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Black Mountain (Rancho Bernardo)

Black Mountain is located where Rancho Bernardo, Poway, and Rancho Peñasquitos, sort of met.   There is another Black Mountain in San Diego County near Ramona.  If that is what you are looking for click here.  It is hard to miss this mountain if you are in the area as it sticks out from the surrounding terrain and it has a ton of antennas on its peak.  I consider the Black Mountain area to be Black Mountain itself and the ridges and hills just to the east of the mountain. There are many options in the Black Mountain area and this place can be a hard nut to crack as it is one of those places where you could either have a good ride or a miserable one based on the route you take.  Most of these trails were originally cut by 4WDs so many are fall line runs versus contour routes.  Combined with the rocky and often times loose terrain, this makes them very exciting going down and often hard to brutal going up.  The routes I suggest below should minimize any hike-a-bike time and maximize your "yee hah" time.  That being said, you are going to get in some climbing out here. This area also has trail access to some of the other trails systems in the area such as the Santa Luz/Lusardi Loop with connections to Los Penasquitos Canyon and Lake Hodges and has been on the Archipelago Ride route since its inception. In recent years the management of this park (along with some fine MTB advocacy) has really gotten onboard with modern trail design and the quality of trails out here has been ever increasing. Some of the old fall-line fireroads are being decommissioned and new singletrack has either been built or has offical plans to be built. I think you can plan on this area continuing to grow as a quality mountain biking place in San Diego.
Black Mountain Photos
Black Mountain as seen from the southern end of the East Ridge (Little Black Mountain) looking northwest.
 
Hazards: Water is available at the Hilltop Community and Black Mountain Ranch parks. Otherwise there is no water out on the trails.
Directions: There are a bunch of trail head options here, These are just the ones I reference in my suggested routes.

Black Mountain Ranch Park - From I-15 from San Diego take the Poway Road Exit. Turn left onto Poway Rd. 0.2 mi. Continue onto Rancho Penasquitos Blvd. 1.0 mi. Continue onto Carmel Mountain Rd. 1.0 mi. Turn right onto Black Mountain Rd. 1.6 mi. Turn right onto Carmel Valley Rd. 0.2 mi. Turn left into Park. Google Maps

Hilltop Community Park: From I-15 take the Poway Road Exit. Turn left onto Poway Rd. 0.2 mi. Continue onto Rancho Penasquitos Blvd. 1.0 mi. Continue onto Carmel Mountain Rd. 1.0 mi. Turn right onto Black Mountain Rd. 0.4 mi. Turn right onto Oviedo St. 0.2 mi. Turn right onto Oviedo Way Destination will be on the right 0.3 mi Google Maps

Miners Ridge Loop Trail head. From I-15 from San Diego take the Poway Road Exit. Turn left onto Poway Rd. 0.2 mi. Continue onto Rancho Penasquitos Blvd. 1.0 mi. Continue onto Carmel Mountain Rd. 1.0 mi. Turn right onto Black Mountain Rd. 1.6 mi. Turn right onto Carmel Valley Rd. 0.5 mi. Turn right at the sign for the Miners Ridge Loop/Black Mountain Park. Take the road/driveway up to the trail head.

Avenida Maria Trail head: From I-15 take the Carmel Mountain Rd. Exit 0.2 mi. Turn left onto Carmel Mountain Rd. 0.3 mi. Turn right at the 2nd cross street onto Penasquitos Dr. 0.9 mi. Turn left onto Avenida Maria. Park at end of street 0.1 mi.

Trail head On Maler Road: From Interstate 15 take the Hwy 56 exit and go west.  Take the Black Mountain Road.  Take Black Mountain to Maler Road.  Turn left onto Maler Road.  Take Maler Road until it ends and park along the street.  You should see a fireroad that crosses the street near the end.  Take the fireroad south

Map

This map is based off this KML file and it includes all of the various trail segments. I have included trails that are proposed to be closed as well as some trails that are outside of the parks boundaries. Trails that have been officially closed by the park are not shown on this map. I'm going to be describing several recommended routes below and that route's GPX file grouped with its description. Here is a TOPO map of the area suitable for printing. Additional Formats for the whole area: GDB, GPX.

Miner's Ridge Loop at Black Mountain Park

 
This route is 2.3 miles with 670 feet of climbing. Download the GPX File: Black Mountain Photos
Black Mountain PhotosBlack Mountain PhotosIf you are pressed for time or just want to get on some singletrack try this out.  Park at the Black Mountain Park trailhead.  From the parking lot follow the signs for the Miner's Ridge Loop.  You will follow a fireroad for a bit and then you will see a sign pointing to the right for the loop.   You are at the "bottom" of the loop.  While t you can do this loop clockwise if you like, the trail signage is clearly steering you to do the loop counterclockwise. I suggest you hang a right here and do the loop counterclockwise.  After following signs and make a right at the loop, you will almost instantly have to navigate a series of tight rock stair step switchbacks which can be quite difficult.   After you get past the switchbacks it is a fairly straight forward climb up to the first break in the climbing at BM-14. There is sign for the Gliderport at this location.  You will also see that the singletrack trail bends to your left and back downhill.  Take the singletrack to the left for a very short respite from the climbing before you are back at it again. At just under 1.1 miles you will top out and start heading downhill on some fun singletrack. At 1.26 miles (BM-22) you will come to the junction of the Nighthawk trail. This trail is one of the most important improvements made to this area over the last decade as it has provided a ridable link to the peak and the east ridge without having to go the long way around. For this route you are going to to continue straight along the Miners Ridge Loop. Beyond this point you have some seriously enjoyable and often techish trail back to the bottom of the loop. There are a few stair step drops near the bottom to keep you excitement level up.
 

The Lilac Miner Peak Loop

 
This route is 9.1 miles with 2,600 feet of climbing. Download the GPXBlack Mountain Photos
Black Mountain PhotosBlack Mountain PhotosThis is probably my Go-To route out here. Starting from Black Mountain Ranch Park Trailhead, ride to the north towards the back of the park and pick up the doubletrack at the end of end of the parking lot. Just past the first metal power line pole on your right pick up the singletrack on your right. This is a nice bit of contouring singletrack that loops around the east and passes under the Carmel Valley Road bridge at 0.75 miles. After going under the bridge turn to your right on the doubletrack. In about 30 yards the doubletrack will bend sharply to the left. You should already see a singletrack coming off the right side of the doubletrack and switchbacking up the side of a small hill. Take the singletrack and keep heading west. This just under a mile section of trail does some very nice contouring over to the Miner's Ridge Loop Trail. Follow the directions for the Miner's Ridge Loop above but when you get to the junction of the Night Hawk Trail at 2.97 miles (BM-22), turn to your right and take the Night Hawk trail. At 3.19 miles (BM-23) you will come out onto a T-junction with a doubletrack. Turn to your right and go up the heinously rocky and steep doubletrack up to the main Black Mountain Access fireroad at 3.26 miles (BM-28). Turn right (uphill) to climb on the main access fire road. The climbing is much more mellow that what you just endured/hiked. At 3.57 miles (BM-16) take note of the rocky trail joining the access road on your left. You will will go down that way later.
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Black Mountain PhotosBlack Mountain PhotosFor now proceed with the climbing until you reach the top of Black Mountain at 3.92 miles. Take in some scenery. After that head back down the mountain and when you get to back to the rocky trail that is now on your right (at BM-16) take it. This trail is rocky and steep in spots. There are several permutations of trail down this way (Some which are slated to close) At the first 3-way split take the middle trail (Its the only one that looks like singletrack). Follow this trail down the mountain and it should bring you out on the main access road at 4.88 miles (You mileage may vary based on which braid you took). Once back on the main access road turn left (uphill) and starting climbing up the access road. At 5.94 miles (BM-28) you are back at where you first came out on the main access road. Turn right and take the now heinously steep and rocky descent. At the bottom of the steep rocky section hang a left back onto the Night Hawk trail and retrace your tracks back to the Miners Ridge Loop trail at 6.23 miles (BM-22). Hang a right here to complete the Miners Ridge Loop as described in the section above. When you get back to the Miners Ridge Loop Trailhead at 7.29 miles pick up the Lilac trail and retrace your way back to the Black Mountain Ranch Park Trailhead at 8.98 miles.
 
Black Mountain Photos
Looking East from the top of Black Mountain
 

The Tour

 
This route is 10.2 miles and has 2,475 feet of climbing. Download the GPXBlack Mountain Photos
The Tour. This route starts at the Black Mountain Ranch Park trailhead as well. Follow the directions for the Lilac Miners Peak Loop described as above, but when you are coming back down from the Black Mountain Peak do not take the downhill described at 4.27 miles (BM-16). Instead continue back downhill on the main access fire road to the steep rocky connector you come up onto the main access road on (At BM-28) and descend that section of trail back down to the Night Hawk trail. Do not turn left back onto the Night Hawk trail (BM-23). Instead continue along the doubletrack (which has now flattened out some) until you get to the junction of the Little Black Loop at 4.78 miles (BM-24). Bear to your left here and take a heinously steep section of trail for about a tenth of a mile to the junction of another trail on your right. (BM-25). Turn right here and proceed downhill at 5.16 miles (BM-18) there is a doubletrack going off to your left and uphill.
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This climb is not heinously steep and rocky like some of the other stuff you have already done. This section is merely a gut-wrenching but technically ridable climb that is only about 750 feet long but it is something close to a 20% grade. After grunting up this climb you will come to the junction of another section of the Little Black Loop at 5.36 miles (BM-20). Bear to your right here and the trail will bend to the south and ride along the top of the east ridge. At 5.90 miles (BM-26) you will see a wooden fence barrier across the trail while another trail goes off to the left (east). This will be the turn around point for this route. The trail that goes off to the east here goes down the ridge to Carmel Mountain Road below. You will be committing to a much bigger ride with some hike-a-biking if you take this trail down (See the "This is Gonna Hurt" route below). For this route retrace your steps back to BM-20, 18, 26 24, 23 and back to the Miners Ridge Loop at BM-22 and 7.35 miles. From there hang a right onto Miners Ridge Loop and complete the Miners Ridge Loop as described in the section above. When you get back to the Miners Ridge Loop Trailhead at 8.42 miles pick up the Lilac trail and retrace your way back to the Black Mountain Park Trailhead at 10.2 miles.
 

This is Gonna Hurt

 
This route is 15.2 miles long with 3,465 feet of climbing. Download the GPXBlack Mountain Photos

Black Mountain PhotosBlack Mountain PhotosGive this one a shot if you are feeling zippy. This route is not completely in the bounds of the Black Mountain Park proper and it includes some pavement interconnect and some hike-a-bike. Starting from the Hilltop Community Park trailhead pickup the trail by the power line tower. It is a steep go right out of the get-go. At around 1/4th of a mile the grade mellows out a little and the trail has split/braid in it. You can take either but don;t make a sharp right downhill. At around 0.4 miles (BM-29) the Sundevil Way trail splits off to your right and downhill. Don't take it as you are destined for more uphill along this route. The trail will shortly dump some elevation off that takes you to the junction with the the Little Black Loop trail at 0.59 miles (BM-30). Turn to your right here and do some steep grunting up to the next trail junction at 0.73 miles (BM-18). Hang a right and grunt some more up onto the ridge line where the climbing flattens out just before you get to another trail junction at 0.92 miles (BM-20). You will make another right here (as in not going up the heinously steep trail to your left).

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Black Mountain PhotosBlack Mountain PhotosThe trail will soon turn to the south follow the top of the ridge line south. At 1.4 miles (BM-26) the trail turns to your left and proceeds down the eastern slope of the east ridge. This is a fun section of trail that does not see a whole of use. Part of the reason is that there is currently no easy way to get up onto the east ridge from the east. All the ways up are heinously steep that for most folks are going to be a hike-a-bikes. The way you are going down is the closest one to rideable going up and you have got to be in pretty damn good shape to pull it off. Over the next .68 miles you are going to shed off 550 feet of elevation with the trail coming out onto the sidewalk of Carmel Mountain Road at 2.1 miles (BM-27). From here you are going to take some streets over to another entry point back into the Black Mountain Park. (This route goes by several other Hike-A-Bike routes back onto the ridge that I'm not describing) When you come out onto Carmel Mountain Road, turn left (North East) and go up to Cuca St. (first left, 2.39 miles) and turn left. Take Cuca St. to Penasquitos Drive (at 3.1 mile) and hang a left. Take Avenida Maria (3.8 mi) and hang left. Go around the gate at the end of the street and climb up the water tank access road. At 4.05 miles (BM-31) look for a single track heading west and heinously uphill. This is the way you are headed so hang a right. You will shortly be hoofing it and you will climb up 330 feet in the next 1,550 feet to get back up onto the east ridge line. The trail levels out once you get up on the ridge line and quickly joins the East Ridge trail at 4.43 miles (BM-24).
 

So why this way? Well I like the trail down from the ridge to Carmel Mountain Road and this hike-a-bike by the water tower seems to be the easiest way to get back up on the ridge. The trail plan for Black Mountain includes construction of new and rerouted trails that will make for more contouring routes on the eastern ridge/Little Black Mountain but as of today it is a seriously up and down affair.

So now that you are are up on the ridge line turn to your right and proceed north. The trail will very soon turn downhill that is 2 parts steep and 1 part rocky. At 4.9 miles the trail turns sharply uphill for a short stretch. At the top of this rise (4.96 miles, BM-7) there is a trail going off to your left. This trail is colloquially known as "Derailleur".  This is a steep, twisty and fun descent down into the valley where you hook up with a dirt road that cuts across the valley 5.52 miles (BM-4). This valley is not part of Black Mountain Park so the future of this route is not fully known. Proceed on the doubletrack west across the valley. At 5.7 mile the trail gets a little steep as it start climbing up the north eastern flank of Black Mountain. At 5.95 miles (BM-3), another trail merges in from your right that comes from Carmel Valley Road. Bear to your left and continue climbing. You are also back in Black Mountain Park proper at this point. At 6.1 miles you will join up with the Miners Ridge Loop Trail. Turn left and do the Miners Ridge Loop as described in the first section. When you get back to this same spot after doing Miners Ridge Loop you will be at 8.06 miles. Now continue northwest to the Miners Ridge Loop trailhead.

 

Black Mountain PhotosBlack Mountain PhotosOn the east side of the trailhead parking lot pick up the Lilac Trail and enjoy and wonderful nearly one mile bit of contouring singletrack that works around the northern flank of the mountain. The trail will come out by the Carmel Valley overpass. Take the trail that goes under the overpass and enjoy half mile long section of contouring singletrack that gently climbs to the Black Mountain Racnh Park athletic fields. You should have 9.9 miles at this point. There is water available here as well. Proceed through the parking lot to Carmel Valley Road. Cross the road and turn right (southwest) along the sidewalk. At 10.1 miles (BM-32) take the fireroad off to your left and follow it south. At 10.3 miles (BM-33) bear left at fork in the fireroad. The fireroad descends and then rises to Maler Road (A cul-de-sac). Turn to your right and look for a trail about 30 yards down the road and take it. The trail will gradually climb and do a switch back to join a paved section of access road that is not so gradual. Continue climbing south at this point. The access road will turn back to dirt once it levels off and will then start gradually descending to join the the main access road at 11 miles (BM-34). Turn left and start climbing on the main access road. This climbing is much easier than the bulk of the climbing you have already done so far averaging about 7-8% grade. The main access road works its way up the south slope. At 12.3 miles (BM-28) take note of the rocky trail/doubletrack going off to your right. You will be going down that later. For now continue climbing all the way to the top at 13 miles. There are some nice views to be had so make sure to take them in.

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From the peak retrace your path back to trail I had you take not of earlier (BM-28). Your mileage should be about 13.6. Take this rocky steep trail down. The trail will flatten out soon and then proceed along the old doubletrack that bends to the south. At 13.8 miles there is a fork in the trail (BM-24). To the left is the Little Black Loop and to the right is the Night Hawk Trail. Stay to the right to take the Night Hawk trail. This is a rocky double track that gets plenty steep in spots. At 14.4 miles (BM-30) the Night Hawk trail bottoms out at the junction with the Little Black Loop. You were at this junction near the beginning of this loop. Now continue south on the Night Hawk trail and climb up for a short distance and the follow the ridgeline downhill back to the Hilltop Community Park Trailhead. You should be right at 15 miles. Considering that will have also climbed 3,455 feet you have certainly earned a tasty beverage and burrito after this route.

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Final Thoughts

 
Black Mountain Blog PostsThis area has some great stewards and advocates working with the land mangers. The park has been continually seeing progress by way of new and improved trails. While some places you hear of mythical plans that never seem to come to fruition, out here at Black Mountain, things are happening a quicker pace that elsewhere in the county. Quicker does not neccesarily mean fast, but actual legal trail goodness is happening. The Lilac Canyon trail is a great example of this. So if you see a trail closed sign out here there is a pretty good chance it has been well thought out and something better is already on the ground or is in the works. So please respect those signs.