Two of inland San Diego County’s most important east-west highways, Scripps-Poway Parkway and the Tierrasanta-to-Santee stretch of the Highway 52 Freeway, have been designed to carry bicycle as well as auto traffic. They can be used to string together a more-or-less circular route of 38 miles. By bike-riding the route marked by arrows on our map, you can experience some of the smoothest, fastest stretches of pavement in San Diego County.
Although most road shoulders along the route are typically wide and even signed as bike lanes, fast traffic alongside can be unnerving for less-than-experienced riders. It’s by far best to undertake this trip early on a Sunday morning, when traffic volumes are relatively low. Begin anywhere you want along the route, but Lakeside is recommended as a start point to take advantage of the west wind that often kicks up by midday. With elevation changes of more than 2000 feet, this is a trip for strong cyclists only.
Start on Woodside Avenue or Maine Avenue in Lakeside and reach northbound Highway 67 via Mapleview Street. After three miles, the highway broadens to two northbound lanes plus a shoulder, and you commence a thousand-foot ascent up through desolate hills at about an 8 percent grade. This is the most difficult and dangerous (traffic-wise) part of the ride, and it’s best done as early as possible to take advantage of cool weather and light traffic. Three more miles of somewhat easier pedaling follows, until you reach the traffic light at Scripps-Poway Parkway. Turn left and descend the blacktop pavement of this curving multilane road. You sweep down toward Poway’s south industrial district, reaching frightening speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour if you don’t do any brake work.
The road levels out amid a whole row of boxy, gleaming office and industrial buildings overlooking Poway. Soon enough, a steep downgrade takes you to an intersection with Pomerado Road. Turn left. You negotiate another upgrade, after which you can enjoy an easy and breezy descent amid the fragrant eucalyptus groves of Scripps Ranch. Cross over Interstate 15, and go left on Kearny Villa Road. This part of Kearny Villa Road is the old I-15 highway, now rendered almost traffic-free on the weekends. Pass over Highways 163 and 52, and be sure to keep straight on Ruffin Road just past the 52 freeway.
Next, make a left on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, a left on Santo Road, and a right on the ramp eastbound onto Highway 52. The nearly five-mile stretch of freeway ahead, which goes up and over a pass, is not only bicycle-legal, it has a posted bike route on its shoulders, too. The two-mile descent on the far side of the pass is another screamer — especially if the wind is in your favor. Be sure to exit the freeway at Mast Boulevard in Santee, the end of the bike-legal stretch.
Go east on Mast, make a right on Cuyamaca Street, and go left (east) on Mission Gorge Road. Ahead, Mission Gorge becomes Woodside Avenue, and that takes you back to Lakeside.
Bicyclists should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
Lakeside-Poway bike ride
A wide-ranging road route takes bicylists through Lakeside, Poway, Tierrasanta, and Santee.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 20 miles
Biking length: 38 miles