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.