Noble Canyon is considered to be one of the world's greatest singletrack adventures and an IMBA Epic ride. Technically difficult with narrow single track, gnarly rocks and tight switchbacks, this ride takes you through the Laguna mountains in the southern section of the Cleveland National Forest. You start out in alpine meadows and oak trees that transitions into typical Southern California chaparral and finally into arid desert climate. During the winter, the higher elevations can be totally snowed in. In the spring and fall, be prepared for climatic diversity from snow to 100 degree desert heat an hour later. Avoid the summer months.
Noble Canyon Trail is considered an advanced ride. This ride will be fun for intermediate riders, but expect to be doing some walking. For a beautiful alpine and meadow ride for beginners and intermediate riders, check out the Laguna Meadow area to the east.
For the XC rider who loves technical challenges, we suggest riding a 17.3 mile loop from the lower trail head. There are many bail-out spots to shorten the route. Full ride description. You can shuttle it from the upper trailhead at Penny Pines parking lot on Sunrise Highway. Remember to display your Adventure Pass on your vehicle when parking on National Forest lands. This is a very popular trail, so be aware of other trail users. Use a bear bell. Report any trail issues to our SDMBA liaison, Mark.
Noble Canyon Trail Highlights:
Starting from the Pine Valley trailhead, go 3.5 miles up the paved Deer Valley Road,
and take a break at the only shade tree for a long time to come. We're
happy the 2003 Cedar Fire didn't destroy this oasis. Head straight down the dirt
road and look for the sign for the Indian Creek Trail, which heads uphill off to your right. Two miles of challenging climbing gets
you to a four-way intersection, called Champagne Pass, and great views. To the right is a look out and
worth a quick spin if you're up to it. Left takes you to Sunrise
Highway via the Pine Mountain Trail. Indian Creek Trail continues straight. At the bottom, you turn upward for an easy
spin up to the Noble Canyon Trail. The only water is to the left up Noble Canyon
Trail to the Penny Pines parking lot area, where the faucet is usually (but not always!) running. There is a hiking trail on
the east side of Penny Pines parking lot that takes you 200 yards to an
overlook of the Anza-Borrego Desert. Make sure you have plenty of water
before you start down Noble Canyon Trail.
The upper portion of Noble Canyon offers
some smooth rolling single track and a short climb before the
descending starts. You will cross Pine Creek Road a couple of times as
you head down Noble Canyon Trail to the Indian Creek Trail junction. This
area burned in the 2003 Cedar Fire, but it is recovering well.
After descending for some time along the fast smooth
stuff, you will come to a horse gate. From here on the terrain changes
dramatically, with tight switchbacks and the vegetation begins to change from shady
forest canopy to open chaparral, and the trail get rockier and more technical. The first creek crossing is also where you have to negotiate the first
really technical rocky outcropping, "The Widow Maker." After this, you break out from the forest into open chaparral, where you encounter a long descent packed with drops and loose rocks
that requires good bike handling skills, called "Barney Rubble." Momentum can be
your friend here. Before long you leave the chaparral and find
yourself in desert scrub. The trail is very narrow with significant exposure, making the penalty
for failure to control you bike quite high. One of these sections is
known as "Stairway to Hell" where there is no "line" per se, just a jagged rocky trail bed with plenty of places to grab your front wheel. Again, momentum is your friend.
If 14 miles of heart-throbbing riding is
enough for you, turn right at a T-intersection to get back to Deer Valley Road and an easy roll
back to your car. For more fun, turn left for "Extra Credit." A fairly smooth climb tops out at a ridgeline and becomes a
boulder garden descent. Here is were the truly skilled mountain bikers
are challenged. Immediately after this section, you're back at the Pine Valley trailhead parking lot, and you're done.
Full Ride Description