San Diego is famous for its beautiful beaches and perfect, sunny weather, but it's also a great city to visit or live in if you love to ride. Southern California is the epicenter of biker culture, and there is no shortage of San Diego motorcycle rides, rallies, races and communities to join. Rain rarely spoils motorcycle rides in San Diego, and in the summer months, a light mist is likely all you'll see while you ride. In the city limits, short rides over Coronado Bridge and the Silver Stand Boulevard never get old, but plenty of adventure awaits outside the city. Just to the east is the Anza-Borrego Desert. This colorful badlands area surrounded by mountains provides the iconic desert setting that has to be experienced. Up from the desert, high mountains tower, and you can transition from desert to snowy forests in a matter of minutes. Here are the best motorcycle rides in San Diego as chosen by the REVER staff.
It's no secret the weather is beautiful in San Diego, but you will want to prepare for the sun and heat before you go. Wear breathable riding gear and pack plenty of fluids with a hydration system, especially if you're riding in the desert. And don't worry, we'll highlight plenty of watering holes along the way on these San Diego motorcycle rides. You can pretty much ride year-round in southern California, but the winter months represent the rainy season at lower altitudes, so prepare accordingly. At higher altitudes, mountain areas receive snow in the winter, and it's wise to check road conditions before you go. If you're planning on camping, don't forget essentials like flashlights and cookware and utensils to make your stay more comfortable.
Uncover the best motorcycle rides in San Diego with the REVER app. It's free to join, and you can track rides, share your routes with others, and discover recommended routes from communities and the REVER staff. For the best riding experience, upgrade to REVER Pro. You can use turn by turn navigation, which comes in handy when you're exploring new areas. Additional features like Twisty Roads, LiveRIDE SMS updates for friends and family, weather alerts and more are all available when you upgrade. On top of these features, Pro Members receive access to a full collection of Pro Perks. Check out the list to see all the extra benefits that come with REVER Pro.
There is plenty to do and see when you're not exploring the mountains and deserts around San Diego on your bike. Naturally the beach comes to mind first, and La Jolla Cove is renowned as one of the best places in the country to see the coastline and explore nearby sea caves. San Diego is also famous for its world-class zoo. Sport fisherman should charter a boat and set out to catch spotted bay bass, barred sand bass, halibut and more. Finally, nothing beats an afternoon or evening downtown at Petco Park to see the Padres play baseball in one of the most unique MLB parks.
Ride the scenic Sunrise Highway through the Laguna Mountains on this loop to Julian, CA and back. To access this area, take Interstate 8 out of San Diego. The route begins on a cliff overlooking Pine Valley, CA on the Sunrise Highway. Before you head out, grab breakfast or lunch at Major's Diner in Pine Valley. You can catch a classic 50's roadside diner feel with biscuits and gravy or a juicy burger. You'll start the ride surrounded by sagebrush, but as you wind through the mountains, the landscape transforms into deep pine forests. However some areas along the Sunrise Highway are still scarred from the Cedar Fire of 2003, which makes for a unique landscape.
Once you reach Mount Laguna, pull over at the Pine House Cafe for a motorcycle-friendly restaurant and tavern in the mountains. There is also camping available here at the Burnt Rancheria Campground. North of Mount Laguna, you'll see Monument Peak at 6271 ft. off to the east. Ride a high ridge at the edge of the forest as you head north, and as you look down into the valleys to the east, you will see the Anza-Borrego desert. Even though the desert looms off to the east, this area receives snow in the winter, and you should be aware of slick roads during the season. Eventually the Sunrise Highway will meet Highway 79. Turn right to continue north until you reach Julian. This mountain town is known for its apple pie and orchards, but it is also rich with history as a gold rush town. Pull off for an old fashioned soda fountain and burgers and fries at the Miner's Diner in Julian.
Once finished in Julian, turn back south to ride the second half of the loop. Continue past the Sunrise Highway until you reach Lake Cuyamaca. This recreational destination is the only lake around San Diego that stocks trout all year long, so fisherman should definitely make a stop. A campground and cafe are also available nearby the lake. Off to the east you'll see several peaks that are part of the Cuyamaca Mountains including North Peak, Middle Peak and Cuyamaca Mountain. The latter, Cuyamaca, is the second-highest mountain in the area at 6,512 ft.
If you're ready for a detour, you can head west from Lake Cuyamaca towards Three Sisters Falls to see a popular waterfall in the area. Or stay on 79 and head south until you reach Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. This local park is famous for its rugged granite peaks and nearby mountain streams. Gold can still be found in small amounts in the steams in this area. Complete the loop by turning left onto Old Highway 80 through Guatay, CA back to Pine Valley.
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Tour the Cuyamaca Mountains east of San Diego in this big 3 ½ hour loop. The ride starts north of El Cajon in Santee, CA. Head north east towards Lakeside, CA on Highway 67. If you're hungry, stop by the Eastbound Bar & Grille for breakfast or lunch in a locally-owned restaurant. In mid April, the Stand Up Ride benefiting veterans is held nearby in Escondido, CA. For the route, take Ashwood Street through Louis Stetzer County Park on the way to Wildcat Canyon Road. Continue along the west side of the Cuyamaca Mountains on your way to Ramona, CA. When you near the city limits, hang a left onto San Vicente Road and ride north into the city. When you pull into Ramona, cruise by Cheers of Ramona for famous burgers and live music. There are several wineries in the Ramona area due to its Mediterranean-like climate as well.
Once finished in town, take Highway 78 east towards Ballena, CA. You'll ride by the main feature in the valley known as Whale Mountain, and ballena is Spanish for whale. Next up is the Santa Ysabel area, and you'll turn up north on Highway 79 when you reach Santa Ysabel, CA. The Volcan Mountains lie ahead, and this rugged area presents views of both the coast and the desert at its high points. Take the right fork to continue along route at Morettis Junction, CA, or take a short detour left to the biker-friendly Josie's Hideout Saloon. Back to Highway 79, turn right onto State Route 2 before you reach Warner Springs, CA. Gear up for an iconic desert ride on S22 or Montezuma Valley Road. If you're taking this ride in the summer, be prepared for sweltering temperatures on the road. There are a ton of hiking opportunities along the road along with plenty of photo spots.
As you pull into Borrego Springs, grab some tacos at Carmelita's Mexican Grill. Then turn right on State Route 3 and continue south towards Desert Lodge, CA. You'll wind through the western edge of the Anza-Borrego Desert, and there is plenty of striking desert scenery along the way. Climb back into the mountains to reach Julian, CA, which is an old gold rush town. You'll ride back south through pine forests at a higher altitude to Cuyamaca Lake. Stop for some fishing or food and drinks at the state park cafe. If you're riding in the winter, it can be disorienting to be in the desert minutes before and then potentially see snow in this area. Watch for slick conditions if snow is in the forecast. Take Highway 79 down through the Cuyamaca Mountains until you reach I-8. The loop concludes when you reach El Cajon, CA. Finish up your trip with some BBQ at Izzy's Cafe in El Cajon just off the freeway on Broadway.
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Explore the remote mountains north of San Diego and tackle the engaging Palomar Mountain Road in this 2 ½ loop. Begin the route by taking Interstate 15 north out of San Diego until you reach Temecula, CA. This route is also easily accessed from Los Angeles. Take the Temecula exit and cruise down Pechanga Parkway heading southeast. You can also start the day with breakfast at Mo's Egg House in Temecula. Outside of Pechanga, CA, you'll bear south onto Pala Temecula Road towards Pala, CA. Hang a right onto Highway 76 past the Wilderness Gardens Preserve. Make a stop for some solid Mexican food at El Rey in Pauma Valley, CA along the way. Continue on through Rincon, CA, and gear up for an exciting and somewhat technical climb through the mountains.
Keep an eye out for a left off Highway 76 onto State Route 6 or Palomar Mountain Road. Now the fun really begins. This remote mountain road is rich with hairpin and sweeping turns. Note this section can be dangerous for the inexperienced, and it is best attempted by those experienced with challenging mountain roads. At the top of the road, you'll encounter Fry Creek Campground and Mother's Kitchen, which is a regular biker hangout. In addition, there is a short detour opportunity up to Palomar Observatory. There you can see the summit of Palomar Mountain at 6,140ft just to the east. To continue along the route, return to the intersection of State Routes 6 and 7, and take S7 south east along a high ridge. There are great views of the valley below including the town of La Jolla Amago, CA.
Next up, descend back down towards Lake Henshaw and meet back up with Highway 76. Don't miss Josie's Hideout Saloon along the shore of Lake Henshaw. This biker-friendly bar is known to hold plenty of motorcycle and live music events in what they call “the best ride/drive experience in the west.” Take a right just after the lake to explore more engaging mountain landscapes on Mesa Grande Road. You'll see Angel Mountain to the north as you ride through the valley. Take a left on Highway 79 back north towards Morettis Junction, CA. Continue through Warner Springs, CA and by the Warner Springs Airport. You may even see some gliders landing in this popular Gliderport. Ride north west through another mountain valley towards Aguanga, CA. If dive bars are your style, there is a gem along the road in the Stagecoach Inn located in Aguanga. Stay on Highway 79 to complete this loop and ride back into Temecula.
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Ride through several border towns and experience striking desert landscapes in this 3 ½ hour ride east of San Diego. This route begins just southeast of San Diego near Chula Vista, CA. No trip to San Diego is complete without crushing some tacos, and Chula Vista offers a solid spot in Tacos El Gordo De Tijuana. If you're not hungry yet, grab them at the end of this loop. Hit the gas out of town and cruise past Lower Otay Lake on Otay Lakes Road. You'll wind up Jamul Creek Canyon towards Engineer Springs, CA. Take a right on Highway 94 to continue the route. Once through Barret Junction, CA, ride near the border crossing at Tecate, CA. Continue riding near the border, and you'll see Hauser Mountain at 3,808 ft north of the highway. On through Canyon City and Campo, CA, you'll turn back north east and cruise through the scrub brush towards Interstate 8.
Instead of merging onto the interstate, take Old Highway 80 back south towards the border. Don't miss out on some epic soul food and BBQ at the little border town of Jacumba, CA. Jay's Southern Cafe specializes in southern fried goodness. Continue along Old Highway 80 to link back up with Interstate 8. There are a couple local color distractions here with Coyote's Flying Saucer Retrievals and the Desert View Tower. While you may not be prepared for the level of weirdness at Coyote's, the Desert View Tower is a stone tower from the 1920s that offers surrounding views of the desert.
For the final part of this route, you can take I-8 all the way back to the Los Terrenitos / Japatul Valley Road exit, or you can take Old Highway 80 west at the Manzanita exit. On Japatul Valley Road south, you'll ride by the Pine Creek Wilderness, and fishermen can make a stop at Barrett Lake to catch some easy-biting large mouthbass (reservations required ahead of time). Japatul Valley Road becomes Lyons Valley road as you head west back towards San Diego. Pull off at Brody's Burgers & Beer for some family-owned roadside food in Jamul, CA before heading back into the city.
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