Cuyamaca Area CRHT

A couple of weekends ago I did a combination of hiking and biking in the Descanso and Cuyamaca area doing a bit more of my ongoing project to assess all of the California Riding and Hiking Trail segments in the county.  I have updated the interactive map on my page to reflect some of the details.

(Disclaimer: I’m going to ramble in this post and make some references you may have to follow along with on my site and other linked documents. This post is just as much notes for my own use later as it is something to share.)

A good portion of the CRHT has been lost to road construction over the years in the Descanso area. The trail still exists leaving Descanso to the north and all the way up through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Unfortunately a large majority of it is off limits to bikes due to a state wilderness designation in 1982.

The State Wilderness designation inside the boundary of the State Park is an unnecessary designation as all of the preservation goals could have been achieved using other existing State Park systems administrative tools. It is my opinion that for many decades now there has been a cadre of politicians out there that view the number of acres of wilderness they gain every year as a feather in their hat.    So while the designation of this existing state park land in 1982 increased those wilderness acreage numbers, it did not protect any additional land.   It was already protected from development.   What did it do?   Well it banned cyclist access to an existing multi-use trail that was established in the 1940s.

CRHT south of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

At the north end of Descanso Trail Road, the CRHT is once again a trail. It is a single track and mostly climbs for about 2 miles to Cuyamaca State Park and the southern boundary of one of its segments of wilderness. There is no other legal access for cyclists beyond that point. This section south of the state park is a bit over grown in spots and the tread could use some TLC n spots. The CRHT continues north as singletrack and is better maintained by the state park. After maybe 1.5 miles the CRHT comes out onto South Boundary fireroad. South Boundary fireroad is not in designated wilderness. The CRHT follows South Boundary fireroad north to the junction of Arroyo Seco Fireroad which is cherry stemmed out of the wilderness. At the end of the Arroyo Seco Fireroad the CRHT continues northward as the Fox trail which is singletrack.

The the Fox trail ascends steeply in spots to the junction of the West Mesa trail and finally the Fir trail which ends at the Fern Flat fireroad and the northern boundary of the West Mesa wilderness. This is a superb section of the backcountry in the park with incredible views both to the west and east.

Northern end of the Fir Trail (CRHT)

When the Fir trail (aka CRHT) reaches Fern Flat fireroad the CRHT turns north as the fireroad until it veers off to the east as the Azalea Glen trail. This trail is not in the wilderness but it still off limits to bike. The trail is often quite steep and would be pretty technical in many spots in the upper half. Near the bottom of the eastern flank of Cuyamaca peak the CRHT (single track at this point) splits off to the north from the Azalea Glen trail and is once again open to bikes (and named CRHT). After some meandering it then crosses HWY79 and proceeds around the west and north flanks of Stonewall Peak.

The CRHT (Fox Trail) in the West Mesa section of Wilderness

However when it get to the junction of the Los Caballos trail it becomes off-limits to bikes. Just a few years ago this section of the CRHT was open to bikes northward all the way to the Soapstone Grade fireroad. Where the CRHT joins Soapstone Grade Road it once again become open to bikes. This was the northern apex of assessment on these latest outings.

While I don’t know the whole story, I looked up the latest approved general plan for the state park and have some theories that I hope to get some clarifications on with some other people. The 2015 approved park general plan called for the expansion of several cultural and natural preserves inside the boundary of the park. It looks like the expansion of those preserves brought with it the loss of cyclist access to the CRHT in those expanded areas.

CRHT just west of HWY79

Also in the general plan were some wilderness boundary adjustment that should have opened up the Blue Ribbon trail to cyclist in the southern area of the park, but as of last weekend, the no bikes and wilderness signs are still up. It would have been really nice if the CRHT would have been cherry stemmed out of the Wilderness to restore cyclist access to this historic route that predates even the Pacific Crest Trail. This really falls into the category of bitching at this point since I did not participate in the public comment period when the revised general plan was being worked.

While I have not done my due diligence at this point to find out the whys, it looks quite a bit like the park is a bit slow to implement the portions of the approved plan that would benefit cyclists. One thing is for certain the classic Cuyamaca “Grand Loop” will never seem as grand after seeing what the loop could be if cyclists were allowed to ride the CRHT as it was intended.

Remastered Freeman Creek video

The Freeman Creek trail located in the Giant Sequoia National Monument is a pretty unique trail that drops you down through the Freeman Grove of Giant Sequoia Redwoods.   The size of these ancients of the woods will skew your perspective of big in regards to living things.   This grove is the largest grove in wilderness condition (having never been logged) outside of the Sequoia National Park further to the north.

Here are some more of my ramblings on this trail

While the Bear Creek and Camp Nelson trails see more MTB action, this is a trail that is worth checking out if have the time. (At least based the last time I rode it)

I LIKE big trees and I can not lie!

Shortly after this video was shot in 2006, the trail was severely sanitized by a trail crew using a bull-dozer.   The trail eventually eroded back into something akin to single-track.   In 2020, a wildfire went through the grove.  Some of my friends that live in the area have not been back on the trails since the fires but the area was hit pretty hard.   Wildfires are part of the lifecycle of the Giant Sequoia’s so I suspect they survived. 

At 6:18 you can really see how these trees are adept at surviving wildfires.    It is worth noting that the rider (JD) is about 6’4″ to give some perspective on the size of that trunk.

At 7:14 there is a scene of me riding on a fallen log.  The other rider on the trunk is 6′ tall.  Take note of the perspective when I start to ride back and he is standing on the trunk part and I’m about to start rolling from the base/root part.

From 8:00 until the end of the video, we are actually riding a short section of the Summit Trail (FS 31E14) on our way back to the Quaken Aspens campground where we were staying.

While the Bear Creek and Camp Nelson trails see more MTB action, this is a trail that is worth checking out if have the time. (At least based the last time I rode it)

Back in the Saddle!

This has been a pretty awesome week. Sunday I did my first MTB ride since my heart valve replacement surgery in November. The big litmus test was having enough upper body strength to lift the bike up onto my over the bed truck rack on my truck. I had also been doing some tooling around on the bike on the street and curbs and not being jostled so it was time to give the sternum (along with its titanium wire reinforcements) some mild strength tests.

Orosco Ridge and Pamo Valley
Lower Santa Ysabel Truck Trail Area

The climb up onto the ridge was good and it was so nice to be doing some huffing and puffing on a real bike out in the sunshine. I also checked out the Lower San Ysabel truck trail. All of which was in good shape. My sternum felt pretty good but there was mild discomfort over some of the chatterish stuff. None of the discomfort rose to the level of a sneeze! All together about I did 15 miles and change with about 1,400 feet of climbing.

South side of Lake Hodges

Wednesday, I went out to South Lake Hodges. Well I actually parked on the North Side and took the bridge over. My tenure at riding this place predates the bridge so I still refer to them as two separate places. But I did the typical Southside stuff and then made my way over to the Highland Valley trail. At this point it was pretty obvious that most of my workouts have been no longer than 60 minutes so I took bit of a break. After that I was back at it and the Highland Valley trail was a fun as I remembered it. I decided to do a touch of road connection and made my way over to Raptor Ridge. I was pretty tired after climbing Raptor Ridge and I was going to close out day with a return back via Mule Hill.

The bottom of Raptor Ridge. I ran out of gears shortly after those rocks 🙂

I was almost back to the kiosk area of Mule Hill when I was stopped by an SDGE crew who had the trail closed for some pipeline work. There was no detour so I had to backtrack about 2 miles to get back onto Highland Valley road to get then work my way back around. The trail should have been close at the last trail junction where people could divert around. While this was inconvenience for my tired legs. There was a hiker who got turned around that was really bummed. I did make them aware of this and hopefully they apply some common sense on where they close at for the remainder of their workdays.

All together I got in about 25miles and 1,200 feet of climbing. It was more than I had planned and I was well whooped. It is so good to be back on the dirt and certainly better to be on the dirt than in the dirt!

More Black Mountain

Time to get in some more Black Mountain.   I continue to be impressed with the improvements that been made and the progress on the trails out here.

The Black Widow trail going down the west slope of the mountain continues to see love from the trail crews.

Word is there are future plans for access to the East Rim from the east side as well. That would be pretty awesome as all of the current access point are both social trails and brutally steep hike-a-bikes.   I’m so excited about this place is coming along from standpoint of how advocacy groups and willing community governments can actually make things happen.

Return to Black Mountain (RB)

It has been quiet some time since I have been over to the east side of Black Mountain in Rancho Bernardo.    Man I have been missing out.    There has been some really good contouring single tracks built on “Little Black Mountain” that are replacing the stupidly steep old jeep routes that were previously most of your options out there.

The great thing is these are fully above board legal trails.     The local community and the San Diego Mountain Biking Association working  with the City of San Diego have a good thing going out there.

The route I have been kinda digging as of late has me starting from the Black Mountain Open Space Park and head south along west base of the mountain to connect to the main fire road climb where I head up to the peak.   After the peak  I drop down the Black Widow Trail.    I climb back up the main fire road where I then cut over to Little Black Mountain and ride the loops out and then connection up to the Nighhawk trail to Miner Ridge Loop.   From there I do the eastern half of that loop to Lilac and then to the Ahwee that takes me back to the park.   Here is a link to that route.  The end of the Ahwee is cut off due to my GPS watch running out of juice so your distance should be slightly longer.  (I need to update my website page on this trail system)

 

CRHT – Beauty Mountain Wilderness

The last couple of weekends I have spent some time riding and a little bit hiking around the northern part of San Diego County and into Riverside County. I was able to get out on the final northern section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) in San Diego County.

The California Riding and Hiking Trail splitting through the Beauty Mountain Wilderness

The CRHT is not in the wilderness through here but does split it right down the middle

Here is a traditional style CRHT marker. This is along Cooper Cienega Truck Trail

New style CRHT marker

I did not expect to find a pond along the route but it was a really cool surprise.

Hmmmmm, going to have to take another look at this at some point.

This section of the CRHT is part of the Stagecoach 400 bikepacking route

This section of CRHT could use a bit more traffic.

The CRHT a little south of HWY 74 and just east of HWY 371.

One thing that has become obvious during my roaming along the CRHT and research.  When the Pacific Crest Trail was first established  in 1968 it “commandeered” quite a few sections of the then existing CHRT in San Diego County and the Anza area in Riverside County.  In at least two locations I have found the traditional style CRHT markers along the Pacific Crest Trail.   In the years following the establishment of the PCT the desired PCT routes were created/rerouted off the original CRHT, leaving the CRHT to wither away or left unprotected from future development/protection.  The impact of this was not readily apparent until many years later when in 1988, the USFS dubiously banned mountain bikes from the PCT without proper public input.

Early morning hike along the PCT

Pulling back to a larger scale, from the area just east of Cuyamaca Lake to at least Paradise Valley (Highway 74/371) area the California Riding and Hiking Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail typically parallel one another to varying degrees.   San Diego County has the concept of restoring the CRHT as part of its master trails plan but I see the PCT being nearby as a deterrent to getting this historic mountain bike accessible back country trail restored.  I see the PCT sucking the bureaucratic willpower away from the CRHT effort.   I am very supportive of the Sharing the PCT movement as well was the removal of the blanket bike ban in Wilderness being spearhead by the Sustainable Trails Coalition.   You should take a look at what those efforts are trying to accomplish.    If both the Sharing the PCT and San Diego County CRHT restoration efforts were to come to fruition the  routes/loops that could be done with both of these trails would be absolutely amazing.     We can all dream!

CRHT Snooping

This weekend I did some more recon on the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) between Warner Springs and Chihuahua Valley Road. The area pretty much qualifies as the North Back 40 of the county. I have updated my GPS files and interactive map on my site. If I mention a mileage marker or waypoint here, it is referring to that map.

I started this ride at the CRHT and PCT access point near the top of the paved section of Lost Valley Road (CRHT-193A). I have done this section before where you climb along the remnant of old old Lost Valley Road before the Pacific Crest Trail joins in from the south.

Some of the PCTA minions playing games with the CRHT signage.

At this junction some of the minions of the PCTA have messed with the CRHT signs to try and cover them up and in typical PCTA fashion put up no-bike stickers. The CRHT is open to bikes and just because the PCT is using the CRHT doesn’t mean they get to kick bikes off of it.

Climbing along the CHRT which also happens to be the PCT. (Near CRHT-196)

After about 9/10ths of a mile the CRHT (at CRHT 196A) continues north and downhill as the PCT turns to the northeast and uphill. Beyond this point was new CRHT to me.

The CRHT just north of the split off from the PCT.

The CRHT which is still the remnant of the orginal Lost Valley Road was pretty raw beyond this point. Initally there was a fair amount of elevation shed off (200 feet in about .4 miles)

Near the bottom of the initial descent.

After crossing over a stream bed the trail, you will have some punchy climbing bits for the next half half mile. The trail much more trail than old road now. Through this one mile section the trail will leave Cleveland National Forest, cut through a corner of BLM land and into private property.

Typical/Orginal CRHT trail posts/signs.

This private property has an honored easement through it.

The trail comes out to a junction with a farm/ranch road. The CRHT contines north along this ranch road which sees very little usage. The trail gradually losses elevation through here and get a little washy/loose in a spot or two as it descends down to an area called Johnson Canyon on some maps. The ranch road makes a sharp right hand turn in this area (CRHT-199A).

The actual CRHT through Johnson Canyon

The actual trail turns off the road to the west here and is a narrow singletrack. The trail is following a creekbed which is loose and a bit bear up from the horse usage. Between CRHT-199A and CRHT-200A there is good bit sand to slog.

The ranch road looking east at CRHT-199A

A better option if you are not interested in dealing with some sand slogging is to stay on the ranch road when it turns east. It will soon cross the creekbed and turn back to the west. The actual CRHT will rejoin the ranch road at CRHT-200A which bypass just under half a mile of the mostly sand slog.

Less than a quarter of a mile further up the ranch road from where the CRHT rejoins the road you come to a diversion off of the CRHT at CRHT-201.

Shortly before CRHT-201 and the diversion route. Note the traditional CRHT sign post under the tree.

At this point the property owner just north of this point is not honoring the CRHT easement. I do not know the story and legal bits regarding this specific property but the owner had some signs that said “California Hiking and Horse Trail” to divert people around his property.

Considering that this is not the CRHT the property owner who made this signs could call it whatever he wants. Clearly the owner is also anti-bike since he left out the “Riding” part.

The diversion around his property is a dirt road.  I know the the original route is also a dirt road so I’m not so sure there is a net loss here.

This is the north end of this diversion. The CRHT is supposed to be that dirt road on the other side of this gate to the south.

At CRHT 201A, the diversion rejoins the original route.  The property owners has a gate up at this point.

Further up the road (CRHT-202) there is more fencing off to the west preventing access the original trail.  Based on seeing the same type of faux CRHT signs, this seems to be the same property owner.  You have to continue north on the dirt road where it will turns to the west for a short ways until the north and becomes paved.

In 2014, this corner was the staging area for Bucksnort Mountain Trails. There were proper CRHT signs are up here back then. Since then the property owner has put up fencing and removed the proper CRHT signs. New signs stating “California Hiking and Horse Trail” have been erected with arrows showing the diversion of the trail around the property.

After this I made my way north.   The CRHT is alongside the pavement through here.   The CRHT turns off the west alongside Chilhuahua Road.  I turned off to the east on the dirt Lost Valley road.   I did some some 12-15 miles of exploring out this area and made my way back to CRHT trail head where I started from.  It was a perfect type of day to be out on a bike.

Laguna Mountains Trailfest

I had a really nice time up in the Laguna Mountains this past weekend.    The San Diego Mountain Biking Association was putting on the 2nd Annual Laguana Trailfest.    It was a Friday-Sunday event that included lots of organized rides, demo, food, music clinics and much more.   You know, A Festival!   The event was being held and the El Prado group tent camping sites and I wanted to have the comforts of our traveler trail.   So I went up on Wednesday and got spot in the adjacent Meadow Loop campsites.

Casa Del Bill and Nichol for the weekend

With the campsite acquired and setup it was time for a late afternoon spin through the area.  I had a good time and I used up all of the day.

Big Laguna Meadow. Hmmmmm I’m thinking Arbys

I might have gone a hike as well

Trail Goodness!

I caught this guy eyeballing up the compressor line!

I ended up spending the night up in the trailer and headed off to work the next morning and was back on Friday for a weekend of festival.

Bacon cooked in a cast iron skillet over a campfire. Yummo!

Trailfest was an exceptionally well put on event and I had a great time.  I’m already looking forward to it again next year.  One thing I did not manage to do was take any pictures.  Instead take a look at the SDMBA Photo Album of Trail fest.

On the way to Red Tail Roost

I ran into Bengt with whom I worked with for a period of time in Bahrain.  We did the bulk of the Poker Ride together.  Here is his video that as well as some bonus footage of the upper section of Noble Canyon.

On the way to Redtail Roost

I got the campsite through Sunday night so we I would not feel rushed to get out of there on Sunday, so as the festival wound down I went out for another loop that included a climb up to Red Tail Roost down to and then up Aqua Dulce, a run down Gatos and a loop around the meadow with a diversion up to the kiosk.

After a post-ride refreshment it was time to pack up and move on out.   It was a nice weekend to be out on a bike!

Black Mountain – RB

My day job was been rather pesky by infringing on my Saturday so I only had to time to squeak in a short ride.   I had not been out to Black Mountain in Rancho Bernardino.    In had been at three years and change since I last rode here.

Looking west from Black Mountain

I knew some development was in the works in the area but I was a little surprised at how much at been developed since I was last our there.    I will definitely need to update  my page on this area as there home where some trails used to be.       The good news is the open space park is under good stewardship and the San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) have a good relationship with the management of this area.   Some new trails are in the works and in progress.

Miners Ridge Loop

I did a counter-clockwise loop from the baseball fields along the service roads to the summit, night hawk, miners ridge and the lilac trail.    All of it was in pretty good shape.    I am going to make a more concerted effort to update things with the latest on this area.   More to follow on that.

La Costa

This was my kind of way to spend a Monday morning. Taking a spin around at La Costa.

The trail system is bit beat up with braking bumps and braids around obstacles which there is a plethora of rant material to work with on this subject, the biggest one is there is just not enough good legal singletrack in coastal North County. There is good legal singletrack here so it is highly popular and ends up taking a beating.