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San Diego Christmas Ride

400 miles with 26,300 feet of climbing
Day 1: San Diego - Pine Valley (50 miles 5,400 feet)
Day 2: Pine Valley - Warner Springs (76 miles 6,400 feet)
Day 3: Warner Springs - Palm Desert (102 miles 2,900 feet)
Day 4: Palm Desert - Hemet (57 miles 5,700 feet)
Day 5: Hemet - Fallbrook (55 miles 4,000 feet)
Day 6: Fallbrook - San Diego (59 miles 1,900 feet)

San Diego Christmas Ride • Description

Hostelling International's San Diego Christmas Ride is a six day tour through Southern California, showcasing the mountains (Mount Laguna and San Jacinto), Colorado Desert, and Pacific Ocean. Started in 1956, it is one of the longest-running cycling events in America.
The trip consists of about 100 cyclists on all kinds of bicycles. In the morning the organized critical mass starts together and then separates into smaller groups. Only the main route is officially supported, but many people ride alternate routes.
Event Website: San Diego Christmas Ride
San Diego Christmas Ride - Day 1 • Route Profile
Route Profile • San Diego to Pine Valley

San Diego to Pine Valley • Climbs

Cat. 3: Mile 29 and 36
Cat. 4: Mile 46

San Diego to Pine Valley • Description

Day one starts at the University of San Diego and gradually climbs towards Pine Valley. The first part is mainly urban but the second part gets more scenic. An alternate includes Viejas Grade, a dirt road that leads through an Indian Reservation. Another alternate climbs Mount Helix and follows Lyons Valley Road.
San Diego Christmas Ride - Day 2 • Route Profile
Route Profile • Pine Valley to Warner Springs

Pine Valley to Warner Springs • Climbs

Cat. 3: Mile 8, 12, and 17
Cat. 4: Mile 65

Pine Valley to Warner Springs • Description

The second day leads from Pine Valley to Warner Springs. The day starts with a climb up Mount Laguna, the highest point in San Diego County. Sunrise Highway is the official route and Kitchen Creek Road and Pine Creek Road are alternates. The views are spectacular, as far as the San Bernardino Mountains, Salton Sea, Tecate Divide, and Pacific Ocean. After Julian, the main route continues on Highway 79. Alternates include Mesa Grande Road and San Felipe Road.
San Diego Christmas Ride - Day 3 • Route Profile
Route Profile • Warner Springs to Palm Desert

Warner Springs to Palm Desert • Climbs

Cat. 3: Mile 3

Warner Springs to Palm Desert • Description

Day three is the longest day and leads from Warner Springs to Palm Desert. The route follows Montezuma Grade Road down into Borrego Springs. Then it continues on towards Salton City, located below sea level (rough road at the county line). Highway 86 leads along Salton Sea and surface roads lead into Palm Desert.
San Diego Christmas Ride - Day 4 • Route Profile
Route Profile • Palm Desert to Hemet

Palm Desert to Hemet • Climbs

Cat. 1: Mile 0
Cat. 4: Mile 17, 21, and 35

Palm Desert to Hemet • Description

The fourth day leads from Palm Desert to Hemet. Route options include riding around Mount San Jacinto or riding over the mountain. The official route leads through the desert cities and Banning before turning south towards Hemet. The alternate route starts with a 24 mile climb on Pines to Palms Highway (also known as Seven Level Hill), which continues all the way to Hemet. Alternate options include Bautista Canyon (dirt road) and Idyllwild/Pine Cove/Banning.
San Diego Christmas Ride - Day 5 • Route Profile
Route Profile • Hemet to Fallbrook

Hemet to Fallbrook • Climbs

Cat. 3: Mile 8 and 30
Cat. 4: Mile 46 and 52

Hemet to Fallbrook • Description

Day five leads from Hemet to Fallbrook. After leaving Hemet, the route continues on Sage Road, Benton Road, and Rancho California Road, which leads through the vineyards and wineries of Temecula. After visiting Temecula, the route continues on De Luz Road, which follows its namesake canyon almost all the way to Fallbrook.
San Diego Christmas Ride - Day 6 • Route Profile
Route Profile • Fallbrook to San Diego

Fallbrook to San Diego • Climbs

Cat. 4: Mile 44

Fallbrook to San Diego • Description

The sixth day leads from Fallbrook back to San Diego. The route heads towards the coast, following Olive Hill Road, Old River Road, North River Road, and San Luis Rey River bike path to Oceanside. Then it continues on the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, visiting several beach cities and finishing in San Diego.

San Diego Christmas Ride • Interactive Map

San Diego Christmas Ride • Pictures

San Diego Christmas Ride • View of San Diego (from Mount Helix)
View of San Diego (from Mount Helix)
San Diego Christmas Ride • Pine Creek Road
Pine Creek Road
San Diego Christmas Ride • Mount Laguna
Mount Laguna
San Diego Christmas Ride • San Felipe Road
San Felipe Road
San Diego Christmas Ride • Montezuma Grade Road
Montezuma Grade Road
San Diego Christmas Ride • Borrego Springs
Borrego Springs
San Diego Christmas Ride • Pines to Palms Highway
Pines to Palms Highway
San Diego Christmas Ride • Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway
Banning-Idyllwild Panoramic Highway
San Diego Christmas Ride • Bautista Canyon Road
Bautista Canyon Road
San Diego Christmas Ride • Sage Road
Sage Road
San Diego Christmas Ride • De Luz Road
De Luz Road
San Diego Christmas Ride • The Group in Fallbrook
The Group in Fallbrook
San Diego Christmas Ride • Oceanside
More pictures

San Diego Christmas Ride • Personal Notes

This trip is about more than pure cycling and the fact that many people are multi-year return riders speaks for itself. The group experience is an essential part.
I already knew John U. and Susen S. as well as George A. and Julie V. from the Renegades, and I made several new friends.
Here are some statistics:
• Total distance: 400 miles
• Min./avg./max. daily distance: 50/67/102 miles
• Total climbing: 26,300 feet
• Min./avg./max. daily climbing: 1,800/4,400/6,400 feet
• Highest elevation attained: 6,000 feet (Mount Laguna)
We had a great trip, this year with perfect weather. Most of the time I rode with John U. and Jean C. from the Renegades, and with Dan S., Bill L., and Michelle H. from Colorado.
On my third trip in a row we had some rain, ice, and snow, in addition to sunny days. I rode with different people and groups, including John U. and Susen S. from the Renegades, and with Bob F. from London.
See Also: Multi-Day Rides
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