The Santa Ana River Trail is a mixed use trail that intermittently runs most of the length of the Santa Ana River from a trailhead near Heart Bar Campground to the mouth of the river at Huntington Beach. Most of the trail is a paved path following the riverbed, but up in the mountains it is a network of fire roads and singletrack that can be used by hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and occasional motorized vehicles. This segment is a loop that starts at the same trailhead as Morton Peak and ends at a quaint mountain village, Angeles Oaks. The trail starts off in chaparral and transitions to forest around the Thomas Hunting Grounds. Summer is best avoided on this trail as the earlier sections have very little shade and can get quite hot.
The route starts on a service road that is passable by high clearance vehicles and continues past the Thomas Hunting Grounds Yellow Post Campsites but then splits off onto a singletrack trail for the remainder of the hike to Angeles Oaks. Great views of Mill Creek Canyon and Seven Oaks Dam and Redlands/Highland can be had at the beginning of the hike, and later on, Mount Baldy, the Santa Ana River Valley, and Keller Peak and Slide Peak come into view. The trail rejoins the service road immediately before Angeles Oaks, where it merges with Highway 38 next to the post office and the Oaks Restaurant, which is a favored meeting spot and hangout of both road and mountain bikers.
It is a 3,100-foot elevation gain over the course of 11.5 miles to reach Angeles Oaks. The options here are to go back to the trailhead via old Highway 38, which is an unmaintained road that has mostly reverted to a trail, or to go back the way you came or arrange for a car shuttle. If you choose to go back via old Highway 38 (called Mountain Home Creek Road on some maps), you will be treated with an interesting display of nature taking back an unmaintained road and seasonal waterfalls and a creek that usually runs year round. However, doing this loop requires about 1.5 miles along Highway 38 with ample high speed car traffic, which can be unnerving.