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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.