Just 10 miles off the main I-15 artery between San Diego and Los Angeles lies a mountain bike oasis complete with a maze of hard-packed trails, beautiful desert views, and a mile-long climb that has bikers yelling expletives.
Even more rare: the network of trails at Vail Lake are all on private lands. So go ride, be good land stewards, and you may just cross paths with a mountain bike pro. First-time riders need to stop at the resort office to sign a waiver.
The main 10.2-mile loop runs counter-clockwise and climbs north along the Dam Road and above crystalline Vail Lake. The trail swings west and hits the Dam(n) climb, a one-mile, 800-foot ascent that can turn untrained legs into squashed grapes. Once on top, pause for long views over Vail Lake and wine country. Next, zoom down and then climb again through a stretch of baby head rocks and rollers near Oak Mountain. The next five miles turns out fun downhills and quick, anaerobic climbs through sagebrush country. Earmark about 90 minutes to ride the main intermediate loop or add-on miles by combining other loops.
Racers: Vail Lake hosts several races through the year. Learn more at www.12hrsoftemecula.com and www.racersandchasers.com.
Bike Shop: Cyco-Path Bike Shop, 29760 Rancho California Rd., Suite 107, Temecula, CA 92591; (951) 695-4823; cycopath.com
TO TRAILHEAD: Take I-15 (south from LA; north from San Diego) to CA 79 South. Drive about 10 miles east on CA 79 to Vail Lake Resort parking lot on left.