Mountain Bike Bill, Get the Dirt on the Dirt

Whiting Ranch and the Santiago Truck trail

Whiting Ranch, Santiago Truck trail and "The Luge"  located in Orange County are some seriously fun rides that will give your climbing legs a good workout.  At the bottom of the page is a ride variation that includes some additional mileage on the Santiago Truck Trail.   

Note:  After another ride or two at Whiting Ranch and some additional pictures, I am going to split Whiting Ranch and Santiago Truck Trail into two seperate pages.  For now they are combined.

This trail was burned in the 2007 Wildfires so refer to that status page until this page is updated.

Download the TOPO! file for this ride

Directions for Whiting Ranch/Santiago Truck Trail/Luge Loop: From the I5 near El Toro take the Lake Forest Drive exit east.  Take Lake Forest Drive east and make a left on Portola Parkway.  Hang a left at Bake Parkway and park in the McDonalds parking lot.  The trail starts on the other side of Portola.
Directions for Santiago Truck Trail/Luge Loop: From I-5 take Lake Forest Exit East for 4.5 miles.  Take a right on Portola.  Then Take a left on Glen Ranch  At the T-intersection, Make a left on El Toro Road.  About a mile down the road El Toro turns into Santiago Canyon Road at Cook's Corner Bar.  Hang a right on park on your left.   You will start the ride off my riding up Santiago Canyon Road for a couple miles to Mojeska Road.  You will hang a right and go up to the Santiago Truck Trail.  Follow the rest of the review below.

WhitingRanchRide-1DEC01-Level5.JPG (554223 bytes)Here is a topographical map of my first ride at Whiting Ranch. You will notice the trail has somewhat of a figure eight shape to it.  The lower left "loop" is Whiting Ranch.  The upper right is Santiago Truck Trail and The Luge. 

WhitingRanchRide-1DEC01-ElevationProfile.JPG (50033 bytes)Also take a look at the elevation profile for the ride shown on the map above.

Ride Report: 

WhitingRanch-1DEC01-01.jpg (62079 bytes)WhitingRanch-1DEC01-02.jpg (120724 bytes)    The first part of the ride was in the Whiting Ranch proper.  It seemed to be flat but in fact it was a gradual climb.  The oak trees and and the winding nature of the trail must have been distracting enough so as not to notice the climb.  However at around 2 miles the trail got steeper and tested my not yet warmed up legs.  The top of this trail is known as four corners and it has a trail map on a display board as well as a water fountain.  From this point we proceeded left and followed the fire road to a gate on Santiago Canyon Road at 3.0 miles.  We WhitingRanch-1DEC01-03.jpg (72804 bytes)Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-16.JPG (114510 bytes) hung a right and went down the road for maybe a 1/4 of a mile where we hung a left on Modjeska Road.  We climbed up that paved road for about 1/2 mile and then peeled off the paved road onto Santiago Truck trail.  We were now in the Cleveland National Forest. The truck trail has long since become single track.  This is where the meat of the climb starts.  The climb goes on for about 2 3/4 miles as Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-15-VultureCrags.JPG (106357 bytes) you work your way up the Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-17-Luge-1.JPG (107213 bytes) trail.   The trail does plenty of turns which gives you lots of "false summits" which for me helped with the mental side of the climb.  At around the 6.6 mile mark you reach a peak by Vultures Crag.  


Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-19-Luge-3.JPG (145841 bytes)Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-18-Luge-2.JPG (192164 bytes)    From this point you have a nice speedy downhill for about 1/2 mile when we veer off onto "The Luge".   Everyone in the group told me that whatever I did, stay on the left side of the  trail about 30 yards down the trail because of a seriously nasty drop right off the trail that will land you in the house of pain if you went down that way.  Well I stayed left and only got a glimpse of the drop in my peripheral vision.   I was seriously following the old rule of looking where you want to go not where you don't. 


Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-23-Luge-7.JPG (215821 bytes)Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-22-Luge-6.JPG (114132 bytes)    The Luge is a rutted but rideable single track that cashes outs over 600 feet of your elevation chips you earned on the climb in a just over a half a mile.  There is plenty of vegetation on your sides and most of the time you have a canopy overhead.  Of course you will be too busy using body English and your brakes to see much of it.  When I got to the the Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-21-Luge-5.JPG (140640 bytes)Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-20--Luge-4-LookingbackatVC.JPG (115708 bytes) bottom of the Luge, my hands had big time brake cramps and my thighs were burning from keeping my butt off the saddle, but my adrenaline meter was pegged so life was good!


   After a little bit more single tracking we came out on Live Oak Canyon road at 8.77 miles.  Hanging a left here we rolled down this paved road for one mile.  From there we took a right on Santiago Canyon road where we did a gentle climb on the paved road for another mile until at 10.8 miles we went left into the Santiago Equestrian Center.  You will see a dirt road the goes to the right of a barn, take that.  You will do a little more climbing until at 11.3 miles it all turns downhill or flat.  From this point you have some nice single track that seems to have have huge cacti at all turns.  Biff in these spots and you will be bitching about it long after the ride is over.  After a little less that a mile of that you will be under o3.25 miles the trail comes out on Portola road.  From here we hung a right and took the road back to where we parked.     

Ride Variation:
    Recently we took a variation on the ride above.  As you go up Santiago truck trail, instead of veering off to the right and going down The Luge, continue on straight up the trail.   There is some debate over where Santiago ends and where Joplin begins.  A few miles past the luge you pass where the lower part of Joplin trail drops off the right. The rest of the trail up is the debatable section.  Either way you have some good climbing ahead of you.  It will eventually join up with the main divide trail, but I have not gone all the way up yet.   After you get your feel of climbing, turn around and enjoy some great downhill action back down to do the Luge.

Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-03-Jason.JPG (135730 bytes)Here is Jason cutting a pose on Santiago Truck Trail. 


These pictures where taken on the way back down the Santiago truck trail back to the Luge. 

Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-01.JPG (67009 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-02.JPG (149082 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-05.JPG (82852 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-07.JPG (117604 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-08.JPG (86042 bytes)

Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-09.JPG (106704 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-10.JPG (120752 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-11.JPG (130927 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-12.JPG (78933 bytes)    Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-13.JPG (86142 bytes)

Santiago-JoplinTruckTrail-Luge-19JAN01-14-VultureCrags-MikeAndJasonAsDots.JPG (103518 bytes)If you look really close you will see two tiny dots on the trail below.  The closest is Jason and further up the trail is Mike.