The California Riding and Hiking Trail traverses much of San Diego County and north into Riverside, San Mateo and Los Angeles counties as well. I’ve only begun to explore this wonderful gem from horseback, so you’ll hear about different segments from time to time. While camping and riding in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, I’ve had the opportunity to see about 25 miles of the CRHT so far.
There are currently 108 miles of CRHT trail within San Diego County, with 76 miles available for use. The CRHT used to be part of the State Trails Plan, but due to issues with money, easements and mapping, among others, the state opted to abandon the trail in 2007 and gave the counties the option to adopt it into their trails plans.
Thankfully that adoption did happen.
The CRHT provides important connections and unique trail experiences in each county. The information and history are vast, so let’s just leave it at that and move on to the trail itself.
From Los Vaqueros group camp through the meadowlands of Cuyamaca, the section of the CRHT that I share with you today winds gently in tune with the landscape. The grass is dry and high and the late-summer blooms support the buzzing bees as the breeze keeps Cricket and I cool in the warm morning sun.
No water in sight, or to my knowledge anywhere on this planned eight-mile trip. Having left camp very early in the morning I expected to see wildlife, but the bees were the only company. Typically I see numerous deer and, of course, snakes, maybe an occasional coyote, however they do prefer the cover of the trees and brush that are absent on this particular section of trail.
Riding due east the sun is bright in our eyes for the entire eight miles out. At the barbed-wire fence there is a small sign stating that we are entering Anza Borrego State Park. I laugh out loud as a thought passes over my mind—ooh, it’s suddenly hot out here in the desert—joking with myself, since the landscape showed no sign of change whatsoever.
This particular section of the trail provides no shade, but it is in great condition and is mostly a flat, single-track trail. Many of the trails in Cuyamaca can be rocky, but this section of the CRHT is not bad on Cricket’s feet.
I meet a few nice folks on bikes and two wonderful gals jogging on the trail and had a chat with each group for a minute. This has now become a favorite ride of mine up in Cuyamaca. I hope to cross Highway 79 and ride out to the Pacific Crest Trail and beyond and tell you about that in the near future.
If you are interested in checking out the California Riding and Hiking Trail, you can stage from the Hual-Cu-Cuish staging area, just off of Highway 79 across from Trout Pond and ride along the Marty Minshall Trail, hook into the Los Vaqueros Trail which will lead to the CRHT. This will add a few miles to your trip.
One other suggestion is camping at the recently opened Green Valley Camp and riding from there. This will add approximately seven miles each way to your trip if you head north, but the area and camp are beautiful and well worth the visit.
I strongly suggest you purchase a map of the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park trails for $2 and keep it around, maybe even laminate it. My copy lives in my horse trailer and I take it with me in my saddle bags when Cricket and I go out on trail in Cuyamaca. With more than 100 miles of trail running every which way, a map is my safety net to get back to camp should trail signs be missing. I also use it to plan a ride and to let someone know where we plan to go and for how long—safety is always a priority.
Much of Cuyamaca State Park is closed for camping and riding December through March due the the extreme winter weather that often hits the area. It is a good idea to check the forecast prior to your visit.
All campsites must reserved in advance from California State Parks by using ReserveAmerica.com. Fall and Spring are the most popular seasons to ride in Cuyamaca, so plan ahead whether camping or riding for the day.
There is much to explore in the wilderness of Southern California, so get into the great outdoors as often as possible.