Biking Cuyamaca Rancho
This ride combines a short loop with a spur to Oakzanita Peak. It is a 12-mile round-trip. Overall, it is moderately difficult, with the climb to Oakzanita Peak being the most challenging leg. The majority of the riding is on hard-packed dirt roads in good condition. The exception is the two miles of cycling on unpaved South Boundary Fire Road; this stretch is in poor condition with hoof damage and loose rocks. The ride ends with a mile of paved roads in good condition.
Highlighting this trip is the view from Oakzanita Peak. Mule deer are abundant and can often be observed munching in the meadows below the summit. Sightings of golden eagles and red-tailed hawks are common from this 5,054-foot mountain.
General location: Starts at the Green Valley Picnic Area in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, approximately 40 miles east of San Diego.
Elevation change: The ride begins at 3,957', rises to 4,000' on South Boundary Fire Road, and then drops to 3,800' at CA 79. The route climbs to 4,800' at the end of East Mesa Fire Road near Oakzanita Peak. Hike about .3 miles to reach the summit at 5,054'. Descend back to the highway at 3,800', and then go to 3,957' to complete the trip. Rolling terrain along the course of the ride adds an estimated 100' of climbing to the excursion. Total elevation gain: 1,300' (hike not included).
Season: Visit in the spring or fall for uncrowded trails and pleasant temperatures.
Services: You will find water and rest rooms at the Green Valley Picnic Area. All services are available at Lake Cuyamaca, just north of the park on CA 79.
Hazards: Watch for equestrians and other trail users. Control your speed on the long descent off of Oakzanita Peak. Ride defensively and predictably, especially on CA 79.
Rescue index: Help can be obtained at the park headquarters located approximately 2 miles north of the trailhead on CA 79.
Land status: State park.
Maps: A map can be purchased at the headquarters. It is a good guide to the 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 about 9 miles to the Green Valley Campground and Picnic Area on the left (west) side of the highway. Turn left and follow the entrance road as it swings right (north). Stop and pay a day-use parking fee at the fee station on the right. Continue in a northerly direction and go past the first campground. Cross the river and proceed south through the second campground to the Green Valley Falls Picnic Area. Park in the day-use lot.
Source of additional information:
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
12551 Highway 79
Descanso, CA 91916
Notes on the trail: The trip starts at the gate that blocks the fire road at the Green Valley Falls parking area. Ride down the fire road for nearly 1 mile to an intersection with South Boundary Fire Road. Stay to the left and follow South Boundary Fire Road to its end at CA 79. Pick up East Mesa Fire Road directly across the highway. Climb on East Mesa Fire Road for almost 3 miles to an intersection of roads. Turn right (southwest) onto an unmarked spur road where East Mesa Fire Road goes left (northeast) toward the Granite Springs Primitive Camp. Follow the two-track spur road through a grassy meadow to its terminus below Oakzanita Peak. Hike to the top of the mountain. Return the way you came. Turn right onto CA 79 and pedal about .5 miles to the Green Valley Campground and Picnic Area on the left. Turn left and proceed on the entrance road through the campground to your parked vehicle.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication