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San Juan Trail

HARD 74 reviews
#24 of 160 trails in

San Juan Trail is a 19.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near San Juan Capistrano, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 19.4 miles Elevation Gain: 3,638 feet Route Type: Loop

dog friendly




horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

bike touring

bird watching




wild flowers


Directions from Hot Springs, CA: The lower trailhead is in Hot Spring Canyon 3/4 mile past the San Juan Fire Station. The upper trailhead is at Blue Jay Campground 2 miles north of the Ortega Highway on Long Canyon Road.

5 days ago

Has it’s challenges. Many blocked spot by fallen trees. Overall very nice.

mountain biking
over grown
13 days ago

Recent storms (December 2019) have knocked down dozens of trees in the first 1/3 of this route. I HIGHLY recommend starting from Hot Springs road and taking the trail to the fork and turning back to do the downhill. This trail is great, but is in dire need of maintenance in some parts. If it were well maintained, I would rate it 5 stars, but having to haul my bike over dozens of trees put a damper on the ride.

Great route to Sugar loaf (small peak) instead of the gnarly route from the other direction. Today there was a lot of downed trees maybe from the recent snow but that may have kept the normal mountain bikers away. Not a very populated trail with lots of side trails so make sure you know your way!

2 months ago

11 months ago

mountain biking
Sun Jan 20 2019

This is a an awesome trail!!! Period!!! This is an adventure every time I get on this trail. Fun never stops, and the challenges change with every outing...

Sun Jul 08 2018

This trail is awesome! I hiked it going down from Blue Jay Campground, and stayed on the northern sections which tended to be more shaded. The path is very easy to see and navigate by foot, and I could see a ton of mountain bike tracks in the more rutted areas. I made it all the way down to the hard turn in the clearings south of the Mary Thomas bridge before I turned around and headed back up since it was approaching sunset. I will say that it is much harder to go back up than come down, but not impossible. No climbing necessary. This was my first time ever on this trail, and had never heard of it before camping at Blue Jay, but now I want to go back and do the whole thing! One thing I will critique though, is that the intersections in the trail are not very well marked. There are some white spray paint markings with arrows along the trail and at the intersection, but they're not in a very easy to understand format. So have your wits about you and make cairns or leave non-permanent markers to show you which way you came if you're doing a shuttle/in-n-out run.

Mon Apr 23 2018

Did the first section including the little loop, around 4 miles total. Beautiful - lots of nice views, interesting plants. Trail is well-worn and easy to follow - note the white double-sided arrows on the ground to keep following the trail when coming to an offshoot, most of which lead to a campground. TONS of lizards, lots of mountain bikers as well, but all friendly. Great time!

Sat Nov 04 2017

Hiked out of Blue Jay campground.

cross country skiing
Tue Apr 12 2016


Mon Apr 11 2016

Initial ascent from Upper Hot Springs Road to Sugarloaf Peak, last part was a hidden bush scramble to the top but well worth it (even in the pouring rain).

mountain biking
Thu Apr 07 2016

shuttled it and started at the top. first five miles is two-thirds uphill, and treacherous at times. Overall not recommended for beginners but superfun all around. mostly all downhill after Cocktail Rock, five mile point. Only 7 miles down to the parking area at the Lazy W Ranch. 12 miles total.

mountain biking
Sat Apr 02 2016

The upper part above cocktail rock is super fun forest riding, below cocktail rock the trail is worn heavily, grooved due to heavy use with lots of switch backs.

Mon Feb 22 2016

Beautiful view at Cocktail Rock ❤️

Sun Oct 18 2015

Now I know why there weren't any recent checkins:(. This trail, while it has beautiful views and is a great workout with switchbacks, is primarily used for bikes. They were nice and no issues, but the condition of the trail is so deteriorated by the bikes that it is a chore to get up and down safely. It was like you were hiking a downward sloping river bed at times with a 6 inch wide trail that just sucked in your feet. We had fun and made it to the Cocktail Rocks, but my ankles and tendons are burning and touchy today. Just be careful, bring bug spray, sunscreen and plenty of water.

Sat Oct 10 2015

Love this trail , specially after a rain . So peaceful.

Fri Jan 24 2014

Really great trail, but...the Mtn Bikers and water have created some serious erosion on the trail. It is like walking in a V-shaped gully for much of it. It is all uphill...until you decide to turn around and come down...then its all downhill...need a good set of poles to help navigate the gullies.Beautiful vistas. Loved the hike. Start early and watch out for Mtn Bikers.

Wed Dec 04 2013

Moderately tough hike on the way up but nothing too crazy. It will take you a couple hours a decent pace. Much easier on the way back down. I did spot fresh mountain lion tracks so just watch and listen for your surroundings. They are scared of people so just make lots of noise and make yourself look big if you spot one. Amazing views that are extremely worth it. Would recommend going on a rainy day for an amazing rainbow view from the top.

mountain biking
Sun Sep 29 2013

This is the first trail I've ridden while being in Socal. I took my downhill bike here, not sure what to expect. I came in late afternoon around 4 and climbed/pushed for about an hour and got to about 7 miles before I started noticing the sun was about to hide behind the mountains so I had to start my ride back down. Lots of awesome scenery, a few scary washouts, and more switchbacks than I can remember. Absolutely love this trail. Next time I'm bringing my hardtail in the morning and getting all the way to the top. A few relentless technical sections and ruts the whole way down. Definitely going back

mountain biking
Tue Jun 11 2013

Great ride honestly it's my favorite all around trail. hard going up, amazing coming down. Would recommend full face/goggles because brush flows onto trail and you get smacked a lot. I'm an avid rider. ALMOST a DH trail. Still would be great with DH if you cheat and drive to the top.

mountain biking
Thu Jun 30 2011

great trail. one of the best bike routes in the area. it is a difficult ride so beginners beware. steep climb with a great downhill for your reward.

Wed Apr 27 2011

Great uphill hike if you start on the OC side. Primarily used by mountain bikers it is still a great hike with spectacular views! The bikers share the trail and are very helpful with trail conditions and weather updates from the top of the trail. My 7 year old daughter made it up although I would not recommend it for kids under 12.

2 days ago

24 days ago

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