There's a lot of good riding in the West, but if you haven't done BLT to Noble Canyon
, then you've missed one of the premier rides in the country.
BLT stands for Big Laguna Trails. The area is a network of singletrack trails in the Cleveland National Forest. It's a unique alpine setting within an hour drive of San Diego, not something you'd expect to find near the coast of California.
The BLT system connects with Noble Canyon
, a trail that is actually three rides in one; a descent through alpine meadows, then through oak forests, to the dry desert.
The BLT to Noble Canyon
ride starts from Red Tail Roost (Laguna Mountain Volunteer Center). From here, ride Red Tail Roost to the left when you exit the parking area. Pedal up an easy climb before a big downhill stretch. The initial part of the descent is open with big swooping turns before dropping into the pines. If you like technical challenges there are a few sections of log features to test your skills.
The Red Tail Roost section dumps out onto a dirt road. Turn left here and bear left again going up Agua Dulce Creek. The road will climb gradually and eventually funnel into a singletrack. Keep climbing a bit more before a short descent to cross Agua Dulce Creek before pedaling uphill to an intersection.
Continue on the singletrack ahead to access the Gatos section of the BLT, a trail that's been rerouted and improved. It's a fun section that climbs and contours through the pines. Stay right at one intersection along the way.
Gatos spills out onto the edge of Big Laguna Meadow. From here, stay left and skirt the outer edge to the west. Stay right at the next intersection to continue through the meadow.
At the following intersection, go left through the gate. This is the Water of the Woods section and a little extra credit singletrack as you work your way around to Big Laguna Lake. There's a short climb followed by a quick descent before circumnavigating a small lake. From here, the trail continues through an open area with a few clusters of big boulders strewn throughout. The trail then bends around to the left towards the south end of the Big Laguna Lake.
Crossing the dam of the lake is a bit lumpy and bumpy but provides a great view of this beautiful alpine setting. Keep your eyes to the right side of the lake and the lower hillside on the north side of the valley ahead - that's where you are going.
Turn left to access the singletrack that skirts the meadow and pines along the east side of Big Laguna Lake. You'll be pedaling uphill to the north towards Noble Canyon
At the top of the meadow you'll come to an intersection. Stay right on the Noble Canyon Connector
(left will take you directly there) to access the trail in its entirety from the Penny Pines Trailhead.
The connector is a short section through mostly open meadow and a few clusters of oaks. Grab a snack and a break here before starting one of the most exciting descents you've ever ridden.
starts out fairly smooth with a slight climb. With the technical challenges kept to a minimum, it's possible to enjoy the long views across the mountains.
You'll cross Pine Creek Road a couple of times along with the intersection to Indian Creek
. This intersection is important when riding the Cuyamaca to Noble Canyon - IMBA Epic
The smooth and fast descent continues until you reach a horse gate. The route becomes much more technical here as it enters the canyon and transitions from forest to chaparral. The trail texture changes to blocky rocks and drops. If you can handle it, speed and momentum is helpful through this kind of terrain.
When the terrain and vegetation changes again from chaparral to desert, the trail narrows and becomes more exposed above the canyon floor. The route is mostly descending with a few short climbs and includes two highly regarded rocky, technical sections: Stairway to Hell and Roman Road.
Towards the bottom of Noble Canyon
, the trail will come to an intersection. Turn left here to take a longer route back to the Lower Noble Canyon
Trailhead (Pine Creek Picnic Area). This section is smooth with a gradual climb and descent.