Big Laguna Meadows / Noble Canyon
The Big Laguna/Noble Canyon ride combines excellent mountain meadow riding with a world class downhill run for one of the best variety rides in the world.
Mountain Biking Difficult
- 34 km
- 655 m
- 1.2 km
- 2-3 hrs
- Low Point
- 1.1 km
- High Point
- 1.8 km
The Laguna Mountains above San Diego, California are home to a marvelous diversity of terrain and ecosystems, and this ride takes advantage of the concentration of trail diversity available there. This ride is really two rides in one, both being of top quality for the type of experience they offer. The first part is world class cross country cruising through gorgeous alpine meadows, and then it connects to part two, the all-out mad bomber of a descent down a rugged canyon.
The first part is all beginner friendly, and for those not wanting to risk life and limb dive bombing the technical canyon, it’s easy to loop back to the beginning and have a superb little outing in the woods on mostly uncrowded, excellent singletrack.
For those who want to cut to the chase, it’s possible to take a more direct route from the start to the canyon, thus minimizing cross country time before hitting the downhill. For those wanting to earn their turns or unable to arrange a shuttle, it’s a fairly straightforward climb up a combination of parallel singletrack and Pine Creek road to get to the start of the Noble Canyon downhill.
In addition to the diversity here in terms of the style of riding offered, the route as presented offers an impressive variety of environments. The start in the Laguna Meadows area is classic mountain pine forest, but with extra big pine trees and occasional pine cones on the ground almost the size of footballs. At the center of the meadow you'll spot a beautiful mountain lake circumnavigated by singletrack, and offering some pleasant picnic spots.
Upon departing the meadows and hitting the Noble Canyon Trail, the smooth dirt gives way to some jumbled rock, before then plummeting into a sometimes lush, riparian canyon. The canyon walls are steep and rise sharply on the south side of the creek, keeping out most of the sun’s hot, drying rays, making for a good environment for a variety of deciduous trees and bushes.
As you get close to the bottom of the canyon, things open up. You’ve lost both elevation and the mountain cover, and the surrounding area converts rather quickly to desert, with inhospitable cactus displacing the leafy trees and bushes of the canyon.
The top is a pleasant meander and the bottom, a rather rugged emergence with a last kick-in-the-gut climb to get back to the lower trailhead. But it’s the middle, the Noble Canyon proper, that is the real highlight of the ride. This section of trasil is fast, sometimes flowy and sometimes demanding, and has a couple of real highlights for the technical rider: the “Stairway to Hell,” and extended rock garden on a continuously steep grade, and “Widowmaker,” a shorter, but more intense bit o’ gnar that now has a less challenging reroute around it, so you have to look for it. There are also plenty of optional air opportunities along the way.
In the end, the Big Laguna/Noble Canyon area offers something for everyone, and everything for some. The options are many, and they are all excellent. No matter what type of rider you are, you’re going to love at least half—if not all—of this ride, and it’s easily customizable to your particular liking.
Mostly stable trail tread with some variability featuring larger and more unavoidable obstacles that may include, but not be limited to: bigger stones, roots, steps, and narrow curves. Compared to lower intermediate, technical difficulty is more advanced and grades of slopes are steeper. Ideal for upper intermediate riders.
Best time to visit
- In the forest
- Rock Rolls
- Rock Gardens