Biking Cuyamaca Rancho

Desert Rides near San Diego - Green Valley Loop

Less than an hour's drive from San Diego lies a rocky, moderately hilly, desert landscape that would seem to be created for mountain biking. The weather, of course, is Southern-California perfect. The rides aren't too extremely difficult, but they definitely pose a challenge. And riders that take on the hills are rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. One of the area's premiere biking destinations, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, offers a variety of opportunites for off-road adventure—the Green Valley Loop, the Stonewall Mine trail, the Cuyamaca Peak trail, and the trail to Oakzanita Peak.

Green Valley Loop

This is a five-mile trip consisting of a four-mile loop and a one-mile out-and-back spur. The riding is easy to moderately difficult with some short, steep sections of trail. The fire roads and trails here are in fair to good condition. Hoof prints, rutting, and loose rocks are found on the portion of the route that follows the California Riding and Hiking Trail.

This ride begins among mature stands of canyon live oak and ponderosa pine. You'll soon enter a chaparral plant community that allows unobstructed views from the trail into the park's interior valleys. Near the end of the ride you will reach the Sweetwater River and the Green Valley Falls. Several still pools dot the river, their reflective surface broken only by the occasional bather.

General location: Commences at the Green Valley Campground and Picnic Area in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, approximately 40 miles east of San Diego.

Elevation change: The ride begins at 3,957' and climbs to 4,290' at the Arroyo Seco Primitive Campground. Undulations in the trail add an estimated 200' of climbing to the ride. Total elevation gain: 533'.

Season: Seasonal color and comfortable temperatures make the spring and fall ideal times for riding in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. This region sees heavy use during the summer months and also on weekends and holidays. Be prepared for cool evening temperatures if you are planning on camping here in the spring or fall.

Services: Water, rest rooms, phones, interpretive information, and camping facilities (including showers) are available at the Green Valley Campground. All services can be found at Lake Cuyamaca, just north of the park on CA 79.

Hazards: Part of this ride is on the California Riding and Hiking Trail. Keep an eye out for equestrians. The route may be hoof worn and rock strewn in places. The park's bicycle speed limit is 15 mph.

Rescue index: Help is available at the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Headquarters, 2 miles north of the Green Valley Campground and Picnic Area on CA 79.

Land status: State park.

Maps: A map of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park may be purchased at the park headquarters. It is a good guide to this ride.

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 9 miles to the Green Valley Campground and Picnic Area on the left (west) side of the highway. Turn left and follow the campground 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 turn right into the second day-use parking area. Park your vehicle.

Source of additional information:
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
12551 Highway 79
Descanso, CA 91916
(760) 765-0755

Notes on the trail: From the day-use parking area, follow the signed Arroyo Seco Road for 1 mile to the sign for Green Valley. Continue straight for .5 miles to the Arroyo Seco Primitive Campground. Turn around and return to the intersection with the sign for Green Valley. Turn right here to follow the California Riding and Hiking Trail. In .3 miles, continue heading straight on the California Riding and Hiking Trail where Pine Ridge Hiking Trail goes left. Stay left at all the remaining intersections to reach the pavement at the Green Valley Picnic Area. Follow the exit signs north through the campground to your vehicle.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

View: Trail Map

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 5 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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