Electric Mountain Bike Information

E - MTB Access in San Diego County 
(updated 1/17/2020)

THE SHORT STORY of where Emtb's ARE ALLOWED in San Diego County:

-eMTB's can travel anywhere a motorized off road vehicle is allowed.  A complete list of these routes in San Diego County is available at Dirtopia

City of San Diego Class 1 and Class 2 eMTBs are allowed on any trail where a traditional bicycle is allowed unless otherwise posted.  Check our Map page for links to City of San Diego trails. 

eMTB's are ok at Penasquitos, Mission Trails Regional Park, Black Mountain Open Space Park, Tri-Canyons, Florida Canyon, other urban canyons with designated trails and other trails listed on City Maps Page.  

County of San Diego
Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are currently allowed on all County paved areas and trails where non-electric bikes are permitted, unless specifically restricted by DPR for safety and maintenance concerns.  The Department has restricted the use of Class 1 and 2 e-bike at 17 parks and preserves. Signs have been posted at trailheads where e-bikes are prohibited.  Check our Map Page for links to County of San Diego trails.

DPR is studying the impact of e-bike use on all trails over the next year (May 2019 – 2020) to determine the appropriateness of their continued use in these areas.

Read the County Ebike fact sheet including list of areas that are closed to ebikes. If a County managed area is NOT on this list, then class 1 and 2 Ebikes are ok. 

eMTB's are allowed at Otay Valley Regional Park, Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch, Del Dios Highlands Preserve, Flume Trail (Lakeside), Lake Morena, San Dieguito County Park, Sweetwater Regional Trails (except campground trails), and  Santa Ysabel East and West. 

Check full County of San Diego trails list HERE.

Daley Ranch (City of Escondido):  Class 1 eMTB's are permitted on trails where regular mountain bikes are allowed. 

San Dieguito River Park (Lake Hodges) - Class 1 and 2 eMTB's ok on designated trails.  Policy may include future closure of certain trails to eMTB's.  Trail Map 

It’s important to know where eMTB's can currently venture in the dirt in San Diego County. Because all eBikes have some level of motorized assistance, understanding the access to trails can be confusing. Many e-bikers are new riders and you’ll be a good Samaritan by welcoming them to the sport while also politely and accurately letting them know exactly where they can and cannot ride their new bike. No matter where you stand on the idea of e-bikes, let’s all make sure that we can politely share the rules of the specific trails we’re on. 

August 30, 2019 - Department of the Interior signed memo regarding Ebikes in National Parks, BLM and USFW properties
AP article
Department of Interior Memo dated 8/29/2019



We are fortunate in San Diego to have access to some great trails.  However, our access to trails is the result of many years of advocacy to convince land managers and regulatory agencies that mountain biking is a sustainable, safe sport that is appropriate on public lands and shared trail systems. SDMBA was founded in 1994 when mountain biking was relatively new. Since then, mountain bike access has become mainstream –almost taken for granted– but our access is still predicated on the fact that mountain bikes are non-motorized vehicles.

We should not forget that mountain bike access is a result of the continued hard work of dedicated advocates, and in many areas we still have much to do. There are still many land managers and other trail users who do not like sharing trails with mountain bikers, and we must remain vigilant to safeguard our sport.

Motorized vs. Non-Motorized

Access in California has always been based on the fundamental understanding that mountain biking is a “non-motorized” form of recreation, on par with hiking, XC skiing, trail running, etc. As a non-motorized sport, those in charge of our public lands manage mountain biking using the same guidelines and practices as other non-motorized user groups – though there are still many parks which ban mountain biking. 

As  eMTBs become common on public trails  – legally or illegally – the primary and most effective way for land managers to keep them off public lands will be to ban all types of bikes. Also, if eMTBs become regulated as a “mountain bike” and are able to be ridden on non-motorized trails, land managers could create restrictive policies that affect the entire sport of mountain biking. This could greatly limit where all bikes can be legally ridden on trails.

Advocacy groups like SDMBA have worked hard to develop good relationships with other organized recreational-trail user groups. 

SDMBA works constantly to open up new trails and maintain the trails we have.  This requires constant cultivation of relationships with land managers across jurisdictions and agencies.  SDMBA does not make any policy regarding trails or eMTB's.  We will work to educate riders, land managers and retailers on the use of eMTB's and where they are permitted on trails in San Diego County.    

Federal Agencies
United States Forest Service - Cleveland National Forest
(Laguna Recreation Area, Noble Canyon, Palomar District)
The USFS considers all eBike classes to be “motorized” and eBikes are permitted only on Motorized OHV trails & fire roads within Federal land.  The Forest Service has an e-bike ban on all USFS trails where motorized use is not allowed. So dirt roads, specific-ATV tracks and motorbike trails are OK but that’s it. If you can’t legally ride a motorcycle on it, or legally drive your car on it, you can’t ride your e-bike there.
You can read the USFS 2016 memo on Electric Bikes and Trail Management here: 2016 USFS Electric Bikes And Trail Management Letter

United States Fish and Wildlife - San Diego Refuges (Mother Miguel)
All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails
The Code of Federal Regulations that covers this topic is 50 CFR 27.31 - General provisions regarding vehicles.
The code states, "Travel in or use of any motorized or other vehicles, including those used on air, water, ice, snow, is prohibited on national wildlife refuges except on designated routes of travel, as indicated by the appropriate traffic control signs or signals and in designated areas posted or delineated on maps by the refuge manager... "

Bureau of Land Management (McCain Valley) All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails on BLM land.  2015 BLM Letter regarding Electric Powered Bicycles on Public Lands

State Agencies
California State Parks -
Ebikes are not allowed unless there is a District Superintendent's Order allowing their use. 

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Palomar State Park -
eMTB's are not permitted.
Anza Borrego State Park -  Anza Borrego Desert State Park is currently the only park unit in the Colorado Desert District that allows the use of a “Operated Propelled Vehicle” which includes Ebikes.  The use of Ebikes is limited to all park roads where motorized vehicles are allowed to travel, paved “All Access Trail” from the Visitor Center to Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, Middle Willows Trail in Coyote Canyon, and designated roads and trails within Hawi-Vallecito Cultural Preserve.  

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Crestridge Ecological Reserve, Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area)  - All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails

Other agencies

Center for Natural Lands Management (La Costa) - All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails.

Escondido Creek Conservancy/Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (EFRR) -All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails.   EFRR's trail standards are modeled after the US Forest Service's Standard Trail Plans and Specifications.    

What is a Class 1 eBike?  
A class 1, pedal-assist e-bike is, by Federal Law definition, a motorized vehicle (when on dirt trails).  Most eMTB's from major manufacturers are Class 1. This is important to keep in mind and answers a lot of questions for us. Yes, you will find that the Department of Transportation defines e-bikes as bicycles, but this is specific to roadway situations. For example an e-bike is by definition a bicycle when it comes to insurance (it’s not required), freeways (no matter how fast one goes, they’re not allowed), and paved bike paths (in most cases e-bikes are allowed). There are lots of legal places to ride e-bikes. Just not on the non-motorized singletrack trails.  These are dirt trails where you can’t drive a car, and so Department of Transportation rules do not apply.

What should I do if I see an eBike on the trails?
First of all, BE NICE!  Usually, everyone out on the trails is there to enjoy themselves.  You don’t have to say anything as its not your (or SDMBA's) responsibility to enforce land manager policy.  If you want to educate them about eBike access, be polite!  No one likes to be told they are in the wrong, so BE NICE!  California’s eBike law has been confusing and there is a lot of misinformation online.  There is plenty of conflict in the world and let’s help keep our trails an enjoyable and peaceful place.

Is eMTB trail etiquette different than traditional mountain bike trail etiquette?   
Yes.  eMTBers should yield to ALL non-motorized users regardless of the direction they are traveling.  More info HERE

Other resources:
-People for Bikes eBike Resources


This post is a work in progress. Do you have any additions or corrections to this list? Please let us know by contacting info@sdmba.com