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The Santa Ana River Trail is a 12-foot wide path following the Santa Ana River, a waterway that is cement-lined through much of Orange County but free flowing in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The popular trail, currently open in two disconnected segments, links inland neighborhoods, businesses and shopping districts with the beach.
In Orange County, the trail begins at a junction with the Huntington Beach Bicycle Trail, providing direct access to the city's two state beaches and busy municipal beach and pier. Extending north, the trail skirts the edge of Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley before emerging into an industrial section of Santa Ana.
The City of Orange is next, where you'll begin to see the gigantic "A" marking the stadium of Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, situated directly across the Santa Ana River from Orange. Professional sports fanatics will be pleased with this stretch, as the next landmark is the home arena of the National Hockey League's Anaheim Ducks.
Continuing into Anaheim, the river and trail turn east. Views of both the Chino Hills and the increasingly meandering river make this stretch of the trail particularly scenic. The trail itself becomes slightly hillier here—a challenge for those coming all the way from Huntington Beach. In the far western reaches of Corona (just beyond Yorba Linda), the heretofore continuous trail ends, just south of the Green River Golf Club on Green River Road.
A significant gap exists between this endpoint and the resumption of the trail at the Hidden Valley Wildlife Area east of Norco, so the second segment is best tackled in a separate trip. From Hidden Valley, the trail continues east through both industrial and residential sections of Riverside, with scenic views of the Santa Ana River never far away.
The next city is Colton, the entrance point to San Bernardino County. Vistas of the dry river are punctuated by the busy train tracks and active industrial properties clustered around the river along this stretch. The trail currently ends at S. Waterman Avenue, shortly after it crosses the San Bernardino city line.
Plans call for the trail to eventually run for 110 uninterrupted miles all the way from Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains to the Pacific Coast in Huntington Beach, with the gap in the trail from Corona to Norco a significant priority.
There are numerous access points and places to park along the Santa Ana River Trail's route. Refer to the TrailLink map for exact locations and detailed directions.
I've done this trail several times. Last year in 2021 it was totally void of homeless issues. This year in 2022 I encountered several encampments and graffiti issues. I usually start in the middle and do the westbound route the first day and the eastbound route the second. I normally start at the Honda Center in Anaheim and go from there.
My experience with this route is excellent. Going up and back is approx. 30 miles. The trailhead is at 4995 Green River Rd., Corona. It has ample parking. I hit the path going south with the river to my right and the 91 fwy to my left. Once I get to the first park, Featherly Regional Park, you end up looping so that the river is now on your left and riding alongside E. La Palma Ave. for a couple of miles.
Shortly after you cross Yorba Linda Blvd. going south, you're now led to the dedicated bike path for the remainder of the ride and much closer to the river. The riding surface is in very good condition. Yorba Linda Regional Park is on your right. It's a long beautiful park. You may want to stop and explore it. Right after the park ends you cross a bridge with a wooden surface and now have the river on your right. You're now at approx. mile 5.
As you proceed south, you go under several overpasses and there are some nice wide curvy sections with beautiful vegetation on both sides. At approx. 12 miles there's a mini park rest area with benches and water fountain on your right. It's a nice place to stop and have a snack for a few minutes.
It starts to gets more barren as you go further south. Looking ahead you can now see the Honda Center, Anaheim transportation center, and Anaheim Stadium a few miles away. When I get there its mile 15 and I turn back.
As I end, I do want to say that it's best to check out the weather forecast mainly for wind. There have been a couple of times when I had to turn back because of strong winds! I recommend you start in the morning around 7-9 am. From the trailhead at Green River to the Honda Center it's mainly going downhill. So, just keep in mind that you'll be returning going uphill. But it is a moderate climb. During my rides I did not see any homeless encampments. If you prefer it on the quiet side, it best to ride the bike path on weekdays. I did go on it one Sunday and it wasn't too bad but there was noticeably more traffic with bikers and walkers. Well, I hope you enjoyed my review of the Santa Ana River Trail from Green River to the Honda Center.
My first time cycling and my boyfriend and I started near Yorba Linda park off imperial Hwy. We parked for free next to the park where there was a trail entrance. Rode 10 miles to angel stadium and back. Trail was clean, not trashed, flat, plenty of room, no homeless camps or anything sketchy. Very pretty near yorba linda, mostly just concrete as we got further from our start point. We started the trail at 9am. Trail got busier as the day went on. Looked like plenty of water fountains along the trail. There were bathrooms at the park where we started. I would recommend
We started at Kaiser Permanente on Lakeview in Anaheim. Easy access to the trail, 19 miles to the ocean. Enter on the trail, this side of the River and head west. Cross the River at the Honda center, stay left to leave the trail and cross the street to enter the trail on the other side of the river. Follow the trail as it make a 360 turn to continue west. At the 1st wooden foot bridge, turn left to cross the bridge. Turn right as you exit the bridge. Follow the trail to the 2nd wooden foot bridge (trail on this side of the river ends, you must exit the trail), turn right to cross the bridge, as you come off the bridge turn left and continue the last 6 miles or so to the beach. You will go under the PCH, loop to the right, make a left just before getting to PCH. In about 1 block you will intersect with the Huntington Beach Trail which heads down the beach or PCH to Long Beach and beyond. Have fun
We started at Boca Chico star Park, rode down the beach trail 8 miles, then connected at this trail. We rode about about 10 miles then turned around. Clean, away from roads/traffic and not busy. I would ride this for exercise more than the scenery. We will be back to try the entire trail a
We did the Northern section of the trail. Started in San Bernardino off of Waterman Ave and rode to the end of trail in Jurupa Valley. The trail is very clean, there was a good amount of other riders and runners. The bad thing is that you are under the sun most of the ride. There were a few homeless people but we did not feel unsafe. Total miles from San Bernardino to Jurupa Valley and back was just shy of 40miles.
I did about 9 miles near Huntington Beach. The good part of the trail is that long and unobstructed. You never have to cross a street. The bad part is that it is dam ugly.
We really enjoyed this trail as our first time . Very clean and comfortable one.
After riding the lower trail to the beach many times I decided to try the upper trail. I really didn’t like it. The homeless encampments and graffiti made the trail feel unsafe. I’m an adult male and I was uncomfortable, I can’t imagine being a female using this trail alone. Won’t use the upper trail again.
Upper trail is about 18 miles one way. Trail condition are good, path is well maintained. Not the most scenic, but there were zero traffic intersections to negotiate. Most of upper riverbed was dry.
these trails are actually really fun but yet very distant. i find it enjoyable to bike through these trails catching a breeze & watch bunnies or lizards come across the road every now & then. these trails can also lead to the norco powerhouse which is awesome to take pictures in & is close to the river. however, it feels a bit uncomfortable going though a plant nursery & interrupting people’s jobs. also, it does smell like horse dropping throughout the way so hopefully you don’t mind.
I'm grateful that this trail is no longer blocked by homeless and their tents. However I find it a little weird how different sections of this trail are connected and signed. There is a wooden bridge north of the 17th Street/Westminster Avenue exit. That bridge must be crossed to continue northbound, but there's no sign indicating that's where the trail continues.
Then again at Katella Avenue, there's a weird connection to the next section of trail north of there: a crudely paved section of trail that runs concurrent to Katella Avenue in East Anaheim across the street from ARTIC. The nearest sign I saw that said "Bike Route" did not point to the left where this crudely-paved connector actually is.
Rode from Centennial Park to downtown Huntington Beach. Nice trail with lots to see. Trail dumps you right into huntington beach.
Great trail to ride to the beach. I only rode on the 14 mile stretch from Amtrak Anaheim station to the beach but the trail was awesome Great surface to ride, parks and brides along the way many on and off access . but continuing trail with no autos to worry about.
A friend and I both have new e-Bikes. Both are city urban commuter type bikes and both of us over sixty-five. We used to ride years ago but for various reasons we stopped. Now we’re back on the road enjoying a lovely trail with wonderful sights. There are little parks and kiddy play areas along the way. We only managed nearly half this time around with a plan to finish the second half in the near future.
I first rode this trail over forty years ago when it was one of the first Class I trails in southern California, and I must say it was so cool to go from the Inland Empire all the way to the OC beaches! In recent years I've also ridden the upper portion which is a completely different experience but still worthwhile. The lower portion is nice and flat with cool ocean breezes, while the upper portion is hilly in places and much warmer in the summer. Lower: 5 stars. Upper: 3 stars.
All homeless gone! Rode to beach twice last week from Orange! We enjoy this trail!
Tried heading for the beach today. The trail was open. All the homeless are gone and they put up fences in all the areas the homeless were camping out. I went to Moon Park and it was clear all the way. There were my smiling cyclist on the trail. Spring is here and the trail is clear. See all you kids out there.
Currently both trails have sections closed so you can't ride end to end as of 3/30/18.
Great trail- thanks TrailLink app!
I'm 68 and I've been riding the trail for over 30 years. I taught my sons to ride on the trail as well. I ride with my son on Sunday from Orangewood to Moon Part in the spring and to the beach when it warms and I'm in better shape. With all the homeless on the trail, I've heard a lot of talk about it being intimidating at time. Hopefully they will move back into the river bed as the weather warms.
In the meantime anyone who would like to ride with us on Sunday is welcome to join. If anyone feels intimidated riding during the week, I try to get out on Wednesday morning.
I use this trail quite frequently. The Riverside/San Bernardino segment is approx 20 miles long. I use Fairmount Park as a starting point. From there, it’s a ¾ mile leg to the midpoint of the Santa Ana trail. The 10 mile San Bernardino section has fewer hills and is a little flatter. This takes you under the 60 FWY, behind industry and several other streets. After the trail threads through the 215/10 FWY interchange, it ends at Waterman Ave.
The 10 mile Norco section has steeper hills and bends. It has a few other parks along the way. Its highlights include going under a massive arched, concrete train bridge, traveling through horse riding areas and even running next to a Nature Center that is open on Saturdays.
The asphalt trail is well kept, with a dividing line running down it. You do see homeless living along the river, but they are a part of the local culture. They appear to be west of Jurupa Ave, all the way to Waterman. I have never had issues with any homeless. I have even talked with a few. Currently, the trail does not connect to the Orange County section. Serious bikers seem to be the main users, however there is family biking, runners and even skateboarders. I really like this trail.
I am a single woman and I totally felt uncomfortable. Avoid the areas under the bridges. There homeless camps in a lot of areas Worst was in the intersection with 22
I went out on the trail yesterday starting in the City of Orange. I was on my own. No one mentioned in these reviews the dozens of homeless encampments under the freeways, especially under the 5. As a single female on the trail, I was not comfortable due to the dozens and dozens of camps. I will not be taking this trail again.
This trail is very long and connects regions that are otherwise only connected by crowded highways. While the river is not the prettiest for the entire route, and there isn't much access to local businesses, the water and shade accommodations are plentiful along throughout and the river definitely has its bright moments. Well-paved and well-signed.
It hard to ride in the moorings, but if there were light on the trail, that would be great.
Rode on Saturday (30 Jan). Started at Carlson Bark Park (off of Mission Inn Blvd, Riverside) and rode upstream for 5 miles and then returned. Trail has a good surface and plenty wide for passing walkers or slower bikers (us). My wife commented that not many passers use a bell or warning that they are passing. Lots of road bikers cruising along at a good clip, then again this was Saturday morning when most traffic is to be expected. Even though not a lot of folks gave warning that they were passing there were plenty of “Good Mornings” from oncoming traffic. Scenery isn’t much to brag about, having come from Colorado, but at least this section of trail doesn’t parallel a main road. There are some “camps” in the bushes along the river bed; however, the trail is a distance from them and above the river bed. Plenty of graffiti markings on the few benches and other structures along the trail (then again this is California and can be expected). If needing a place to ride while in the area it is worth checking out.
Nice bike path but go during active hours when many bikers and walkers are on the trail. There are a couple of transients that live along the trail. The parking lot at LaCadena has rest rooms and parking but I've noticed broken glass from breaking so be careful.
I like riding this trail it is peaceful it has nice scenic views and it is well paved
I think people need to learn to share the tail. The bike people are rude. They think they are God's gift to humanity. I they kinda yell at you if your waking it. I guess they think its a bike trail only. Other that it is nice and paved. I enjoy it.
It was my first time riding. Very nice and relaxing. Need a stress relief? This is it...
Nice trail. People riding it are rude. But the trail rocks
I bussed my bike from Cucamonga,to san bernardino.the ride wasINTERESTING till I got to rvrsde co. That's when the ride becomes beatiful! The trail has many wonderful sights, as I entered hidden valley, and in to norco the view, changed again. Heading back to cucamonga on hamner(milliken) the high of the ride starts to come to an end. Enjoy this trail, I know I did!
Last week while I was commuting to the Anaheim Canyon Metrolink Station I saw a Pin-Tailed Whydah fluttering about.
I couldn't believe my eyes!!!
In addition, on the way to work, I've seen either Canadian Geese or Crackling Geese, I'm on my way to work, so I can't stop and determine which species they are and I only see them in the early morning hours.
I did an early morning ride yesterday, starting at Green River Rd. There were several cyclists parking and riding from there, some commuting and others exercising/training, so the parking area was busy with people coming and going. Seemed like a very safe place to park since there was a steady stream of cyclists in the area.
I rode south for 15 miles and then turned back. From my turnaround spot, I could see the Honda Center and Angel Stadium in the distance (maybe a couple of miles away?) Along those 15 miles, I passed by a couple of parks with restroom facilities and at least two porta-potties (which are regularly maintained).
For the first several miles, the trail followed a beautiful section of the Santa Ana River, filled with water fowl and other wildlife. I rode through sections of fragrant pine and other sections of eucalyptus. Riding in the morning was cool and comfortable, with a slight onshore breeze in my face, but not difficult, since there seemed to be a slight downgrade to the trail. I was worried about the difficulty of the trip home, but the wind at my back returning made it pleasant and easy to ride.
There is currently a short section of the trail that is closed - between Lakeview and Tustin. When riding southwest, I took the trail under Lakeview, and then came up to the street where I kept right, followed Lakeview to Riverdale and turned right. There was a marked bike lane along Riverdale, as well as several signs indicating the detour and allowing bikes to ride in the car lane (which wasn't really needed, since the bike lane was adequate). At Tustin I turned right and it was a very short jog to the trail entrance on the right. Coming back, it was a little more involved with two left turns onto and off of Riverdale, but certainly manageable, especially if you have road riding experience.
I will definitely ride this trail again. It is well-maintained and well-traveled, with very few stops/starts that could slow a ride.
I ride this trail a lot; about three times a week since I have a lot of time I can devote to riding right now. The problem is as you make your way past Katella and continue East (towards the 91) the trail has started construction (I want to say around Tustin?). It is posted that it will be closed until 10/2015!!! This really sucks but I guess you can just turn your bike around and ride it in to the sea breeze and make your way back to your car or even better make your way to the beach and back.
I start from Orangewood and go to the beach and back and that round trip is just a hair over 26 miles. It is a nice easy ride but can be challenging when the winds blow (onshore and Santa Ana's).
I am planning a ride to Huntington Beach from Imperial Hyw of Orange County off Freeway 91. Where is the best place to park my car? Any info will be appreciated.
This was a relatively difficult trail to find and follow. There aren’t a lot of signs telling you that you are on the right track (for people who don’t live in the area—this was a “destination” trail for us). So….we thought we located the start (it was labeled, but it didn’t match the maps we had from trail sites. We actually started on the Banning Channel Bikeway which is the southern side of the Santa Ana River rather than the Western Side (which seemed to be blocked off – we tried both). In any case, we started from the Pacific Coast Highway and went up the eastern side of the “river” through a bit of construction on a nicely paved trail labeled Santa Ana River Trail. And after a couple of miles, noted a bridge that everyone seemed to be crossing. We didn’t because there was no indication that we should and the paved trail continued on …for about a mile and then dead-ended. This trail was along a golf course. So we back tracked to the bridge and crossed it (just before Adams Ave and about 2.8 miles from the start). Back on track…we continued on this until there was more construction and we diverted to the other side of the canal (the river isn’t really a river anymore – it is a canal and a great deal of cement separates the two sides). The diversions take you to a trail on the northern side of the canal to a hard packed dirt pathway (ok with hybrids…maybe not so great for road bikes). From there, it was easy to follow, no problems, not much scenery since it was along a cement canal which in October is completely dry. The good part is having the ocean breeze behind you…so no headwinds! The trail goes through mostly industrial zones with very little scenery and only a few neighborhoods….mostly residential or commercial and nowhere to stop for food. Garden Grove appears to be one of the only easy spots with access to food. We chose Waba with options for lots of other fast food. The trail ends just past Yorba Linda Parkway. You need to exit just after the Yorba Linda Parkway overpass and ride on the sidewalk or bike lane for a couple of blocks to a car wash on the right. The trail picks up again there. The next thing to note is that you need to cross the Gypsum Canyon Road Bridge because the trail on the left side of the river ends abruptly a few blocks after the bridge. The rest of the ride is alongside the Riverside Freeway and ends at Green River Road. Although maps show a connection to another mile or so of the trail on the left side of the Santa Ana River, we couldn’t find a way to get there. There is a lot of construction in the area right now. All in all, it was a good, long ride with nicely paved path for the most part. Not a bad way to spend a couple of days (we rode it both ways). 4 stars for length and condition of the trail, but only 3 stars for signage and scenery which is a bit dull in the fall!
I used this bike trail for recreation and shortcuts to work in Santa Ana when I was a resident of Anaheim and/or Garden Grove (Euclid and Katella / Lampson Ave and Brookhusrt) during the years of 1974-1981. I blazed down either Lampson to other shortcuts to the trail or smoking down Katella to the staduim to an opening of the trail at that time. Any who, of course this review will not reveal how its used these days (years!). And yet, I wish I still was living in SoCal. Nonetheless, there are many trails that are up and coming, specifically via some old rails that trains had historically travelled on themselves. Case in point, here in Susanville, where I have recently moved from another geo-social location (retired) the Bizz Johnson Trail is one that I am still seeking a one-on-one relationship. So, those of you who use the SAR trail, have fun regardless of your specific use of the Traillink! (personally I loved taking it to Huntington/Newport/Balboa beaches!) Peace out. Ishi_96130
When riding the SART though Santa Ana, best be careful. There have been some muggings. Most recent (FEB 2012) was on a Saturday afternoon when the trail gets a lot of users. The MO is to throw a beater bike in front of you. When you go down, they swarm you. A group of punks with bike near the trail should have you alerting. More details and discussion in Bike Forums - So Cal discussion.
**Attn So Cal SART Riders and Shops In Area:Just Recieved the Email from Santa Ana PD
During the past two months there have been several robberies on the
Santa Ana Riverbed in Santa Ana between 17th Street and Edinger. The
robbers mostly target lone riders, usually between 6PM and 8PM. The
good news is that on Sunday, February 6th, three of the robbers were
caught. We showed their photos to some of the other victims who
identified them as being responsible in multiple robberies. SAPD is
confident that the primary robbery suspects are in custody. That said,
the riverbed borders several gang territories, so riders should use
appropriate caution and when possible, ride in pairs during evening
SAPD recovered two bicycles on 02-08-12. We are looking for the owner;
likely a bike shop since they appear brand new.
#1 SCATTANTE, Full Monocoque Carbon SL10, white frame with red,
black seat, black handle wrap, Schwalbe tires, Aclass alx730 wheels
#2 FUJI, Altimira 3.0, black frame with white and red, white seat,
white handle wrap, Hutchinson tires, Oval 330 wheels
Contact SAPD Det CPL Michelle Miller #2795
I tried this trail a week after riding the Kern river trail and was disappointed with this trail. It seemed kind of dirty. Also, that day it was really hot (not the trails fault). I'll try it again someday, though, and see if my opinion changes.
Correction to my last submittal. The Quality Inn mentioned is in SAN BERNARDINO....not Riverside. Sorry about that
I would have rated it higher but I have been spoiled by trails like the Centennials and the Trail of the Couer D'Alenes in Washington and Idaho. They are hard to beat. I've been living in SoCal for about five months now and have yet to ride any that compare. The Upper SART is the best I've ridden in SoCal.
I started at the Arlington Ave end. I parked outside the gate as I didn't think I'd be done before they locked it. I would recommend using the parking area about a quarter mile inside of the gate though. Then you don't have to hump it up a steep grade after riding 40 miles...sheesh!
Except for a few things it's pretty much as Trailbear described last year. There is a section of dirt path for a quarter mile between the Hidden Valley Nature Center and the trailhead. It was a day after it had rained and I had to navigate around a good sized mud hole there. Bents don't do well in mud. There were three sections of pavement under repair between Fairmount Park and the upper end. There was only one lane of travel in these areas but the longest one was about 30 feet so no biggie. Due to the rain the path was under about six inches of water where it went under some railroad tracks. There was no way around it so I slowly drove through it. Wasn't too bad, but I forgot to shift down so I had to push up the immediate steep grade on the other side. The weather was very overcast and cool. The closer I got to the upper end the worse it got.
After 20 miles I reached the upper end. I looked across South Waterman Ave and could see that the trail is under construction but none of the locals I talked to knew when it was supposed to be completed. If you want to start at the Waterman end, Tifanie (yes...that's how she spells it.) at the Quality Inn said it's fine. She also let me use the restroom in the lobby. Thanks again Tifanie.
The return was uneventful but I'd recommend starting at the Waterman (upper) end in the morning when it's calm so you can take advantage of the prevailing wind coming up the canyon in the afternoon on your way back. I got a good workout fighting a 10 to 15 MPH headwind going back. Took the 3/4 mile detour into Fairmount Park (halfway) and found it a gorgeous place with lakes. play areas, gazebo/rose garden, water, restrooms, and a golf course nearby. The homeless population mixed with lots of families enjoying a day at the park was interesting.
Some logistical info.....
west end - 11401 Arlington Ave. Riverside,CA N33 degrees 57.312' W117degrees 30.904' Elev. 776
east end - 1672 S Waterman Ave. Riverside, CA N34degrees 04.190' W117degrees 16.745' Elev.965
Pictures available upon request.
We have had a week of non stop rain that got us noticed by the eastern new orgs. If you have a good mud slide, they will come out and do a stand up on top of some poor guy's car sticking out of the muck.
The front has gone east to plague someone else and the sun come out for a day or two before the next one, so it was time for a ride.
TrailBear has a new trike - Rover X5 by Terratrike out of Utah Trike's custom shop. He wants trail miles. Today was a bright sunshiney day. Better get a ride in.
I parked in Moon Park by the 405 freeway in Costa Mesa and got on the trail heading up river. There is a LOT of water coming down and really moving fast. There are miles of standing waves and rooster tails.
The trail was in good condition. The silt had been removed from the underpasses - which shows someone was on top of trail maintenance. A few crossings were damp up by the 22 and 5.
Most of the lower river underpasses are high enough that they were well above water level. If they are ever under water you have more serious issues than getting a dry ride. The only u-xing under water from Costa Mesa to the Katella Crossing was at Orangewood by the Angel's stadium.
All in all, a nice ride up and down. About 18 miles. The Rover trike works fine. On my mountain bike, with saddle #4, I really want the ride to be OVER by 20 miles. On the trike, this is not an issue. It does not feel like I have been sitting on a 2x4 for the last five miles. I can go further. Even better, it's like pedaling your lawn chair through the scenery. You have a comfortable moving seat. Park for a break or a view and your chair is there. Put your feet up and enjoy.
Pedaling his lawn chair up river and down.
As a regular- 2-3 times a week rider- over the past ten years I am happy to note that money from a 2002 bond issue is being used to make enhancements such as better maintenenace of the trails and landscaping. The Orange County Transportation Authority has jurisdiction of the trail and seems willing to listen to my suggestions where safety issues are a concern such as loose sand and overhanging foliage.
when they dont out come my clippers!
An unknown gem to many SART users is the huge free parking lot and the Perk U up Coffee shop serving food, and both alcholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The address is 2620 E. Katell Ave, suite B Anaheim, CA just south of the Honda Center on the left side of trail heading north from the ocean. Owner Andrea is very bicycle friendly but tells me she can't advertise near the trail so keep your eyes peeled.
TRAILBEAR ON THE LOWER UPPER SANTA ANA RIVER TRAIL – Take a Ride on the Wild Side
Tired of riding up and down those concrete ditches called rivers in Southern California? Want to ride along a real river with water and trees and green things? TrailBear does. The sheer novelty of it… Having created the TrailLink map for the Upper Santa Ana River Trail, he needs to get out to Riverside and put some facilities icons on it. Besides, the few pix on the page suggested an interesting ride and good pavement.
THE UPPER “SART” – SANTA ANA RIVER TRAIL
What a change! Imagine a river in a river bed rather than a concrete channel. Yes, the river bed does have levees, but the river is free to wander between them. There is a lush riparian community of trees and shrubs running for miles. The Santa Ana River runs clear. There are kids swimming in it. There are vistas. There are meadows filled with spring flowers and stands of trees and thick brush.
In short, this is not at all like the lower Santa Ana River, the L.A. River, the San Gabriel River, the San Juan Creek, Aliso Creek, San Diego Creek, Bellona Creek, Peters Canyon Wash, Coyote Creek and quite a few others down in The OC and LA County. The Corps of Engineers did not have its way.
The lower Upper SART is a ride worth doing. Thank Marsh McLean for that. In the ‘60s she and others stopped the Corps of Engineers from fitting the upper river into a nice concrete channel.
This would be a great ride in the winter, just after a storm when the mountains are out and covered in snow and the “seeing” is good. TB knows there are mountains out here. He can read a map. He even saw them, once. There was that winter’s day when he could see everything out here. Today there is a bit of fog grading into haze. You can see two sets of hills over. Not too bad.
TRAILBEAR TRIES FAIRMOUNT PARK…
So, here we go again. Another Saturday: some clouds and nicely cool. This time the TrailBear is bouncing over the wretched freeways and pot holed streets of Riverside, CA, on his way to Fairmount Park. The mission is to do a facilities survey on the lower half of the Upper SART. A survey on the upper half of the Upper SART appears to be a loser. Neither Google Earth or the road maps show any parks or such along the trail beyond Fairmount Park. Better bring everything you need for that stretch.
TB has a Cunning Plan: He will trailhead in Fairmount Park, ride down the river to the trail end at Hidden Valley Wildlife Area, about face and ride back up with the rising up-river breeze at his back. A cunning plan – which lasted until he reached the park.
“Between the idea / And the reality / Between the motion / And the act
Falls the Shadow” T.S. Eliot – The Hollow Men
The first sight was a bus load of Work Release prisoners lined up to get the word on what to do in the park. Dear Wife began to mutter. Strike One. Then there was the grouping of folks over there about that picnic table. You could see a few bikes, but we are not talking roadies in their Suits of Light. Rather, denizens of the Lower Demographic - those who wear heavy coats on hot days. More were coming and more. From the East, from the West, from the streets and the trails, they were headed for that table. Must be the Breakfast Club at Fairmount. Strike Two.
Well, check out the restrooms and get a data point or two. Restrooms locked. Strike Three. Farewell, Fairmount. We head off to check out the other trailhead options, looking for a lot more ambiance. The Anza Narrows Park is locked. At 0730? Not early risers hereabouts. Besides, that booth up the entrance road suggests the collection of fees. We wind up the Hidden Valley Wildlife Area over by Norco. It’s rather nice. There are people about. There are roadies riding. There are horsemen horsing. There is a group taking a tour. Far away from downtown, the demographic vibrations are more comfortable here. It becomes the Trailhead du Jour.
HIDDEN VALLEY WILDLIFE AREA, 705’ Elevation, GE: N33.96170 W117.49856
You have to like Hidden Valley. The roads are dirt, but the bike trail is 5* blacktop – very smooth. The lanes are about 5’ wide with a center stripe. The Upper Santa Ana River Trail starts out at the front entrance at Arlington Ave and runs thru the park. HVWA has both bottom lands down by the river and uplands. There are lots of dirt trails – suggesting a fun time with a mountain bike.
The Nature Center and the shops are located on the edge of the bluff above the river with excellent views. There are a number of observation points with informational signage. There is a day use fee of $ 4, but they are not set up to take cash, issue chits, etc. They would like a check for $4 dropped in the Iron Ranger on the honor system.
Water may be an issue here as all the restrooms were PortaPotty Pitstops (PPPS) and no fountains were seen. May be there – but well concealed. Best you bring your own.
There is a new bike trail head and overlook at N33.96103 W117.49522, about 0.2 miles beyond the Nature Center parking lot and the park shops.
The trail runs along the bluff, along side a bridle trail. Here and there they have placed a bench overlooking the view. TB likes that one under the shade tree. There is a lot of horse action here and many trails for riding, so the sites feature bike racks and hitching rails. The adjacent town of Norco is Western-themed and has bridle trails running along the main drag and other streets. One senses that Norco does a lot of horse business.
JURUPA AVE. ACCESS POINT, 746’, GE: N33.96003 W117.48091
The trail runs along the bluff to meet an access point at the end of Jurupa Ave at the end of the park. There is on-street parking there, signed for The River Trail. Here the trail takes a dive down towards the river under a bluff filled with homes and crosses a grassy parcel called the Agricultural Park (no facilities). It appears to be the former home of a sewage plant and Has Some Issues. Can you say “PCB”?
Climb back up the other side and around the bluff to enter what TB calls the Van Buren Diversion. Here you make a dogleg detour to get across a ravine. Pause where the trail meets the unfinished portion of Jurupa Ave. Across Jurupa is Rutland Park. It’s a neighborhood park with water, no restrooms. In the distance is Mt. Rubidoux.
Ahead is the Diversion. You drop down, then run along Van Buren, duck under it and come up on the other side to enter the Sewage Plant Reach – a 0.7 mile stretch of tanks and ponds on one side and the river bottom lands on the other. Chain link fencing keeps you on the straight and narrow.
Once past the “wastewater treatment plant” (catch a whiff), you enter Pipe Reach. The trail crosses under two pipes crossing the river. The first is Just a Little Thing. The next is anything but. It runs over a series of pylons and then onto a bridge over the river. Size? Guesstimate is 6’ or better in height. Another mile and there is…
THE SANTA ANA RIVER VIADUCT (UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD BRIDGE), GE: N33.96790 W117.43551
The rail road crosses the river here at the Anza Narrows on this classic concrete arch bridge. Dear Wife says it looks like every bridge in Cleveland. Built in 1904, it once held the record as the “largest concrete bridge on earth.” Read about it at:
That was then. This is now – 106 years later – and the trains are still crossing those eight arches. Their foundations sit on granite bedrock, 10 -50’ below river level. Stop for a few pix, then round the corner and head uphill to the…
MARSHA McLEAN – ANAZA NARROWS REGIONAL PARK, 738’, GE: N33.96727 W117.43230
The river has been doing some cutting here. Notice the sidewalk which runs to the edge of the bluff. Where did the rest go? A former overlook, perhaps. No matter. Up the trail there is a nice shade tree with a bench under it and a view of Mt. Rubidoux in the distance. Great place to take a break.
Down the trail a bit is a water fountain (first one seen on the trail, so fill up) and a curious pair of roofless restrooms. They are flushies without roofs. There are lips over the loos, but the rest is open to the cyclone wire above. TB has been all over the West since age 10, but this is a new design for him. What do you do in a downpour? The next flushies are way up in Fairmount Park, so perhaps…
Up at the corner of the park, you enter a 1.1 mile stretch of Horse County. Stables, rings, pastures, trails and All Things Horsey. There are the thickets of the river bottoms on one side and chain link and barbed wire on the other and the smell of stables on the wind.
Beyond this is a stretch of embankment running along the trail. What is it? GE shows something like a pond or settling ground. However, there are none of the channel works that go with a settling ground. The thing has chain line and barbed wire to keep you from finding out. At the far end is the …
TESQUESQUITO AVE. ACCESS, 761’, GE: N33.97620 W117.39661
The end of Tesquesquito Ave. is blocked off where the trail turns left to run along the base of Mt. Rubidoux. Some nice homes up there on the slope. Across the street are the meadows of the undeveloped Tesquesquito Arroyo Park. You can park on the street for access at this point, but there are better spots ahead. Pause here and look up. You saw it from miles away. Now it’s looming over you …
MT. RUBIDOUX PARK, 1329’, GE: 33.984386°
Quite the granite hill. There are miles of paved and dirt trails leading to the summit, so you can pick your pain. TrailBear is going around it on the river side. Some great meadows down on the southern end of the hill. At the northern end of Rubidoux is something unusual …
THE CARLSON BARK PARK, 786’, GE: N33.98968 W117.39151
It’s always a delight to find something new on a trail. Here it is – the bark park. Alongside Mission Blvd. at the bridge is an elegant dog park done in a Mission style with massive gates, metal fencing with cutouts of dogs at play, night lighting, play areas for puppies, little dogs and big dogs and a three level water fountain. It would look very much “in place” in the flossy suburbs of The O.C. Dream on, Newport Beach.
There are some interesting design ideas at the park. Take the play area “air locks.” You open the gate; Rover makes a break for freedom. Not here. You open the gate into an enclosure. Shut the gate; collar Rover; then open the second gate. The water fountain here is inside the Little Dogs Park, together with shade trees and a picnic table. No restrooms, however.
The Bark Park is doing a lot of trailhead business from the bikies and the hikers. There are people all over the switchbacks above and bikes arriving some somewhere. Mountain bikes … mountain. Probably been up on the slopes. Google Earth shows trails and a wide rutted swath coming straight down the mountain. Screaming descents, perhaps? But enough of dog parks in the Mission style. Back on the bike and head for…
FAIRMOUNT PARK, 789’, GE: N33.99395 W117.38115
The trail ducks under Mission Blvd. On the far side is a junction. Straight ahead takes you to the trail end at Waterman Blvd., about 8 miles upstream. TB turns right to run down into Fairmount Park.
Designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead (Think: Central Park, New York City.), the park offers two lakes shaded with trees, a band shell, rose gardens, a boat house, tennis courts, tot lot, picnic areas, a golf course and numerous paths to explore.
It’s an elegant park from the old school. The shady lakes must be a delight in summer’s heat, but today the park probably would have baseball diamonds and soccer fields instead. The diverse urban demographic is still here at late morning. The benches beneath the trees along Lake Evans are a great place to relax. Over there one citizen is doing just that. Head pillowed on his pack, covered with a quilt, he sleeps the morning away.
This is the upper end of the survey. Lunch is at the other end. TB turns the bike around and head back down the river to Hidden Valley. As expected, the breeze is on the make, coming up the river. No matter; pedal harder.
SUMMARY OF THE RIDE…
Trail bed = 3-5*. Mostly 5* pavement. Some areas of cracks (small) and a few sink holes, but there are miles of good, smooth blacktop.
Facilities = 2-3*. Portapotties at Hidden Valley Clean restrooms done in the prison style – no doors on the stalls at Fairmount and Anza Narrows. No doors = 2*, no matter how clean. Water fountains at Anza and Bark Park. No fountains were seen at Fairmount. They must be there, somewhere, but none were seen down at the lakes.
Scenery = 5*. If you are used to the concrete river rides, this will be a delightful change of pace. It’s a very green ride – meadows, river bottom groves, overgrown thickets, a river with a sandy bottom running clear, distant views. (Better in winter when the mountains are out.)
Distance: About 10 miles one way.
Do it again? Yes. It's on the winter schedule, waiting for a storm to blow thru.
Putting the icons on the map.
TRAILBEAR SCOUTS FACILITIES ON THE SART
Before Flood Week, the TrailBear hopscotched upriver on the SART, checking out potential trail heads. RTC has updated the map to show most of the results of this survey and removed that little parking area on Hesperian by way of the 22 Freeway. It turned out to be the juvi lockup when ground-truthed. “Youth Guidance Center” they call it. You really can see chain link fences from space. TB did. Parking is by invitation only. No access to the trail over there anyway. 4’ cyclone fence along that sector. The trail is on the far bank at that point.
CENTENNIAL PARK, SANTA ANA @ GE: 33.724745° -117.912756°
This trailhead is right alongside the trail at West Edinger Ave. Nice trees, plenty of free parking, nice lake. The restrooms are individual units or cabins vs. the communal design.
RIVERVIEW NEIGHBORHOOD PARK, SANTA ANA @ 33.763516° -117.894795°
When you reach the Riverview Bridge, if you go straight instead of crossing, you will arrive at this little park on the east side of the golf course. Usual restrooms and water and parking and such. I don’t think it sees much bikie action as Edna Park, across the way, is right on the trail. It does have more parking and a larger restroom.
THE KATELLA CROSSOVER
There are two facilities of note here. One is a commercial trailhead, the Stadium Promenade Mall, GE 33.808821° -117.871579°, which abuts the trail. In fact, you can see a side trail leading to their back parking lot. Alas, there is a locked gate, so no go. Go around to reach the trail.
There is a rare on-trail wayside facility just north of the bridge on Katella at GE 33.806878° -117.873106°. It has a 4x cabin style restroom with water and a new picnic enclosures with water fountain a bit further up. The picnic enclosure is very popular with the drifting community. It was full up with them on the first visit, with more lounging on the hillside. On the second visit – a grey morning – one soul was there trying to try clothing on the fence railings. Sure not a day for that. Rain was coming.
RIVERDALE PARK, ANAHEIM @ GE 33.852078° -117.818691°
This is a nice park, a full service trailhead with good facilities and right on the trail. It would make a great mid-trail staging area but for the two hour parking limit. I suspect that is because it is next to the Kaiser Hospital and there is very little parking in the area.
You may wish to give it a pass and stage out of one of the shopping centers at the intersection of La Palma and Imperial Highway, 1.7 miles further on. There is one on each corner, so you have choices and lots of services available. At this point, one leg of the trail crosses over the river and on to Yorba Park and beyond – and so should you. The other leg dead-ends some miles further on.
YORBA PARK AND YORBA REGIONAL PARK @ GE 33.864335° -117.773531°
The major trailhead on the upper SART appears to be Yorba Park – right next door to and not to be confused with Yorba Regional Park. Confused? Yorba Regional Park is a county park with a variable entry fee ($3/5/10), lakes, walks, shelters, BBQs and all manner of nice things. A delightful park – with pay parking. You can bike thru it without charge.
On the west end of YPR, off Huxford Lane, is a City of Anaheim park called Yorba Park. It has the usual full service facilities with a nice shaded blacktop parking lot, plus a gravel over flow lot, plus a dirt over-over flow lot. We got there at 10 and it was very busy. Lots of cars. Most were clearing out – probably after an early morning on the trail – and we got a slot in the blacktop lot, but this park is doing a lot of business with trail users.
There are two items of interest in Yorba Regional Park for the trail rider. One is a handy restroom with adjacent water fountain on a trail off ramp at N33.86600 W117.77004 and the other is a nice wayside shelter with bike racks right on the trail at N33.87083 W117.75866. We could use a lot more of these up and down the trail. Failing that, how about a few more benches at scenic overlooks? Just a bench?
The riding at Yorba was just great. The trail is smooth and the scenery delightful. (It is the canyon section.) This section of the river has water in it! Of course, after a week of rain – about 10” of it – the whole river has water in it, but that will pass. The middle river will revert to a series of ponds and sections of sandy waste. The lower river will revert from roiling flood waters to concrete and the upper river will have water in it, and trees and shrubs and such.
The TrailBear settled in at Yorba, then headed up river to see the sights. He rode the dead end leg on the north bank up to the locked gate. He saw the bridge underpass closed off in advance of Flood Week. He found a water fountain at the far end of the Gypsum Canyon Bridge at GE 33.868329° -117.713090° where the trail heads back under the bridge and along the freeway. That was it for the day. Time to backtrack to Yorba, load up and head back down river. The Golf Course and Prado Dam will have to wait for another day.
THE SANTA ANA RIVER TRAIL… from the Ocean to the Orange Crush
SART, the Santa Ana River Trail: thirty miles of high speed express trail with grade-separated crossings. You can move on this trail. Get up to speed and just go. However, it has a TrailLink page with no reviews, ten photos and a map showing only two parking lots and one trail end. That’s rather sparse for a trail page. Is this one of those lonely, unloved trails.
Can't be. There are flocks of colorful roadies whizzing up and down it every weekend. Mom, pop and the kids. Dog walkers. Joggers. Skaters. 'Bents. Trikes. This trail gets used.
How was the TrailBear to resist this challenge and opportunity for some survey work? (Very poorly, it would seem. He fell on it like a pig on a pot roast.)
He had Google Earth up and was busily laying down a track line of the trail while making note of anything on or near the trail that looked like a park or a mall or a public facility. Trail riders are concerned about The Three Ps – where to park; where to pedal; where to piddle. Parks contain water, parking and restrooms. The SART map is lacking the icons for any of these things, but they must be out there. somewhere.
The next phase of the trail survey is to ground-truth the map findings and get the GPS coordinates for those water fountains, parking lots and restrooms. These go to TrailLink and are vetted, then posted on the updated map for all to see.
Thus, when Saturday came around, he set the GPS for Le Bard Park, Huntington Beach, loaded Gutterbunny ’10 (a Specialized FSRxcExpert optimized for trail survey work) and was off.
GE showed Le Bard right on the trail. It was. It had parking. It had water – way around the corner of the school buildings. It had an iffy restroom situation – a girls in the building and a unisex potty in the Little League compound which may be closed when they are not playing. Bit thin on facilities for a city park. Seen trailheads with better facilities, but it was getting bikie business, including a flock of trikes. Location, location, location.
But we should start at the beginning, down by the sea.
SART - START AT THE BEACH…
The SART starts on the Huntington Beach side of the Santa Ana River at the mouth. It dives under the Pacific Coast Highway, comes on the beach side and joins a nice eight mile beach ride that will take you along the beach up to Sunset Beach.
There is parking and water and restrooms here at the adjacent Huntington State Beach. There is also a $15 day use fee, which the TrailBear finds rather steep. Free is more his speed.
He drove in, heard the price and was outtathere in a flash. He headed for Newport Beach, just across the river. There is a linear park along PCH on the ocean side with four parking lots (metered, $1.50/hr.) and a nice restroom and water at the Orange St. beach access sign at GE: 33.628114° -117.952813°. (Cut and paste these GE coordinates into Google Earth to follow along up the trail.) There is also free curbside parking. Don’t count on this on a summer weekend unless you are really early. From the little park you can take the bike/walk back to the trail end across the river and start riding up river.
LOWER TRAILHEADS – LE BARD PARK, FAIRVIEW PARK … GE: 33.661206° -117.939355°
From the beach you ride 2.2 miles upriver to the bridge at Le Bard Park. The trail crosses the river several times. At this point, on the west bank, the blacktop soon gives way to a wide, hard, fast equestrian path of (?) decomposed granite. No signs of horses. Lot of bike tracks and foot prints. There is an access point with a PortaPotty at Garfield – next to the OCSD plant.
Orange County Sanitation District – that’s the Huntington Beach Wastewater Treatment Facility. Those domed tanks are trickling filters. TrailBear remembers the days before PC. Back then it was the sewer plant. Doesn’t smell like a sewer plant. All those wind socks on the plant structures suggest they are using something that would make a lethal cloud if it leaked. Let’s see… green cloud, chlorine.
The bikies cross on the bridge to the Costa Mesa side for more blacktop that will take them eight miles up to the Riverview Bridge in Sana Ana, where they cross back again.
You’ve seen Le Bard Park. Across the river, in Costa Mesa, are Fairview Park on the bluff and the Talbert Nature Preserve down below. Both have facilities. Fairview Park would be the trailhead, with parking , water, picnic tables under ramadas, restroom, etc. It’s at GE: 33.661206° -117.939355°. Talbert (GE: 33.664916° -117.943935°) is more the bike-in pit stop, with water, a restroom, a picnic grove and horse facilities. It connects to the trail by a bridge over the flood control channel.
Interesting channel, that. It rises way up in Santa Ana, with a branch in Costa Mesa. The SART runs on the channel levee for a while, so you have river on one side and flood control channel on the other. Power lines overhead, as well, further up – the Avenue of the Pylons.
MOON PARK, COSTA MESA… GE: 33.694367° -117.934052°
Moon Park is a little neighborhood pocket park tucked in between the trail and the 405 Freeway at GE: 33.694367° -117.934052°. Parking, water fountain, tables and shade and a concrete moon emerging from the grass. No restrooms. But it does have the 405 SART underpass. Take a break in the shade and watch the bikies come out of the tunnel. What will you get next? Flock of roadies? Family out for a ride? High speed kiddy pram and pusher? Seen ‘em all.
COSTCO, FOUNTAIN VALLEY … GE: 33.703356° -117.931475°
Just a half mile above Moon Park there is Costco, Fountain Valley, between MacArthur Blvd. and the river at GE: 33.703356° -117.931475°. This mall complex makes a nice trailhead. There is ample parking. There certainly are restrooms in the various stores. There is the Costco snack bar. There is a Carl’s Jr. for early riders. There is the opportunity to buy a flat screen plasma TV or gas up the car. Most trailheads can’t off this range of services.
CENTENNIAL PARK, SANTA ANA … GE: 33.726726° -117.912702°
Two miles above Costco is the Centennial Park, adjacent to the trail. Lots of parking, a small lake, water, restroom, picnic shelters, a beach and lovely flowering trees in season. Look across the river and you will see that the equestrian trail is still running up the western bank.
EDNA PARK, SANTA ANA … GE: 33.763686° -117.898962°
About three miles above Centennial Park, on the western bank is Edna Park. Here the river changes from a stark concrete channel to a golf course. Right – the Riverview Golf Course is in the river channel. Love to see what it looks like when a heavy rain puts water in river below. Are the greens under water?
To reach Edna Park, you cross back over on the Riverview Bridge and there is Edna, right on the trail. It has a small parking lot, water, a restroom, tables, etc. It was getting a constant flow of bikies – people in for a pit stop, people staging out of the park.
It’s a handy location. If only the plumbing worked. The floor length urinal in the men’s loo was the Yellow Sea and the floor was rather wet with something one did not wish to dwell upon. Evocative of the La Paz Bus Station loo. That Costco restroom is looking better all the time.
ORANGE CITY SQUARE MALL … GE: 33.775244° -117.890993°
Above Edna Park it looks a bit thin for trail-side facilities. The trail runs alongside the Riverview Golf Course up to the Garden Grove Freeway. At Garden Grove Blvd. you can take a one block detour west to the Orange City Square Mall. There is a donut store on the corner there, plus parking, restrooms in the mall, etc.
Stuffed with donuts, you return to the trail and head into the Orange Crush where the 22, the 5 and the 57 freeways intertwine. No more golf course. It’s barren river channel – but with dirt in the bottom. Now, that’s a change from the lower river where it was all concrete.
What lies around the next bend? Is that water and restroom symbol on Franko’s Map at the Katella Crossover the first trail-side pit stop in seventeen miles, or does it refer to the mall next door.
Stay tuned as TrailBear and Gutterbunny ’10 head upriver to scout the parks in the canyon and trail’s end.
TrailBear – filling in the blanks on the map
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