Today, I decided to take a drive down Silverado Canyon and hike up the Motorway. The Motorway is considered one of the better downhill mountain bike trails in SoCal. Those of us that cycle these mountains also consider MW a breath of fresh legs after climbing our way to the top from either Maple Springs or Blackstar Canyon. To get to the top of MW from either, you’re looking at roughly 4,000 feet of ascent. I’ve ridden down MW too many times to count but have never hiked up it to the very top. I snapped a bunch of photos with my iPhone so you could get a good idea of the terrain should you want to get out there yourself.
Although finding the trail is very easy, the trail itself is not. Not because its technical, though there are quite a few loose rocks that will send you sliding if you’re not careful, because its all up, all the way. There is no break for 3.5 miles from the start. That’s why mountain bikers love descending it! Getting there is a fun, twisty drive through Silverado Canyon. The speed limit is 25 and they enforce it. Not the police, the homeowners. The drive is littered with SLOW DOWN and USE CAUTION signs everywhere. So, take your time getting to the parking area.
An easy way to google directions is to lookup the Maple Springs Visitor Center. It’s rarely open, but its a good spot on a map. In the 18 years or so that I’ve been coming back into this area I have only seen the center open maybe four times. I’m pretty sure its run by volunteers but you’d think it would be open more often than that!
There are only 6 parking spots available at the gate and they all require an Adventure Pass. Be sure to pick one up at the local store you pass along that way or any of your local sporting good stores should have day and year passes ($5/$30).
In order to get to the Motorway, you need to get through the Maple Springs gate. The gate is closed during storms and rainy days and open when its nice and dry. When the gate is open you can park along side the trail anywhere you want, also with an Adventure Pass (using common sense). Maple Springs is another great trail that leads all the way up to Santiago Peak (Saddleback).
The first 3 miles of Maple Springs is paved and honestly, sucks. Fortunately, today you only need to be on the pavement for 508 feet.
508 feet ahead you will come to a parking area and the trailhead for Motorway. On weekends, this area is packed with hikers and cyclists. Get here early if you want a spot!
Though I’ve never seen one, horses are allowed on Motorway. I honestly hope I never do while descending on my mountain bike. That could be dangerous as speed!
You really can’t get lost, but just in case look for the yellow railing. Scoot around the right side and up you go.
Your climbing begins right away and as mentioned before, it continues the entire way up. Your effort is rewarded with some amazing views of the Santa Ana Mountains. On a clear day you can spot Mt. Baldy, Big Bear and Santiago Peak from the top of MW. Not today though it was rather overcast and I thought it would rain on me coming back down.
Looking across at the Main Divide you can see how the range slowly makes it way over to the peak.
I probably should have gotten down close to the ground to snap this photo so my following point is better understood. Much of this trail is loaded with packed and loose rock that would be easy enough to roll an ankle on without proper footwear. I’d recommend a nice set of hiking boots with ankle support if you plan to hike MW. A set of hiking poles wouldn’t hurt either. They are great for stability, keeping brush back and even acting as a self defense weapon should you come across any predators.
Most of the trail is in great shape right now. The recent rains have the dirt nice and packed down. There are a few sections you need to pay attention to like this one. Not hard to walk around but the edges can be very loose and there is a lot of exposure along the way.
Around 1.5 miles up the trail continues to get more loose. The rock gardens are more frequent and I found myself using my poles a lot.
Looking back as I continue up, up and up.
Almost to the top around mile 2.2 is the rock form garden. Every time I make it up here there seems to be another statue. One or two of these were made by me over the years but today I decided to keep moving.
Looking back yet again waiting for that glorious descent back down.
I really need to bring a better camera with me. Shame on me! If you look at the center of this photo you can see all of the switchbacks.
Just before hitting the top, the dirt turns bright orange and levels out giving your legs a break.
The Y that you see ahead marks the top of Motorway! If you head right it will take you across the Main Divide towards Four Corners and on to the peak. If you head left you can hike over to either Blackstar Canyon on the Orange County side or Skyline on the Corona side. I ran into a guy riding moto at the top. He was coming from his home in Riverside and decided to detour up the mountain for some fun. I really need a dual-sport moto one of these days!
After a quick snack break I made my way back down MW. Yes, I said down. This small hill is the only climbing you will need to do on your return trip.
I don’t know what these bushes are but the colors always get me. Love it.
From this spot I can usually make out Catalina Island. I knew the views wouldn’t be glorious today but the trail didn’t disappoint. A nice overcast day is actually the best day on MW. When its hot, this trail will bake you. There is no canopy/shade at all. Keep that in mind depending on when you head up.
I brought along my little Joby GorillaPod GripTight iPhone Tripod (link) so I could grab a quick shot of me hiking. I love seeing the gear that people use on the trail so I thought I should show it off as well. So let’s see what gear did I have with me today.
- Patagonia Live Simply Cap (link)
- Black Diamond Z-Pole Trekking Poles (link)
- Nike Element Half-Zip Running Top (link)
- Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid Hiking Boots (link)
- Dakine Drafter Pack (link) (mine is an older model)
- Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS Watch (link)
- Swiftwick Socks (link)
- Kuhl Liberator Stealth Pants (link)
I realized somewhere around 5.5 miles when I stopped for a snack, I accidentally turned my GPS off and forgot to turn it back on for about a mile. So, I added the mile back in but you can see the error on the map noted by a random straight line on the way down. The stats should still be accurate.
As you can see it took me around 2 hours to complete the entire route. I would say more like 2:20 because of the GPS error. Most websites put this trail in the 3-3.5 hour range. It can easily be done in 2 hours if you’re pushing and training for bigger mountains. My time is including stops for photos and I wouldn’t say I was pushing hard on the way up just didn’t stop much at all. If I was with a group this would definitely be closer to the 3 hour mark. I had a great time on the trail today and I highly suggest you checkout Motorway for yourself before it gets too hot. Below are some info/notes on MW.
Notes / Suggestions
- Best time to go: Fall, Winter, Spring, avoid the Summer its too hot!
- Wear long pants! There is a lot of brush on this trail during Fall and Spring and your legs will take a beating.
- Always tell someone where you are going! We have mountain lions and rattlesnakes in our hills!
- Suggestion: Boots with ankle support and hiking poles. Do yourself a favor and make both a part of your hiking kit today.
- Bring a light jacket as the weather changed 15 degrees from top to bottom on me today.
The easiest way to tell you how to get there is by visiting the Maple Springs Visitor Center website (http://maplespringsvisitorcenter.webs.com). It has all of the necessary information you will need to get you there including the address and map. The actual address is 31330 Silverado Canyon Road, Silverado, CA 92676. You can download the handy dandy Visitor Guide by clicking here.