A quick alert to be careful about heading out on our trails as it’s not  like walking around the block. Wear good walking shoes for good grip, be careful to not stumble (a walking stick is often a good aid, especially when up and down hill hikes), be  prepared for the heat, and go with knowledgeable leaders in the back country. Finally, understand that Tom Leech has no liability for troubles on the trails.

Guest writer Jack Farnan

Originally appeared in San Diego Magazine Online Outdoors Forum September 2004

We’ll be giving you some options from our new book, Outdoors San Diego: Hiking, Biking & Camping. Co-author Jack Farnan, a senior business exec when not cycling or climbing mountains on various continents, describes 30 bike tours around the county. He gives specifics for three different levels of fitness capability. This Forum gives you options in Los Penasquitos Canyon. But first, the Forum Quiz. Jack has a number of quotes extolling the virtues of cycling, such as “Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bicycle ride.” What famous political leader said it?

In Outdoors San Diego, bicyclists will find a range of riding options fitting into three categories:
Cruisin’ — Typically less than 10 miles and usually have minimal to no automobile traffic. They are good rides for beginning cyclists, children or anyone interested in just “cruisin.”
Energized — Typically in the 15-20 mile range and many have some hills as well as automobile traffic.
Demanding — Typically in the 25-50 mile range and may involve some challenging hills and narrow bike lanes. Riders should be well-conditioned and comfortable with riding in traffic.

For Los Penasquitos Canyon, here are rides in the “Cruisin’” and “Energized” categories.
Equipment: Mountain Bike
– From I-5 (a) Heading north. Exit at Sorrento Valley Road. Turn left at the bottom of the exit, right on Sorrento Valley Blvd, cross the railroad tracks and continue east. About a mile up the road turn right into the marked reserve parking lot. There is a porta potty here for your convenience (B) Heading south. Take the Carmel Valley Road exit east, turn right on El Camino Real, right on Carmel Mountain Road, left on Sorrento Valley Road and right on Sorrento Valley Blvd.
– From I-15 corridor, take Mercy Road exit west, cross Black Mountain Road into the parking lot. If that is the case, the following rides would just be done in reverse.

Proceed out of the Sorrento Valley Blvd. parking lot onto the trail which will bring you directly to a kiosk which will provide some interesting reading for you. You will be following Penasquitos Creek through this park which will take you over to the Equestrian Center on Black Mountain Road. At about the 2.8 mile point you will come to a lovely waterfall which will be your turnaround point for the Cruisin ride. You can turnaround at this point or proceed on to the Equestrian Center at the end of the canyon.

This is a lovely trail for families or beginners. There is no traffic, no roller bladers, skateboarders or strollers. You will be sharing the trail with hikers, equestrians and other mountain bikers. The trail is mostly mellow but there are a few hills that you may want to get off and walk your bike. The canyon is completely isolated and is a wonderful refuge from city life. But one can’t help but see the houses lining the ridges surrounding the canyon.

At the waterfall, which is your turnaround point, make sure that you stop and take the time to climb out to the rocks overlooking the waterfall or better yet, climb down to the stream. This is a great place to eat lunch but since there is no food available, be sure to bring a picnic lunch. There is a bike rack here and your bike is most likely safe but it still doesn’t hurt to lock it up, especially if you are planning to go down to the stream. When you are ready to head back, just return to your car the same way that you came, or consider riding the entire length of the canyon on the Energized Route.

As you proceed on further down the canyon, you are treated to a beautiful section of Sycamore trees lining the route. You feel as though you are riding in a beautiful sylvan vale. The trail is very flat for the rest of this section and you will enjoy the serenity of this lovely canyon. At the 6 mile point you will come to the end of the canyon and the Black Mountain Road Parking lot.

An interesting diversion from here is the Ranch House. From the East parking lot, proceed west up the trail just about 1/4 mile and cross over the creek. The trail will take you to the old Ranch House which is fun to visit. After the Ranch House cross back over to the main trail on the south of the creek and proceed back to the parking lot and your car.

So get out there, enjoy your day,  and perhaps you’ll enthusiastically agree with John F. Kennedy that “Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bicycle ride.”

For the full story about this topic and many more for the whole county, pick up a copy of Outdoors San Diego: Hiking, Biking & Camping by Tom Leech & Jack Farnan.