Chariot Mountain is ringed by three trails. On the south is Mason Valley Truck Trail through Oriflamme Canyon. On the west is California Riding and Hiking Trail through Chariot Canyon and to the east is Rodriguez Spur Truck Trail through Rodriguez Canyon. The area is between Highway 78 in Banner and County S2 at the bottom of the grade from Box Canyon.
The roads are generally easier in the north. The north entrance is across the road from the store and RV park in Banner. Full descriptions of the roads (below) start from the south entrance.
The south entrance is Mason Valley Truck Trail at the bottom of the grade from Box Canyon on S2. The sign at the turn-off says “Oriflamme Canyon”. About 0.25 mile from S2 a wash intersects the road that is drivable to the north (right). About 100 feet after that a road signed “Oriflamme Canyon” also intersects the road. The paths merge about 1,000 feet up the wash. The wash takes you around Daley Ranch to meet Mason Valley Truck Trail again. If you do not turn you will encounter a locked gate in another 500 feet. At about 2 miles from S2 the road branches. To the left Mason Valley Truck Trail continues through Oriflamme Canyon. To the right is Rodreguez Spur Truck Trail.
Mason Valley Truck trail is a moderate trail, passable for 4WD SUVs but not a “family fun run”. At about 5.5 miles it branches off to the left. It continues on to Highway 79 north of Cuyamaca Reservoir. However, it has been “temporarily” closed since 2003 at Highway 79. Going straight at the branch the road becomes California Riding and Hiking trail and continues to Highway 78. Toward Highway 78 the road eventually gets much easier, suitable for 2WS SUVs to the end. (This is the same route as in the article about Oriflamme Canyon.)
Rodriguez Spur Truck Trail is a moderate to difficult truck road with two difficult rock gardens. You can bypass the rock gardens but the bypass for the second rock garden will require a vehicle with low range. As you approach where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the road, it becomes suitable for 4WD SUVs. About 2/3 of a mile north of the PCT a cattle fence blocks the road. You can move fence aside. Be sure to replace it after you pass. The road meets California Riding and Hiking Trail about 1.25 miles from Highway 78.
About 1/10 mile from Highway 78 you will encounter an formidable gate that appears to be locked with a formidable chain and locks. However, the chain is only held with an “S” hook. Be sure to close the gate and replace the chain after you pass.
The google map link starts you from S2 and takes you up the trail. You can make this run a loop back to S2 or continue on to Chariot Canyon and back to Banner Grade.
Address12285-12437 Great Southern Overland Stage Route
Julian, CA 92036