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 would love to 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.
Last weekend, I took a freind of mine (Jim) out to the Cuyamaca Mountains to show him around. The weather was overcast around rhe county and as we headed up into the mountains it started to get a little foggy. At the trailhead we were pretty much socked in.
We started up the west side single track. After crossing over highway 79 we came upon some wild turkeys which are plentiful in this area. We made our way north along the Green Valley fire road until we got to the bottom of Soapstone Grade.
From there we continued north on the Upper Green Valley single track and climbed our way up to the junction with La Cima track right by Sunrise highway. During this climb the clouds/fog cleared up as we got up above it. Things were pretty beautiful at this point and the La Cima trail over to the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) was a great as ever.
While riding along the CRHT it was pretty cool to look over towards Lake Cuyamaca and see all of the clouds to the west being pressed again the mountains. It was like the mountains were playing giant linebackers protecting our pocket of sunshine.
We connected up to the Cold Springs trails for some super fun descending down to the south. Down near the bottom we once again rode back down into the clouds.
Today I went out for a quick spin in the Cuyamaca Mountains which rarely falls into the “This Sucks!” category.
I started from the East Mesa parking lot and took the East Mesa singletrack up to the visitor center where I connected to the Green Valley fire road. I took this up to the Green Valley single track and work my way to the La Cima trail.
The La Cima trail took me to the California Riding and Hiking trail, which I took south where I hooked up with the Stonewall fireroad and then over to the Cold Springs trail.
At the bottom of the Cold Springs trail I crossed HWY 79 and hooked up with the West Side singletrack and took it south back to the East Mesa staging area. It was definitely a fun day on the bike!
The San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) has a Call to Action Alert regarding the California Department of Fencing Fishing and Wildlife’s (CDFW) continued mismanagement of the Calavera Highlands Reserve (aka Calavera Lake). CDFW officials have been “aggressively” engaging with trails users
While Calavera is a sizable area with a large network of user-built trails that is a good place to get in riding with a descent outdoor experience it is definitely a shit show of redundant trails. No doubt about it, these are unofficial and illegal trails that the CDFW are wanking about. There is also no doubt about it that the CDFW does not manage this area. If this organization was doing its job, they would have been losing their mind a long time ago. Arbitrarily locking out the public from public lands by putting up fencing and signs and then walking away is not management.
From the periods in which I have interacted with CDFW, I have come to believe they think the land they acquire is “their” land and they are entitled to all of the protections and benefits that private property owners have. The primary benefit being they get to solely decide who may come on their property and who may not. It does not matter what their regulations state, the public knows that the land is public. The public will never accept Calavera Highlands Ecological Reserver as a pristine ecological reserve worthy of locking out the public. All one has to do is stand atop Calavera Hill and look around. The public is not staying out.
The CDFW track record in San Diego county seems to indicate that they do not possess the skillsets to properly manage lands that have an existing recreational baseline that includes people. Personally I think they depend on academic, non-profits and “friends of …” groups that do the bulk of the monitoring and management for them. The primary reason Crestridge Ecological Reserve allows mountain biking is because the Earth Discovery Institute is the de-facto land manager who recognized the benefit of responsible human-powered recreation . If the Earth Discovery Institute had not pushed so hard for the unique change for this reserve it would not have happened.
Despite the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) being on the San County Regional Trail Plan it is pretty much unattainable as a viable regional trail as long as the CDFW is involved with any of the land along the route. Numerous sections of the this trail in San Diego county go through lands mismanaged by CDFW and at pretty much everyone of those, the trail has fences and off-limits signs.
The county is most likely going to end up speeding hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a new section of trail for the Coast to Crest Trail near Boden Canyon because the CDFW are not going to allow an easement along a 0.2 mile section of an existing old dirt road!
There are many other examples of the CDFW’s culture of “its my land not yours” mismanagement style throughout the county. Humans are part of the fauna of the San Diego ecosystems. Until the CDFW develops the skillsets and polices to effectively deal with the outdoor experience needs of this species the organization will continue suffer from a lack of land management creditability with the pubic. Until that changes the pubic will continue to give the CDFWs signs and fences a big double middle-fingered salute.
This past weekend, I got out into the Cuyamaca Mountains. Main this place has some nice scenery and trails. We started from the San Diego River staging area just off of HWY-79 and took the west side single track up to the visitor center and then took the Green Valley fire road to the Upper Green Valley single track for a climb up to the La Cima trail by Sunrise Highway. We then looped over to the California Riding and Hiking Trail. From there we took Soapstone Fireroad over to Cold Springs trail and then loopback on the west side trail. We were a bit past the greenest time of the year but there were still plenty of blooming flora. Good Stuff!
Steve and Rodney climbing the Upper Green Valley Singletrack
The board members of the Pacific Crest Trail Association were seen out and about in Green Valley.
Plenty of water to cross on the west side trail.
The Cold Springs Trail
Bloom along the entire hillside
Rodney on California Riding and Hiking Trail. This is one of my favorite sections of this trail in the county.
Steve working his way up to the “Oak Trees”.
Lake Cuyamaca has both a upper and lower dam to help keep the “normal” water contained in the south end. You can see the upper dam as the thin line of land in the middle of the picture. There is water in the entire upper valley which is just incredible.
I believe Steve is trying to convey that this trail is the #1/Ichiban Trail 🙂
I am overdue for an update to my Cuyamaca Mountains page. I think I am going to split it up into two different pages to cover several of the routes you can take out here better.
I have an ongoing project of personally surveying the California Riding and Hiking Trail throughout San Diego County. I have a page up on my site with an interactive map of San Diego’s counties’ GIS data on where the trail is/supposed to be. I have been adding my notes on the actual placement and status of the various trail sections. You have to point and click to see much of the pop-up data, comments and some pictures. Its pretty much my online notes. Last month after doing a ride out in the Cuyamaca Mountains I took the long way home that included some of the further out bit sections I had not looked at yet. The first stop was to drive up to Julian and down Banner grade road to pick up the Chariot Canyon truck trail and then over to Rodriguez Canyon. This is part of the Oriflamme Canyon loop route that I describe on my site.
What I was looking for was the CRHT north of the Rodriguez Canyon truck trail. I found it but is was not where the county GIS data said it was. It was actually about a 1/10th of a mile west. It appears that at some point in the past the trail was rerouted to avoid going through private just to the east the current actual trail. The trail has seen little use but it well defined single track. Once it rejoins the original track it looks to be an old fire road from my visual from across the ridge.
The section of the CRHT just north of Rodriguez Canyon Truck Trail.
Next I made my way back to Banner and then down into San Felipe Valley to scout where the trail crosses Banner Grade Road. This area is part of the San Felipe Valley Wildlife Area managed by the CA Department of Fencing Fish and Wildlife. This wildlife area encompasses around 17,800 acres. The CDFW has established that the only appropriate recreation activity out here is wildlife viewing by foot traffic only, shooting the heads of quail and killing deer. Evidently there is no room for equestrians or mountain biking to enjoy the historic CRHT that passes through this area.
I was able to find the trail south of Banner Grade Road but it is getting a hard to follow. The CRHT crosses Banner Grade road and proceeds across the valley on one of the dirt ranch roads. I did find a wood CRHT makers just north of the Banner grade road and just south of the ranch road. (Its at CRHT-142A if you are following along with my CRHT page.)
I then drove down to Scissor’s Crossing and went up San Felipe Road (County Road S2) to pickup the CRHT where it intersects this road. I did find a post that should be a CRHT marker based on its location but the top of the post had been cut off so there was no distinctive yellow painted “cap” on the post. This side of the property had a CDFW Wildlife area “No Trespassing” signage. So even if you wanted to enjoy the CRHT as a hiker you would have a perplexing problem of you could enter from the south but somewhere along your northward journey you would be trespassing. Along the north side of San Felipe Road, I quickly found CRHT marker posts paralleling the road.
These posts were typically about 30-50 feet north of the road. There had been a wildfire through here some time ago and I was having a tough time picking up and following the trail. This section is also part of the San Felipe Wildlife area with the same foot traffic only or no trespassing access management scheme. After about a couple of miles of heading northwest along the road I was unable to find any more posts.
A few more mile up the road I started seeing the newer style CRHT markers right of the side of the road and those continued at quite regularly until where the CRHT turn away from San Felipe Road (This is at CRHT-161A on my map) and heads up an old dirt road. I believe this trail starts off as an easement through a bit of private property as it is well signed and easy to follow. I did not proceed much further up the trail from there. I will have to assess those bits further north at some other time. The next significant road crossing is supposed to be near the junction San Felipe Road and Montezuma Valley road (County Road S22). On a previous outing I had looked for the trail in this area but came up empty. I came up all blanks this time as well from the truck. Next time I’ll be out with the bike and explore in from the south were I know the trail exists. I have done the trail north of the road junction before out through Warner Springs so that was it for this recon outing.
While I still have some miles left to look at in the county and I have not crunched the numbers yet, there is a convergence of threats for this trail developing. It looks like the number one threat for public access and preservation of the CRHT in San Diego County is the California State public land management agencies. Let that ruminate in your melon for a while!
This past Saturday I went out to the Cuyamaca mountains to check out the new(ish)ly rerouted Cold Springs Trail. I started out at the Sweetwater trailhead/parking lot and took the West Side singletrack up to the connector to the Park Vistor Center. From there I turned from usual route and took the Cold Stream Trail north.
The trail was pretty featureless but pretty through here until it got to a big oak tree on the edge of the meadow right at the junction with the singletrack connector trail over to the Green Valley Fireroad.
The meadow must be the typical “tour” turn around point from the visitor center as the Cold Stream trail immediately became must more narrow and interesting beyond that point.
I had not been on this section of the Cold Stream trail before and I have to say this was a nice bit of trail.
While stopping to check out this little spot.
I had some locals come through. There was somewhere between two and four of them. It was hard to tell with them zipping in and out.
Shortly after this spot I went by several junction. The first was the connector over to the West Mesa parking area and the second was the junction of the Cold Stream Trail and the Cold Springs Trail. The Cold Stream trail north of her was marked “No Bikes” but the route for today was the Cold Springs trail. Pictured above is some the trail goodness along the Cold Springs trail.
The original Cold Springs Trail was 1.2 miles, not open to bikes and was a pretty heinous hike. The new trail is 2.25 miles long and connects with much further up the Stonewall Creek fire road than its predecessor. This is a most excellent replacement/reroute of the old trail. I climbed the last bit of Stonewall Creek fire road and the at the junction with Soapstone Grade fire road I hung a right (east). Just before I would have to drop down the grade into Green Valley I hung a left (north) onto the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
That Oak tree in the middle of the picture on he meadow ridgeline was my destination for the day.
I refer to this group of trees as “The Napping Oaks” because you take a break here, you may find yourself doing just that.
A wider view of today’s turn around spot.
While kicking back here I heard some thunder and looking over my shoulder I see that some storm clouds had developed or moved in just on the other side of the ridgeline. Rain was not on agenda today so I thought it was pretty cool to have a little bit of weather with me on the ride. No rain ever materialized but it was not long before got rolling again. I pretty much retraced my path back the way I came all the way to the West Mesa parking lot connector where I crossed the road and picked up the West Side trail and took it south back to the Sweetwater parking lot. I was a great day to be out enjoying some trails. I spent the rest of the day doing some recon work with the truck for some of the beleaguered and neglected sections of the CRHT out in this area of the county. But that is another story…
This past weekend Nichol and I rode a modified version of the Cuyamaca Grand Loop. It is very much looking like spring up in the Cuyamaca Mountains with lots of greenery, blooming plants and wildflowers.
We started off from the East Mesa staging and rode the singletrack up to the park headquarters and then took the Green Valley Fireroad north. Instead of climing Soapstone grade. We took the Upper Green Valley singletrack north and climbed out of Cuyamaca State Park and into the Anza Borrego Desert State Park to the La Cima trail.
You are certainly not in the desert at this point but the cool thing about the topology here is that in less that four miles the Cuyamaca Mountains drop nearly 3,000 feet into the desert proper. We topped out on the La Cima trail at about 4,880 feet.
We rode the La Cima trail west to the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) where we the turned south. This section of the CRHT is really sweet with some great views of the grassland of the Lake Cuyamaca Basin area. This section of the CRHT is about 2.5 miles long and about halfway through this section you leave Anza Borrego State Park and cross back into Cuyamaca State Park. The trail connects back up with Soapstone Grade fireroad at the top of the grade and we continued along the Grand Loop rout to the east. In years past the state park had the California Riding and Hiking Trail closed to bikes in virtually all sections that were singletrack. They have sense changed there mindset (Thanks to some tireless advocacy work by SDMBA!) and many more sections of the CRHT are now open in the park. Instead of taking the pavement from Soapstone Grade Road out to Hwy 79 (I think the pavement is called Stonewall Creek Road??), We took the CRHT singletrack.
The CRHT uses sections of the Minshall, Los Vaqueros and Vern Whitaker trails. These are some nice sections of singletrack. They do undulate a handful of times that is going to add your day’s effort but I put the cardio costs well worth it to enjoy these trails. The CRHT comes out less than 50 yards south of the where the pavement meets up with Hwy 79. There is also a junction with the northern end of the Cold Stream Trail. The original plan was to turn right and continue along the Grand Loop route and do Milk Ranch Road and maybe a climb up Middle Peak. Considering how cool the last section of the CRHT was and the open to bike signs for the next section across the highway, we opted to continue along the CRHT.
We immediately noticed that next section saw far less travel that across the highway. Most of the users are obviously following the road to the north or the Cold Stream trail to the south. I dig riding on trails that are sometimes defined by matted down grass. There was also some rocky technical bits that added some nice character to the trail. At the Azalea Glen trail junction the CRHT become make off-limits to bikes. This was disappointing and turn west to ride the Azalea Glenn Loop trail which is open to bikes. This lead us to the Paseo Picaho Campground. We wanted to get up on the Azalea Fire Road and Fern Flat Fire Road to close off the Grand Loop but we now had to cover quite of elevation over a shorter distance. A grunting we would up Lookout Road.
Once we made it up to Fern Flat fire road we turn south and enjoy some mighty long stretches of downhill cruising that took us back down to the West Side single track near the start of the ride. All together it was 22.1 miles with 3,190 feet of climbing so we definitely earned the post-ride beers and BBQ and Alpine Beer Company.
Nichol and I went back up to Cuyamaca State Park this past weekend for another ride. We started at the staging area by the San Diego River and went up the west-side connector trail to the Visitor Center
From there we took the Green Valley fire road up through the valley to the bottom of Soapstone Grade.
Instead of making the left hander and going up Soapstone Grade fire road which is part of the Cuyamaca Grand Loop, we continued straight onto the Upper Green Valley Trail and climbed up to the La Cima trail that roughly parallels Sunrise Highway. This section of trail was fairly rocky which extracts some additional energy out of you beyond what the grade would tell. As you near the top of the trail you leave Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and enter the Anza Borrego State Park.
We then took the La Cima trail west and enjoyed some sweet flowing mostly downhill singletrack for a couple of miles.
When then turned south onto the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT). This a is really nice section of singletrack that offers some great views of Lake Cuyamaca and the surrounding grasslands.
For the first half of this section you are doing some mild climbing before the trail transitions into mild descending with good flow.
Just before the CRHT joins up with Soapstone Grade fire road at top of that fire road’s steep climb you leave the Anza Borrego State Park and reenter Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. From here we turned east on Soapstone Grade fireroad for about a mile of flat land cruising.
We then took the Stonewall Creek fireroad south from here which shed off elevation fairly quickly back down into Green Valley. There are both some rocky and sandy sections on this fire road that if not handled well, can lead to an unplanned dismount at speed which could be hard to stick the landing. Stonewall Creek fireroad connected back to the Green Valley fireroad where we retraced our route back to the truck. This was a little over a 17-mile lollipop shaped route that had a little over 1,800 feet of climbing involved. This was Nichol’s longest and hardest ride to date that offered some new technical challenges for her. To celebrate a ride well done that did not include any blood letting we sampled some of the offerings from Nickel Beer Company in Julian before chasing down some Mexican food. It was a good day to be on a mountain bike.