Down and Dirty at Vail Lake

Vail Lake is a mecca for athletes and adventure types who want to “play dirty.” Former host to famous mud runs like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, this Southern California reservoir boasts miles of trails that provide plenty of bare earth for runners, hikers and mountain bikers.

For runners, the trails offer a perfect change of pace from city sidewalks or a treadmill at the gym. The packed dirt provides cushion for your feet, resulting in less impact on ankles and knees. The carved out trails around the scenic lake keep you motivated and challenged.

For a challenge on wheels, downhill skills come in handy on trails such as Tunnel of Love and Victory Switch, two of the more popular mountain bike trails at Vail Lake. These singletrack trails are featured in races such as National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) High School League and SoCal Enduro. There is wider fire road that is a good choice for beginning riders, providing a nice view of the lake from the top. There is no shade along any of the routes and the lake is not accessible for cooling off, so an early morning ride is recommended.

For those who want to take it a little slower, many of the trails make for good hikes with clear vistas of the lake and Temescal Valley. Dogs are welcome, provided they are on a leash.

With 8,000 acres of trails, scenery and nature, Vail Lake in the Santa Margarita River watershed provides a variety of opportunities to enjoy a day in the dirt.

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