14 San Diego Mountain Bike Trails For Beginners

San Diego is home to many trails for mountain bikes. What trails are safe enough for beginners? They can be dangerous if you try to do them too often. You may lose your confidence and stop riding. Don’t worry, I have collected the best ones for new mountain bikers below.

1. Lagoon Trail

The Lagoon Trail can be ridden aerobically. The elevation gain and loss are 10 feet, depending on which direction you go. The trail is not very technical, as it will be on dirt roads. There are neither singletracks nor dualtracks.

The trail’s total length is 2.7 mi. The trail should be completed in 30 minutes at an average speed 4 mph. If your average speed is 8mph, you can finish the trail in 15 minutes. This trail is great for mountain bikes as well as hybrid bikes.

You will be amazed at the beauty of this trail as you ride. This trail is great for seeing many birds. You will pass by tidal marshes as well as the San Dieguito River.

Start by following the dirt road to the west. It will take you past a shopping center. Keep riding and you’ll see the tidal marsh on your left. You’ll see migratory bird families relaxing in the water.

You can ride under I-5, as the trail goes past a driving range for golf. You will see a pedestrian only boardwalk to your left. Keep going on the dirt road to the right. Continue on to Jimmy Durante Boulevard, where you can turn right and return.

2. Guajome Trail

Physically, the Guajome Park Trail can be biked through easily. Depending on which direction you’re going, the elevation gain or decrease is approximately 15 feet. There is no singletrack or obstacle on this trail. You can ride on roads and dirt trails.

This trail spans 2.7 miles, and it consists of two loops. One loop takes you around Guajome Lake while the other loops through grasslands. The riders should be able finish both loops within 30 minutes to an hours, at 4mph average.

You will follow the lake loop route. Start at the south picnic site and head north. Turn left at the nature trail. You’ll ride along a small creek through a wetlands with many cattails and reeds.

Continue on the north side of the lake and continue to turn left at a wooden bridge. As you reach the northern part of the lake, you will see many birds and ducks.

As you get to the main park entrance stay to the right and finish the loop and you’ll see a playground section and picnic area. Turn left at the T and continue north on the same creek near the campground.  Keep going until you reach the grasslands loop. Continue straight as you cross a small wooden bridge. Continue on the trail until you reach the grasslands trail.

3. Rancho Carrillo

It’s easy to ride Rancho Carrillo Trail. You can expect an elevation gain of up to 180 feet, depending on which direction you’re going. There are two uphills and one descent, all of which are gradual. The trail isn’t difficult. You can ride on both gravel and pavement.

The trail covers 3 miles and is made up of two loops: an eastern and western loop. The trail can be completed in under 30 minutes if riders travel at least 4mph.

You will start the western loop at the parking lot. Follow the paved road west and descend towards the creek area. Stay left at the first intersection. Cross the bridge to see the freshwater marsh area.

As the trail climbs, keep going straight. Continue straight on a gravel road. You’ll pass large pepper trees and ceanothus. The trail ends at pavement and climbs uphill.

Turn left at Via Conquistador and then turn left at Rancho Caballo. Then, turn left onto Carrillo Way. Continue straight on Flying CC Lane, and then turn left to continue downhill. Continue following the trail until the end of the loop.

This loop will take you around Leo Carrillo Ranch Park. The eastern loop runs around the head and valley of a small canyon. Carrillo Way is the starting point.

4. Piedras Pintadas

Piedras Pintadas Trail is considered easy due to the 120 foot elevation gain and loss. The terrain varies in each section. Bicyclists will ride on roads and dirt trails. There will be sections that are shorter and more gradual, as well as a switchback. It is free of singletracks and other obstacles, making it non-technical.

You can expect to travel between 2.3 and 5.3 miles depending on your direction. The average speed for this trail is 4mph and riders can finish it in one hour. This trail can be ridden all year, however it can get too hot in the summer.

You will find a little hill in middle of the section that the Bernardo Bay loop passes around. Take this trail west and you’ll have a good view of Lake Hodges and Bernardo Mountain. Turn clockwise around the hill. You’ll see many colorful flowers as well as birds.

The trail narrows towards the north and passes through some rocky areas. Continue on and keep to the right until you reach West Bernardo Drive. Continue on the dirt shoulder and return to the beginning.

You will find the Piedras Pintadas Trail near the wetlands of Green Valley Creek. Continue south on the trail and cross the bridge that crosses Green Valley Creek. The next stop is at the mouth of a small canyon. You’ll pass a beautiful waterfall and slick rock.

Follow the switchbacks to the top, then ride to the summit of a ridge. At the junction, turn right. You will find the trail right at the top of the hill. This allows you to have a clear view of both the creek drainage and the lake.

5. Dark Canyon

It is quite easy to follow the Dark Canyon trail. You can expect an elevation gain of 150 feet, depending on where you go. The trails are made of smooth dirt. This trail is easy to follow and has no singletracks or obstacles.

As you travel out and back, the trail length is 3 miles. The trail can be completed in approximately 30 minutes, at least 4mph, or 15 minutes at 8mph. You can ride the trail on mountain and hybrid bikes year-round.

Start by cycling on the concrete path starting at the street entrance. You will reach the canyon floor at the I-56 crossing. As the path becomes more dirty and smooth, turn left to continue south. Now you’ll be riding by black sage, pear cactus, and pampas. You’ll be able to hear only the sound of birds and your tires in this quiet area.

The canyon will get wider after 1 mile. Park Village Elementary school is on your right. You will then come to Park Village Road. Be on the lookout for cars. To find the north side Los Penasquitos Canyon’s canyon, turn left on Park Village Road. Continue down the parking lot until you find the trail. You can return to the original route by turning around.

6. Santa Fe Valley

The Santa Fe Valley trail has been rated as easy. The elevation gain on the ride out is 200 feet and the elevation loss on the return trip is 110 feet. The entire trail is made of dirt. The trail is considered non-technical despite the steep switchbacks at its end.

The trail runs 3.6 miles out and back. Riders can complete the trail in approximately 1 hour, at 4mph. You can ride this trail all year.

This trail is used by both hikers as well as equestrian riders. Ride along the golf course starting at Bing Crosby Boulevard. After crossing a few bridges, you’ll be close to the San Dieguito River.

This is where you will find many river rocks. You will now switchback up a hill at 1.25 mi. The river valley is visible from the south as you ride. Horse farms can be seen across the river.

After reaching the canyon’s head, continue onwards to reach a bridge. Then you’ll follow switchbacks to climb up the canyon’s other side. After reaching the top, you can rest and then continue your journey back.

7. Del Dios Gorge

Aerobically, the Del Dios Gorge is easy to ride. It is longer than any of the trails we have ridden so far. There is an elevation gain and loss of 410 and 150 feet, respectively, one-way. It is a mix of dirt and gravel with no singletracks or obstacles, making it easy to follow.

The trail runs 6.3 miles, one way. The trail can be completed in approximately 1 and a 1/2 hours at 4mph. This trail is great for mountain bikers all year. This trail is also used by hikers, equestrians, and other bikers.

You can start at the parking lot and continue south on a paved road. Turn left once you see the sign for this trail. The river and the surrounding hills will be visible as you ride along.

At 0.8 miles you’ll reach a picnic area and pass by bat houses. You’ll go downhill to the river and the steel truss bridge. After crossing the bridge, you’ll pass cattails as well as many oak- and eucalyptus forests. The trail descends to the road.

At 2 miles you’ll go uphill. Look up at the dam and cross the flume. The trail continues east to connect with the North Shore Lake Hodges Trail. You’ll go downhill now following the lake north. This is where the lake north leads you to rest and then turn around.

8. Big Laguna Trail

It is easy to ride the Big Laguna Trail. There is a 300 foot elevation difference. All dirt trails will be used. It is free of singletracks and obstacles.

The trail is 6 mi long and looped so you’ll eventually return to the beginning. The trail should be completed in approximately 1 to 2 hours, at 4mph. The trail is suitable for riding in the spring, summer, and fall. You can ride the trail in winter by renting a fat bike.

You will start the trail by ascending to a section of the Laguna Fire that has been destroyed. At 0.9 miles you’ll pass by the Sunset Trail, which is off limits to bikes. A sign will be posted for the loop trail at 1 mile. Continue on the north side of the meadow, turning left.

At 1.4 miles keep going straight and bare left and you’ll follow along the grassy western side of the meadow. You’ll ride over tree snags and stumps as you now go down a slight hill.

You will reach the southern end of the lake at 2.9 miles via a berm. You will cross a bumpy berm. Continue straight for 3.1 miles. Continue uphill, passing roots and through pine trees to see the meadow below.

At 4.7 miles, you will begin to recognize the area. This is where you rode west in the beginning. Continue straight, and then go back downhill to the beginning.

9. Marian Bear Park

The Marian Bear Trail can be ridden easily. The elevation difference between the two trails is approximately 150 feet. These trails consist of hard dirt roads and graded roads. Technically, there are no singletracks or obstacles on the trail.

The trail runs 6.5 miles, going out and back. You can complete the trail in one hour and thirty minutes with an average speed at 4 mph. These trails are accessible year-round.

You will be surrounded by nature as you ride. You will be greeted by trees like oaks, sycamores and willows along the way. You might be lucky to spot coyotes, rabbits, or skunks.

Start at the Regent Road staging zone and go west. You will cross a seasonal, rocky creek with many Oak trees. Stay to the right and at 0.5 miles you’ll cross a creek and climb the bank to a bench.

Keep staying right and you’ll cross a small hill. Stay right and you’ll get to the entrance to the Rose Canyon trail. Turn right and return to the staging area.

To go east of the staging area, take the north-facing trail from the parking lot. Continue on and continue east along the canyon trail. At 0.6 mile, the Biltmore trail intersects on your right. The Standley Trail intersects at 0.8 miles.

Go under the bridge at Genesee Avenue and keep right. Continue downhill for 1.4 miles to the Genesee staging zone. Keep straight passing the Cobb Trail at approximately 2.3 miles. The large overpass on I-805 allows you to turn around.

10. Fossil Canyon

Fossil Canyon Trail’s elevation change and loss is approximately 320 feet. It is an easy trail. While you’ll be riding on dirt roads most of the route is paved. You will encounter a few hills, but they are not difficult. Technically, it isn’t technical. There are no singletracks and obstacles.

The trail covers 8.4 miles when you ride out-and-back. Nearly 5 and 1/2 miles of the trail are paved. The trail can be completed in two hours, at an average speed 4 mph. You will likely average more than 4mph, since it is mostly paved.

You are located in a desert area so the best times to ride are the Fall, Winter, and Spring. Start by riding north along Imperial Highway S2. Continue on the Imperial Highway S2 north for 1.2 miles. At the stop sign, turn right onto Shell Canyon Road. The path will become dirt at 3.4 miles. You will cross yellow mud hills and find many tracks for motorcycles. There are also people who camp there.

The walls of the canyon begin to narrow after 4.2 miles. You will eventually reach a gate that prohibits you from riding any further. You can either get off your bicycle and put it away so you can go exploring on foot. You can either return the way you came.

11. Blair Valley and Little Blair Valley Trails

It is a pleasant ride to the Blair Valley and Little Blair Valley trails. You can expect elevation gains and losses of 590 feet depending on the direction you go and where you live. While most of the trail is on dirt, there are a few sand trails. 0.7 miles of the trail runs along S2.

The trail is looped and is 8.7 miles in length. This trail can be completed in between 2 and 3 hours, with riders riding at 4mph. It is easy to ride, with no singletracks or obstacles. You can ride best in the Fall, Winter and Spring seasons. You are probably in a desert region so summer can be too hot.

Start by passing through Blair Valley, then moving southeast. You will find small hills to your right and meadows on your left. Granite Mountain can also be found to your right.

You will find a lot of vegetation here, such as yucca, creosote, cholla, cactus, and ocotillo. At 3.2 miles you’ll see the parking area for Ghost Mountain. Continue the loop by staying left. The Morteros Native American village can be found on your right at 3.9 miles. To continue the loop, stay left.

You will now enter Little Blair Valley, with its small rock hills that surround a dry lake bed. Keep straight until you reach the end of the lakebed and continue uphill. Take a left at the S2 sign, and continue downhill. At 7.4 miles you’ll go by Foot and Walker Pass. At 8 miles you’ll get to Highway S2, turn left and go in between Earthquake Valley and Blair Valley to the starting point.

12. North Shore Lake Hodges

The North Shore Lake Hodges Trail is rated easy. There is a 180 foot elevation gain and a 180 foot loss. There are no steep hills to be tired of. The roads and dirt trails are used by riders. Although technically the trail isn’t technical, it is very smooth.

This trail is longer than any of the others, at 11.5 miles each way. You might consider some conditioning before you start, but it is worth the effort. This trail can be completed by riders in two hours to two hours and a tenth of an hour.

Always ensure you have enough water and food on hand. You can ride all year, although it is not recommended to do so in the summer.

Start by riding north on the dirt road from Lake Hodges’ west end. You’ll get to a eucalyptus shaded park. Continue going east along a dirt path that passes by Lake Hodges’ north shoreline.

Continue on past the parking lot and boat ramp, then continue southeast through a gate to access a dirt road. Oak trees, pepper trees, and lots of buckwheat will be visible. You will now go uphill, following the shoreline of the lake to the left and circle the Bernardo Mountain at the base.

Next, you’ll ride on an older section of highway that was before I-15. Keep going straight on the new pavement until you reach I-15. Continue to Sunset Drive until you reach the kiosk. Take a break before you return.

13. Dos Cabezas Road

The Dos Cabezas Road trails have been rated easy. Depending on the route, there is an elevation gain and a loss of approximately 450 feet. The trail is not technical and has no singletrack or dualtracks. You’ll be riding on dirt roads which have some sand on them. The pavement is almost 1 mile long.

Depending on the direction you travel, this trail can cover 6-14 miles. It takes at most 1 to 3 hours for riders to complete the trail. These trails are best to be ridden in the Autumn, Winter, or Spring. Summer can be too hot.

Continue south on Dos Cabezas Road. At 1 mile you’ll get to the EC 158 intersection. Turn right and continue west toward the railroad tracks. At 2.8 miles you’ll go downhill to a sandy wash, and then climb back up to the other side.

At 3.4 miles you’ll get to the EC 109 junction. It will be 1.8 mi back to Highway S2 if you turn left. Turn right, and continue 0.8 mile on pavement to return to the beginning. This will take you 6 miles.

Keep riding straight, and continue following EC 158 through Big Bend. Eventually, 5.7 miles later you’ll get to the railroad tracks. From here you can explore Piedras Grandes, Mortero Palms, and the Devil’s Canyon.

14. Painted Gorge

The painted Gorge Trail is a great trail to ride. It is approximately 370 feet in elevation. You’ll be riding on both dirt roads and well-graded roads. You will not encounter any obstacles, making the trail non-technical.

Riders will only ride straight out-and-back for the 11 mile trip. You will need to ride at least 4mph for at least three hours. You can reduce your time by averaging 8mph. The best time to ride this trail is in Fall, Winter and Spring.

This is the place for you if you love rocks. There will be igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. The color of hills will change depending on where the Sun is at its highest.

Follow the gravel trail for a section of ORV. You’ll see trailers, shipping containers, and ramshackle structures. Continue on to the Painted Gorge sign at 1.4 miles. At 2.3 miles you’ll go under power lines.

Soon you’ll reach dark soil with hills of light color. You’ll start climbing slightly, keep going and at 4.5 miles the road curves to a small hill and dips into Painted Gorge Bowl. You will be surrounded by multi-hued mountains at this point. For half a mile, continue on to Painted Gorge. After that you can’t go further, so you can take a rest and turn back.

Leave a Comment