- Sunday, December 10, 2023
Southern California Trails
Nate Harrison Grade - #NateHarrisonGrade
Socal - San Diego County - Pauma Valley NickNames: #NateHarrisonGrade
Nate Harrison Grade is on the southwest side of Palomar Mountain in the north end of San Diego County. Parking is best at Pauma School about 1/4 mile south of Highway 76 on Cole Grade Road. To reach this point take Highway 76 east off of Interstate Route 15 for about 15 miles, or Valley Center Road out of Escondido through Valley Center to Highway 76 in Pauma Valley and go west for about 4 miles. Thomas Guide page 1050 H4
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- Trail UpdateNate Harrison Grade-
Here's some easy driving directions:
From either the I-5 or I-15 get on the 78 going East.
Go 2.8 miles from the I-15 on the 78 going East, this will take you though Escondido and a number of 90 degree corners in town.
At "Ash Street" (a.k.a, the 78) and "Valley Center Road" (there's a Circle-K gas station at the corner) turn left onto Valley Center Road. Go 9.4 miles to a traffic light and turn left onto Cole Grade Road.
Go 7.5 miles down Cole Grade Road and pull into the Pauma Valley School on the left. If you get to the 76 you've gone too far, turn around by 0.5 miles.
The Ride: Turn left out of the school, go 0.5 miles to the 76, turn right along the 76 for about 0.25 miles, turn left onto Nate Harrison Grade. It's tarmac for the first and last bits, and dirt fire road for the rest. At 9.1 miles (from the school) the trail returns to tarmac, at 10.4 miles there's a hairpin turn up to Boucher Lookout (the top). The trail is 11.1 miles each way. You climb from 760ft at the school to 5436ft at Boucher Lookout - for a sweet 4700ft climb.
Description: The ride is straight up, this is an average grade of 8% over 11.1 miles, some parts are much steeper. Other than one very short piece that's flat near the top it's nothing but climb the whole way. Other than the steepness, the trail is extremely simple. On a purely technical aspect, based on terrain alone this would be an easy beginner ride, it's very hard packed dirt that's pretty smooth which makes it very easy to ride on. On a strength level, if you don't know what 8% average for 11 miles means, this isn't the ride for you, you need to LOVE climbing to even consider this ride.
The downhill is insane. I ran my brakes most of the way down, it was easy to coast at 30mph, my max on the fire road was 39mph, and 44mph on the tarmac at the bottom.
I don't know how busy it normally is, but on Thanksgiving day there was only one other rider and three cars for my whole ride.
This ride is awesome. The whole time you're riding up the Palomar Mountain face you're overlooking the thousands of acres of orange groves you rode through on the first 2 miles of the trail, it's beautiful.
Ride rating: Advanced
Ride distance: 22.2 Elevation change: 4700
Dirt Road=70% Truck Trail=30%
Roland a 29 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Klein Adept from Folsom, CA
- Trail UpdateNate Harrison Grade-I had considered this ride as a true masochistic challenge before I actually did it. It is long, kind of grueling at the end, but not so bad really and very rewarding. It is graded very well so there is a ryhthm one can find to climb it. Killer views all thw way up. Some short spurs to other views. Go to Boucher Hill overlook to complete the climb, then go down. Make sure your brakes are in good working order. I don't have a speedometer, but I'd guess I hit at least 35-40 mph going down. It was fantastic! Brake way before you hit the corners and you should be fine. This is not a tech ride, a climb and a scorching fire road descent. Plus Palomar at the top is the best.
Ride rating: Advanced
Ride distance: 19 miles Elevation change: 5000
Mike Kim a 34 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Superlight from Carlsbad
- Trail UpdateLoco-sds-just-get-thru-it!! Must ride up hill and ask ranger! Total package for real fun try full moon down hill race, but be carefull!!
loco-sds a 45 year old Weekend Warrior riding a 600xl 83'honda from la jolla indian rez
- Trail UpdatePalomar Mt. / Nate Harrison Grade-Palomar Mountain is the premier workout ride in San Diego. There's not too many other reasons to climb 4,800 feet in 11 miles. The ride is mostly fire road with about 2 miles of pavement at the bottom and an other two miles at the top.
Begin the ride from Pauma School riding the pavement northeast along Cole Grade Road for 1/4 mile to Highway 76, turn right and go southeast on Highway 76 for 1/4 mile to Nate Harrison Grade. From here it's impossible to get lost. It's up 10 miles and back the same way. The first mile is a gentle slope on pavement and then things begin to hint of the steepness to come. Luckily this warm up is on pavement too, but after a sharp switchback around a reservoir, the pavement ends. And the next reverse switchback puts you at the bottom of the first of four long assents. If you don't know how to climb, you'll soon learn or give up quick.
Nate Harrison Grade was the first road up Palomar Mountain in the early part of the century. It received its name from Nate Harrison who ran a sort of stage stop for the motorists trying to coerce their automobiles up the rugged road. He was a popular figure from San Diego's early history and portions of his original home stead can be seen from this ride at around the 7-mile point. Nate Harrison Grade was also the route used to construct the famous Hale Telescope in the 1930's.
At the top of Palomar Mountain there is a picnic grounds which make a good stopping point. Water is available as well as Bar-B-Ques which are great for a warming fire in the winter when it's not unusual to ride the last few miles through the snow.
A word of warning. There is very little vehicle traffic on Nate Harrison, but is open to trucks so be very careful on the way down. It's an absolute blast on the descent, but one wrong-place bumper on a switchback could quickly end your ride.
Paved Path=25% Truck Trail=75%
Greg Helmer a 39 year old from Team Spokey Doke, San Diego, CA