“An out-and-back, semi-technical, scenic ride that takes you to the historic Old Camp.
— Rick Gerardi
Santiago Truck Trail
is more known as the route to The Luge
, which is a relatively short, but well-known, great loop. A lesser known but equally great ride is to take Santiago Truck Trail
beyond The Luge
to an oak-shaded destination, known as Old Camp.
The ride to Old Camp will, at times, push a rider's endurance limits and test their technical skills. The ride pays off in the form of miles of technical singletrack-like riding, amazing scenic views, and miles of long, sweeping, fast downhill blasting. Not to mention the cool, shaded destination that is perfect for resting up and having some lunch, before turning around and heading back.
Watch for potential closures following heavy rains or fires.
Need to Know
Parking is limited, and it is best to park down along Santiago Canyon Rd right near the turn onto Modjeska Grade Road.
Also, bring plenty of water and food, as this ride is more strenuous than the numbers might lead you to believe.
Park along Santiago Canyon Rd, and ride up a short, but steep, paved road called Modjeska Grade Road. At the top, at roughly 0.5 miles, you'll find the pipe gate that leads you to Santiago Truck Trail
- you can't miss it, on the right.
Head up Santiago Truck Trail
and prepare yourself for some steady climbing. While this trail has "Truck" in the name, it is really more a mix of double and singletrack, thanks to years of vehicle closure and not being maintained as a fire road.
Roughly 4 miles into the ride, you'll come to a semi-technical downhill section that is a mix of large rocks, ruts, and loose smaller rocks (pretty much a common theme in the ride from this point on). At the end of this relatively short downhill section is where the locally-famous American flag sits, which marks The Luge
trailhead. At this point, keep left to continue on Santiago Truck Trail
Continue for another few miles through some fairly steep climbs and rocky sections, and you'll come to a sharp steep switchback turn that bends left and climbs its way, curving right. Stop at the top of this section (just before the trail turns hard right), let your 180+ bpm settle and look west to take in the view of Orange County and the flag you once passed, which now seems far away.
Continue for a few more miles, and you'll see a fire road on the right. This is Joplin Truck Trail
. Keep straight (left) and continue on Santiago Truck Trail
(note, some maps identify this remaining section to be a continuation of Joplin Truck Trail
, not Santiago Truck Trail
You've now come to the most challenging section of the ride, as the trail works its way through steep, loose, rocky sections that will force a rider to sprint out of the saddle multiple times to avoid putting a foot down or stopping. You'll hit your max heart rate many times from this point until you drop down into Old Camp, which seems much farther than it actually is.
Once you feel like you've had enough of steep, loose technical climbing, you'll pop out onto an open area, marked by a steep fire break heading up on the right. The final descent into Old Camp is a trail that is to the left of the fire break.
Enjoy the cool shade of Old Camp before climbing back out, and blasting down those amazing sections that you once battled to climb up - it's reward time!
An optional add to this ride would be to take The Luge
down, on your way back when you get to the flag point, on the left.
History & Background
Old Camp is a known location, deep in the Santa Ana mountains, named for its history as a centuries-old Indian hunting camp.