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Nate Harrison Grade is on the southwest side of Palomar Mountain in the north
end of San Diego County. This is one continuous climb that will certainly test
your climbing strength. It has an average grade of 8% over 11.1 miles with
parts being much steeper. With almost 4700 feet of climbing this is a
great workout ride with the reward of stunning views and a real sense of
accomplishment at the top.
This trail was burned in the 2007 Wildfires so refer to that status page until this page is updated.
Directions: These directions have you parking at the Pauma Valley School about 3/4 mile from the start of Nate Harrison Grade road. This is the closest place to park without setting precariously on the side or the road.
|From the San Diego Area: Take I-15 to the 78 East. Follow the 78
east through Escondido (a bunch of turns) for about 2.8 miles. At Valley
Center Road (there's a Circle-K at the corner) turn left on Valley Center
Road and go 9.4 miles to Cole Grade Road. Make a left onto Cole Grade
Road and go 7.5 miles and pull into the Pauma Valley School on the
left. If you get to the 76 you've missed it, go back 1/2 mile.|
|From places north of Escondido: From I-15 take highway 76 east for 15 miles. Hang a right onto Cole Grade Road and park in the Pauma Valley school parking lot 1/2 mile down the road on the right.|
Here is the Map and Elevation Profile for this ride. Download the TOPO! file here
The Ride: Turn left out of the school, go 1/2 mile to the 76, turn
right along the 76 for about 1/4 mile, turn left onto Nate Harrison Grade. You
will be glad you started at the school as it will give you time to warm
up. The ride starts off at on payment but a little
less than two miles from the school into it turns into a dirt fire road. Other
than one very short piece that's flat near the top it's nothing but a climb the
whole way. The climb is not technical whatsoever as it is hard packed dirt
that's for the most part smooth with a few exceptions where 4WD types have dug some
ruts. This climb is quite grueling from a strength perspective. I
would say if you don't ENJOY the challenge of a good climb then don't put this
ride on your to do list.
The first part of the climb has you passing through colorful orange groves. As you
continue upward you get to watch those groves get smaller and smaller as you climb
through rocky sage type terrain. The views just keep getter better as chug
Around the 4,000 feet elevation mark near the top the flora transitions into
forest filled with large pine and cedar trees that keeps you in a constant
shadow. It was hard to believe that just a mile back down the trail I was
in open mountainside.
At around 9 miles (from the school) the trail turns into narrow payment that is broken in many places. At around 10.5 miles you come to a five point intersection. Take the hairpin turn up to your right up to Boucher Lookout (there is a sign). At 11.1 miles you reach the lookout at 5438 feet. Take in views of the nearly 4700 feet you climbed to get here.
After your fill of the views check your brakes before you head off because the downhill is downright crazy. You will find yourself on the brakes quite a bit on the way down. The bike launches underneath you whenever you let off the brakes and it was easy to coast at over 30mph down the trail. While things for the most part looked smooth on the way up, it was a different story on the way down as there were an abundance of washboards that were quite interesting at a high rate of speed. By the time I got to the payment section at the bottom my hands and thighs were feeling it. Once back on the payment it was brakes off time and the bike blistered along for a while at 43mph. This made for a quick return back to the school.
More pictures of the ride
Note: For a yummy after ride meal continue west on the 76 for 1/4 mile past Cole Grade Road to Jilberto's Taco Shop.