Rural roads suitable for bicycling still exist around Escondido, particularly north of town, where the landscape slopes upward toward boulder-studded hillsides. The route featured here covers ten miles, with a significant elevation gain of 1100 feet. You’ll work up a sweat this time of year, but you can minimize that by riding during the cooler early morning or early evening hours. Mountain bikes are best for handling a somewhat bumpy stretch of dirt road on the route, though fatter-tired road bikes will suffice.
Jesmond Dene Park, at the corner of North Broadway and Jesmond Dene Road (three miles north of downtown Escondido), is a good place to start riding. Kick off by heading north on North Broadway. You lose no time as you pedal easily from outlying subdivisions and scattered rural housing toward the wild, chaparral-covered hills north of town.
After 2.5 miles, just past a sharp leftward bend in the road, make a right turn on the initially unpaved Cougar Pass Road, which wends its twisty way up a dry slope. The road is graded smooth enough for most road bikes — at least for uphill travel, which is typically slow. Behind you and to the left, a view opens of Escondido’s flatlands. You enter an oak grove after your first mile on dirt and soon pass the west entrance to Escondido’s Daley Ranch preserve.
After reaching a paved stretch of Cougar Pass Road, you come to a T-intersection at Alps Way. Veer left, staying on Cougar Pass Road. Make no turns ahead and you’ll soon find yourself on Meadow Glen Way East. You continue through the secluded Hidden Meadows residential area and curve north around the perimeter of the Meadow Lake Country Club golf course.
At a stop sign, turn left on Mountain Meadow Road. Soon you’re swooping down to Interstate 15 in a striped bike lane, losing 550 feet of elevation in three or four minutes. Turn left on North Centre City Parkway (just short of I-15), continue parallel to the freeway for half a mile, and then turn left on Jesmond Dene Road. Enjoy the cool, downhill run on this oak-shaded two-lane road. You’ll arrive at your starting point in a few minutes.
Cougar Pass-Jesmond Dene bike ride
Ride some great rural roads into the boulder-studded hills north of Escondido.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 34 miles
Biking length: 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous