Summer — time to ride
The California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) traverses much of San Diego County and north into Riverside County, San Mateo and Los Angeles 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 the county of San Diego with 76 miles available for use. The CRHT used to be part of the State Trails Plan, but due to the many issues with money, easements/land issues and mapping, among others, the state opted to abandon the trail in 2007 and gave the counties containing the trail segments the option to adopt it into their trails plans. Thankfully that adoption did happen.
The CRHT provides important connections and unique trail experiences within 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 are gently in tune with the landscape. The grass is dry and high and the summer blooms support the buzzing bees as the breeze keeps Cricket and me cool in the warm morning sun. No water in sight or to my knowledge on this 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. At the barbed wire fence there is a small sign stating that we are entering Anza Borrego State Park. I laugh out loud as the 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 from mountain to desert what-so-ever.
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. 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 (PCT) and beyond and tell you about that in the near future.
If you are interested in checking out the California Riding and Hiking Trail, there are a few places you can stage from and these days most have a day use fee to go along with them. If you use the Hual-Cu-Cuish staging area, which lies just off Highway 79 across from Trout Pond, you can ride along the Marty Minshall Trail and hook into the Los Vaqueros Trail, which will lead to the CRHT. This will add a few miles to your trip, and in late summer I recommend you ride early.
Another suggestion is camping at Green Valley Camp and riding from there. I like the camp, even with its small size and tight parking. 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 within the park and trails 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 to the extreme winter weather often experienced in the area. It is a good idea to check the weather before 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 overnight or riding for the day. Visit the following websites for more information to safely plan your ride and take some friends along! Hope to see you up there.
State Park: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=667
Cuyamaca staging: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24063
- Manes & Trails: The Future of Cuyamaca
- Manes & Trails: A blow to trail advocates
- Manes & Trails: Ramona Community Park — by foot or by hoof
- Manes and Trails: Lower Santa Ysabel Truck Trail
- Manes & Trails: The future of Cuyamaca State Park: Part II
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