You would think that traveling from the beaches of Huntington and Newport to the Chino Hills would be a tough workout. But... more » 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 nearly imperceptible, you can enjoy the Santa Ana River Trail with nearly any non-motorized mode of transportation. It is quite enjoyable on foot, by bike, on a recumbent, a Trikke (best going east to west), a 3G Stepper, or inline skates. The most common type of bike found along the trail was a simple one-speed cruiser followed closely by road bikes, then mountain bikes. People seemed equally comfortable on all three. The cruiser works especially nice if you plan to combine the Santa Ana Trail with the Huntington Beach Trail.
Each trail has its defining characteristics and the abundance of flowers alongside the trail was one of the outstanding characteristics of this particular trail. This is especially true in the spring where reds and yellows line the trail with drought-tolerant floral arrangements climbing the walls and hugging the ground. A true 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 is 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 dot the landscape of the trail providing resting spots and wonderful diversions. One children’s play area, called Moon Park, even has a replica of the moon for kids to play on. It comes complete with craters and a simulated lunar surface. Of course this is 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 are numerous restrooms and drinking fountains along the path.
One of the finest and most unique characteristics of the Santa Ana River Trail is 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 just 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 these southern California communities. less «