The time had come for another overnighter bikepacking camp trip. I added a day to my Labor Day weekend and made it a Friday/Saturday schedule. There aren’t a lot of options for overnighters in Southern California due to the paucity of campgrounds in this urban sprawl. The local Cleveland National Forest does not allow wild camping, i.e. you cannot just pitch your tent anywhere. Driving out of civilization is a long drive and then you mostly end up in the desert, not the best option in late August / early September for camping and epic riding. One of the campgrounds available is in Chino Hills State Park, so I chose that as my overnight location.
A summary of my route, day 1: From the Irvine Transit Center, pavement to Seranno Creek Trail. Whiting Ranch Regional Park. Santiago Canyon Road. Black Star Canyon Road to Main Divide. Leonard Road past Sierra Peak to Coal Canyon Road. Under to the 91 freeway wilderness undercrossing. Santa Ana River Trail to Gypsum Canyon. West along the tracks to Lower Aliso Canyon Trail in Chino Hills State Park to the campground. I was pretty happy with that route, it has a minimum of pavement and visits several parks in one trip. If Limestone were open you could ride that instead of some of Santiago Road.
I parked at the Irvine Transit Center. Transit stations are one of the places where overnight parking is legal and most of them are free. By making a train station your starting point other people can take the train to meet you for the ride. On this trip I was on my own, however.
Serrano Creek Trail is surprisingly fun given how suburban it is. The trail follows a creek bed through a developed area. The creek bed has been kept mostly natural. i.e. it has not been paved or lined with rocks much at all. It winds behind neighborhoods and industrial parks with dedicated picnic tables, bridges, tunnels, wooden fences, street crossings, etc. along the way. I remember when the trail was established and how difficult it was to create it. I don’t know if there are plans to extend it, but I hope they do as well as create more trails like it.
I was only a few miles in when I stopped at this Circle K. I did not need anything but I knew this would be the last nearby retail for about 24 hours. So but I stopped to buy some token item, fine tune my load and experience air conditioning. It was already getting pretty hot that day.
Whiting Ranch is very familiar to me, but not in the direction I was taking it. I knew that I would be going the opposite direction of most mountain bikers, and some of that along single track, so I was careful and willing to pull over, which I only had to do once or twice. The park was not very busy on a Friday morning.
Whiting was a taste of the climbing to come for the day. The weight of my bikepacking load made its presence felt more than I had hoped it would. Rather than power through the major climb of Whiting Road, I got off and pushed a few short sections. I did it to pace myself. I had sized up the total elevation gain I had to make that day. That, combined with my load and the heat, was going to make day one pretty tough. The next day would be more miles but less climbing. I wanted to do the ride without pushing myself to the limit the whole way.
I rode the short section of Santiago Canyon Road to Black Star Canyon Road. The gate at Black Star had been updated since I visited last, which was a long time ago, so this may not be anything new. The lower paved section of the road is now part of the Orange County Parks system. This helps extend and protect a wildlife corridor on public lands.
As if to prove the wildlife corridor is working, I was greeted in the first few hundred yards after entering the park by this lone deer.
My ride report will continue in the next installment of my blog!