to your left (downstream).  You will see the back of a trail sign and the trail heading off past it.  The picture to the right is view you should have.   Almost directly across the wash from this sign is the Pinyon Pines Trail heading out of the other side of the wash.  The picture to the right from the trail sign looking back up the wash from where you came.  This is Point D on the map.

 

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop  The picture to the left is the view from the trail sign looking directly across the wash at the Pinyon Pines trail heading out of the wash.  If you see any of the two views to your right you have missed the Pinyon Pines trail and traveled too far down the wash on the Palm Canyon trail.     

 

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Once you get on the Pinyon Pines trail you start doing some climbing as the trail works its way up along the side of the canyon.    There are some great scenic turns where you round the corner and just go WOW!   

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop  At 7.1 miles, you will crest over a hill and see a rather steep hillside with a bunch of switch backs on the far side of a small canyon.  The trails descends down into the canyon crosses a wash and goes up this hillside.   The top of this hillside is roughly were Point E is on the map. 

The trail up the hillside has some very tight switchbacks coupled with some exposure.  The tightest switchbacks with the most exposure are up near the top.  Couple this with the fact that the grade up this hill is pretty steep, clearing all of the switchbacks would feel pretty darn good for even an advanced rider.

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop

One of the steeper sections leading up to a switchback From maybe halfway up the hillside looking back at the trail you took down into wash Near the top of the hillside looking back down a the trail.  It is Steeper Than It Looks.  If you look close you can see the Palm Canyon Trail slope left to right about 1/3rd of the way down the far canyon side.

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop  Once you get up this hillside you do not really have any more extended pressing climbs, they are mostly short little burst type climbs and rolling ups and downs but you are mostly gaining elevation.

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop  Somewhere around the 8 mile mark the canyon side riding with expansive views gives way to more narrow views where you cross a few washes here and there.   When you drop into these washes the trail normally is in plain side coming out the other side and you should never have to travel more than 20 yards up or down wash to hook back up with trail.  

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats LoopPalm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop  There is at least one spot where the trail splits somewhere between 9.5 and 10 miles.   The Pinyon Pines trail is quite popular so just follow the most used trail.  The closer to the campground you get the more of these little offshoots you will see. 

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop  At 10.3 miles the trail will come out and cross the Palm Canyon dirt road (This is also known as Dunn Road further north).  Pick up the trail on the other side of the road and continue on it southeast.  This section of the trail allows ATVs so it is much wider now.   There are many splits here and there but it is virtually impossible to get too lost at this point.  There is a fence to north and east, highway 74 to the south and Palm Canyon road behind you to the west.   You can stay on the widest trail that works it way out to the fence line and out to the entrance to the campground or you can take any split in the trail you like and as long as you are heading east or southeast you will get to the campground entrance at around 11.1 miles.    If you parked here you are done, if not hang a right and go out to highway 74, hang a right and take the pavement 2.8 miles up to Pine View road.

Other pictures from the ride

Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop    Palm Canyon Pinyon Flats Loop