Discovered: Altitude & Trees in San Diego – Mt Laguna
Located 20 miles north of the Mexican border, San Diego is basically a desert by the sea. Many people consider the climate to be near-perfect year round- the average temperature in San Diego country is 70°F. There is over 70 miles of coastline in San Diego county. This place is pretty fantastic and I have loved living here for the past four years. That being said, I often feel a deep longing for crisp, mountain air and lush, green trees. I didn’t know this existed in San Diego until this past weekend, when Tyler and I took our bikes (bikes of the road variety this time!) to East County past the town of Alpine and climbed up Mt. Lauguna, the tallest mountain in San Diego county at nearly 6,000 ft. The ride is a moderate 50 miler with a decent amount of climbing right off the bat.
Here’s how you can do it too…
Getting there: It’s about an hour drive from Encinitas in North County, San Diego to the park n ride where you will start the ride. Head East on hwy 8 towards the city of Alpine. A few miles past Alpine, you will approach the intersection of hwy 79 and hwy 8. Exit there and turn left where you will see a park n ride on the left side of the road. Park there and gear up! The other option is to park a little further down the road at Pine Valley.
The Route: because we road on a particularly hot day in August, we made sure we were rolling by 7am to beat the heat (which meant a 5am wakeup call!). In addition, we opted to ride counter-clockwise in order to get the majority of the heavy climbing over with early on in the ride.
Head out from the park n ride on hwy 79. Continue on Old Highway 80 through the quaint town of Pine Valley. Continue along hwy 80 and when you turn away from hwy 8, the road becomes the Sunrise Highway. There awaits a lovely 6% average grade climb to Mt. Laguna! If you see trees, stunning views, and signs warning about ice and snow you’re going the right way!
Once you reach Mt. Laguna, you have a long decent, desert views, and occasional gusty winds to look forward to. We stopped at a scenic lookout for a quick break and took in the sights and noticed that the famous PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) hiking trail that runs from Mexico to Canada was right below the observation deck. Cool!
Sunrise Hwy dead ends into hwy 79. If you go right, you can extend the ride and head up to Julian for apple pies, cider, and other treats! We opted to turn right, back to car to keep our ride at the 50 mile mark. Soon you will pass Cuyamaca Lake and several equestrian trails. Finally, a fun, curvy descent awaits! Soak in the joys of gravity and be safe! Finish the ride with a climb back to the park n ride lot. The whole thing took us 3.5 hours with a short stop built in.
Stats: 50.5 miles // 4,933ft elevation // 3:23 moving
- Snacks & treats: Probar Bolts & Powerbar Gels
- Hydration: Coco Hydro Powdered Coconut Water (Megan) & Skratch (Tyler)
- Recovery: Designer Whey Protein Powder (I put ice cubes in unsweetened almond milk in a shaker bottle so I can make a cold protein shake when I get back to the car)
- Sunscreen: Coola Organic Suncare (the baby sunscreen is my favorite for long rides)
Watch out! there are parts of the climb that have a very narrow, sometimes non-existent shoulder. If you are riding in the early morning, most of the climb is in the shade (score! but it also makes it hard for cars to see you). Make sure your bike is equipped with forward and rear facing blinky lights.
Have you rode Mt. Laguna? Share your experience in the comments below!