Trail review: Calavera Preserve [North]

Location

Oceanside, California

Trail head coordinates: N33.17320 W117.28253
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced
Trail Type: Single track, out-and-back
Length: Low trail – 5.5 miles. High trail – ~3 miles.

Download GPS Map datum.

Description

Calavera Preserve is a little known multi-use area (namely hikers, birdwatchers, and mountain bikers) encompassed by southern California suburban sprawl. The two main routes are low and high and are both out-and-back.

The low trail parallels Calavera Lake northeast, between encroaching brush over rocky single track, down sandy washouts, into putrid marshland and through dense woods. The low trail is everything you could want in a five mile run with plenty of technical sections and tight turns to hone your handling skills. Although not a trail known for it’s volunteer work force or trail upkeep, there has been extensive work done in the marsh low lands in providing solid, wooden crossings over areas of standing water. Once past the marshes, the low trail meanders through the woods, past a city park access trail and to the turnaround point. The low trail can be accomplished, enjoyably, in 30-40 minutes.

The high trail traces the low route northeast to CPN-10, then turns sharply southwest (right) and continues up Mount Calavera to an old rock quarry. From there it’s relatively flat for a few hundred yards and then the real climbing begins. Try staying in the saddle without putting a foot down all the way to the summit, but watch out for the washed out initial climb and rocky, cactus bordered trails. The view from the top is a 360 degree panoramic and an orienting eyes-on of the trail head to the north and the low trail to the northeast with all it’s spurs. Take a break, drink some water, enjoy the view, and prepare for a killer downhill!

The good

Calavera Preserve can be as easy or hard, or as long or short, a ride as you make it. There are no indigenous predators (so pack that beef jerky you like so much). Cellular reception is top notch in case of emergencies, or just to call to your buddy who’s still at work to rub it in. Mount Calavera is an easily identifiable landmark which makes orientation and navigation a snap. It’s rarely used and other mountain bikers are few and far between. There’s a rope swing! There a lot of little hops and jumps along the route (especially at the trail head, where gangs of BMXers have been known to congregate for tricks). It’s 30 minutes from damn near everywhere south of L.A. And the best thing? It’s only 4.4 miles from Hooters, where cold beer, chicken wings, and hot bodies await!

The bad

Sometimes the trail gets congested with scrub brush and vegetation during the rainy season (Nov-Feb). You’ll get beat up in the face, so wear eye protection. Being surrounded by suburbia can be a bit depressing.

The bottom line

Calavera Preserve is an outstanding area for recreational-to-serious mountain biking. Beginners can accomplish the low trail with some difficulty and discomfort, but are highly discouraged from riding the high trail. The descent is just too hairy for riders who have yet to master brake modulation and choosing smooth lines.

This trail has become my primary go-to when I’m running short on time or daylight and want to get in a respectable ride. It combines some of the best elements of single track riding in southern California, all in a compact area that doesn’t take a two hour road trip to get to.

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2 Responses to “Trail review: Calavera Preserve [North]”

  1. shirley says:

    hey Jayme…good to hear of your comings and goings and “hooter” loyalty…I am at Angela and Jeff’s she is pregnant with Hruby 2 and feeling a little wilted, so I get to play with baby AVALILI who is such a trip…she talks up a storm,,we think it’s mandarin chinese…and is the total outdoor adventure baby,we are out in Her “ride” that is what she calls it, her first radio flyer russ and I got her last year and I swear there are 10,000 miles on it, cold doesn’t matter,rain doesn’t matter, snow..BRING IT ON -she is just 21 months old going on 18..and most days I actually feel my age…I am very happy to hear that you are still stateside,I will watch for more…love s

  2. Robert W says:

    Jayme, I remember you taking me out on this trail and I nearly killed myself! Good times however but you seemed to be the only one who didn’t bite it at all that day. I hope everything is well, I haven’t had the opportunity to chat with you in a while. Shoot me an email once in a while! So when are you getting the second rocker you semi crusty bastard?

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The author.Born in the year of the Dragon, the author grudgingly accepts the fact he has too many interests and not enough time. A cyclist as long as he can remember, an avid yet inconsistent writer since age eleven, and a U.S. Marine since age twenty-one, the author also adds peak bagging, diving, snowboarding, and computers to his list of interests. Incidentally, he is aware of his inability to make a living from any but the Corps. The author accepts this as fact and remains optimistic. Feel free to drop him a line.

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