Biking Cuyamaca Rancho
This is a 7.3-mile loop with 5.2 miles of out-and-back spurs to Stonewall Mine. The difficulty of the ride varies along its course. The first few miles are on an excellent two-wheel-drive dirt road that is suitable for beginning cyclists. The ride continues onto Soapstone Grade Road, which contains steep sections as well as areas of rock and sand. The spur out to Stonewall Mine is in good condition and the riding is quite easy. The descent on Stonewall Creek Fire Road requires good bike handling ability; the trail is sandy and rock strewn in places.
The cycling is cool for the first 3.5 miles as you travel through a shady forest of large California black oaks, live oaks, and ponderosa pines. As the trail climbs further, you'll ride through chaparral, sage, yucca, and cacti. The descent along Stonewall Creek Fire Road is lined with riparian vegetationsycamore, alder, cottonwood, and willow.
The historical site of Stonewall Mine has a sealed-off mine shaft, miners' cabin exhibit, and interpretive signs. In its glory days of the late 1800s the mine supported more than 500 people in the boomtown of Cuyamaca City.
General location: The trail begins at the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Headquarters, approximately 40 miles east of San Diego.
Elevation change: The ride starts at 4,200' at Upper Green Valley Road and joins Soapstone Grade Road at 4,400'. It then ascends to Stonewall Creek Fire Road at 4,800'. The spur to Stonewall Mine rolls along gently and adds about 100' of climbing to the ride. Total elevation gain: 700'.
Season: Quiet roads and good weather can be found here in the spring and fall.
Services: Water is available at the park headquarters and at Stonewall Mine. You may obtain all services at Lake Cuyamaca, just north of the park on CA 79.
Hazards: The descent on Stonewall Creek Fire Road crosses streambeds containing large loose rocks. You will also encounter some sandy sections of trail.
Rescue index: Help is available near the trailhead at the park headquarters.
Land status: State park.
Maps: A map can be purchased at the headquarters. It is a good guide to trails and fire roads in the park.
Finding the trail: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is located on CA 79, about 10 miles south of Julian. From San Diego, take I-8 east to the exit for CA 79. Follow CA 79 north for approximately 11 miles to the park headquarters on the right (east) side of the highway. Turn off the highway onto the entrance road for the headquarters. Parking at the headquarters is limited. A good place to park is at the pullout just before the headquarters. As you enter, look for it on the right. This parking area is marked by a plaque embedded in a rock.
Source of additional information:
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
12551 Highway 79
Descanso, CA 91916
Notes on the trail: From the recommended parking spot, ride down toward the park headquarters. Before reaching the headquarters you will see a gate and a road on the left that enters Camp Cuyamaca/San Diego School Camp. Go through the gate and follow the road as it swings to the right through the school grounds. Soon the road winds around to the left and becomes dirt. After .5 miles of riding, you'll come to a gate with a sign for Upper Green Valley Fire Road. Pass through the gate and follow Upper Green Valley Fire Road to the signed Soapstone Grade Road. Turn left and climb on Soapstone Grade Road to an intersection with the signed Stonewall Creek Fire Road. Turn right onto Stonewall Creek Fire Road and follow it to a T intersection at paved Los Vaqueros Road. Turn right onto the pavement. Turn right at the next paved road to visit Stonewall Mine. Return the way you came to the intersection of Stonewall Creek Fire Road and Soapstone Grade Road. Continue straight on Stonewall Creek Fire Road, then downhill to Upper Green Valley Road. Turn right on Upper Green Valley Road and ride back to your parked vehicle.
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