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The Santa Ana River Trail (SART) near the hamlet of Angelus Oak in the San Bernardino National Forest is a really fun ride that is in the epic category. While we only did a portion of the trail we still logged 31.5 miles of riding with 28 mile of it being sweet single track. While the difference between the lowest and highest point (6,435') is only about 1500 feet all the roller coasting the trail does gives you around 3,000' worth of climbing. This sounds like it could be painful but with all of the tree dodging, tight trail weaving, and you do not notice the climbing much.
HAZARDS: The trail is quite tight and is often loose just off the trail. Much of the trail cut along the side of a steep ridge so going often trail could make for a long slide down.
Directions: Get yourself into Redlands, For San Diego area types. I15 North to the I215 North to the I10 East take the HWY38 North. You will go through Redlands and the town of Mentone. Get on the 38 as you head up the hill. When you come into Angelus Oak look for the post office and general store on you left (Don't Blink!) About .3 miles further down the road you will see a large gravel pull out on the left. Park here. Right there also is a Fire Road that will either be called Mill Creek Rd or Middle Control Rd (according to the time of the year from what I read). You will be climbing up this fire road at the end of the ride
Elevation Profile. This profile shows a lot more elevation change than there actually is. See my notes on the "side-hill effect" when using a GPS.
Download the TOPO! file for this ride here
Trail Notes: (July 8th, 2002)
We had originally had planned on going down the fire road but a local hooked us up with a better way to get down the hill. Instead of going down the fire road we went back down HWY 38 to the post office/general store. We rode in front the post office and general store and followed a fire road that did a little climbing for about 1/2 mile. You will then see a Welcome to the SART board and a single track dropping off to the right of the board. The next 2.25 miles is what I consider the coolest part of the entire ride. Mostly downhill with some super twisty narrow single track that offered some stunning views. It is not very technical but it could be spooky to someone uncomfortable with skinny lines and heights, You will do a little climbing here and there and around 3.3 miles you intersect with the Mill Creek Fire Road/Middle Control Road. As you come out onto the fire road you will see the SART continuing on about 60 feet down the road. The SART is labeled FS 2E03. Keep following the signs and you will be hard pressed to go wrong. At around 7.4 miles you will cross a creek. After the creek you will climb up into an alpine meadow where the trail dodges around lodge pole pine trees. At around 10.6 miles you will cross the paved Glass Road. The trail continues right on the other side of the road, but it is not marked at this point.
After this point the climbing intensifies as you leave the meadow and the trail becomes somewhat more exposed. As you continue along the view becomes spectacular as you see the river valley below and mountains further to the north. At around 14.2 miles you come to the intersection of a trail that goes up to Barton Flats Campground and trail FS 1N45 that goes down to the river. We continued straight on the SART. At 16.4 miles we passed a trail that goes to right and goes up to HWY 38. We continued straight and at around 16 miles we started descending again and where soon rolling on pavement at the South Fork Picnic area. We continued on the pavement for about 1/10th of a mile to HWY 38. We cross the 38 and went into the campground. There is water available in most of the campsites. Just find an empty spot or a ask someone to use their faucet and fill up. This is a good spot to grab some lunch and take a break, which we did. The trail continues onto the east but we turned around at this point. We had 17 miles on us at this point.
Coming back the other direction was quite a lot of fun. After the initial one mile climb from the campground is was mostly a rolling gradual downhill. Morgan did get two different flats so we got a couple of "bonus" breaks in. Also after you cross the main creek again you will notice that the single track opens up into a much wider trail. After about 1/2 to 3/4 mile of riding in this wider section, the SART will peel off to the left at a Y junction. This wider section is quite fast and a lot of fun, if you stay on the wider section by going to the right you will have a 1/2 mile or so of more fun speeding along before you intersect with the fire road. (This is what we did) Once back on the fire road we hung and left and started working up the hill. We eventually went by where we originally cross the fire road on the way out. After a little over 3 miles of moderate climbing we came back up to our vehicles.
We were pretty whooped but feeling good about knocking out 31.5 miles of nearly all single track and climbing almost 3,000 feet.
I am such a moron for waiting four years to come back to this trail. Ever year it was on the "to-do" list but I kept missing it. The trail was in awesome shape and exceptionally fast. I found another option for this ride that you might find enjoyable. If you are on a group ride and would like to get in a little social chit chat time while riding try this option. When you go to cross the paved Glass Road (Its the only paved one the trail crosses). hang a left and go downhill for about 1/4 of a mile and roll onto River Road. It will soon turn to dirt and start climbing. It will join back up with the singletrack across the road from the South Fork Campground. On the return trip definitely take the singletrack back as it is mostly downhill in the return direction.
Pictures from the June 4th, 2006 SART Ride.