For 25 years, the Mountain Bike Assistance Unit at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has held this annual Poker Ride to raise money for the park. This is the 2015 route, which includes the new singletrack trail called Cold Spring. The "lollipop" at the top right of the GPS track is an extra loop (mostly singletrack) for those that want more miles.
Highlights: The long two-track descent down Fern Flat-West Mesa-Japacha; the beautiful new singletrack on Cold Spring; the always-fun classic xc riding on La Cima, after the slow climb up.
Family Friendly: The Poker Ride is a family friendly event. People of all ages have attended the event since its inception. Note: It is not a race.
For the benefit ride, there will be arrows pointing you along the way. Be careful at the two hard road/route 79 crossings right before mile 2 and at mile 10.5. If you encounter horseback riders, dismount your bike and walk by them.
From the event staging area, you'll start out on singletrack for the first 2 miles. It's rolling terrain, which serves as a nice warm up. A few connections to make here, so watch for the arrows, or watch your tracking device.
After you cross over the hard road, you'll climb up two-track on Milk Ranch to Azalea Springs. At Azalea, you'll turn left and grind up a short steep section, that is followed by more climbing but less steep. At the top, know that you're done the big climb of the day and that you're now going down for a while. Control your speed and have fun as you ride Fern>West Mesa>Japacha. One note here: To connect from Azalea to Fern, it's a quick little right-then-left over a fire road. You'll see it, but heads-up that you do cross over a fire road.
West Mesa will T into Japacha. Turn right onto Japacaha, which is more downhill fun.
Japacha to West Side Trail
requires that you watch for singletrack on your left around mile 9. If you start going down singletrack and see the hard road/route 79 on your left, you missed the turn-in for West Side. Go back up and look for it on your right.
West Side is a nice slice of singletrack that winds its way up towards the visitor center where you'll cross over the hard road/route 79. Be very careful here as there's somewhat of blind corners for drivers on the road.
At the visitors center, turn left onto Cold Stream singletrack and follow it onto the new Cold Spring Trail. Look around as you ride it--there are spectacular views of Stonewall and East Mesa (looking south). This trail was/is the result of 5 years of collaboration and hard work of many hands and organizations.
Cold Spring will dump you onto Stonewall Creek. Go left up the doubletrack. At the intersection, if you want to finish up, bear left/stay on Stonewall Creek two-track and make your way back to the staging area.
If you want more, turn right on Soapstone doubletrack. Continue across until you go down it and T into La Cima. There's a nice cluster of trees here for some shade to rest/regroup.
Turn left up La Cima and prepare for a gritty, slow, rocky (at first) singletrack climb. Once on top, continue on La Cima where you'll pedal outstanding singletrack with sweeping views. La Cima will turn into/become the California Ride and Hiking Trail, but you won't know it. Simply stay on the singletrack the entire time. Follow the flow of the trail. It's a dandy!
At mile 21.5, you'll be back at Soapstone. Turn right and make your way back to the staging area via Stonewall Creek, which you'll run into--stay straight, so to speak.
To finish the ride on singletrack, at the end of Stonewall Creek, you'll hit a hard road. Go left and then make a quick right on singletrack that goes off into the trees.
The Mountain Bike Assistance Unit at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is one of the oldest MTB patrols in the country. Join us on October 10-11, 2015 for a celebration of mountain biking in the Cuayamacas of east county San Diego.
Event details and registration: