Wet Trail Ratings

Wet Trails Rating - adapted with permission from Mountain Bike Bill.

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During the winter months, aka our rain season, there is usually a few questions about which trails can ridden after a sizable series of rain.  Please keep in mind our typical soils are not the type that handle sizable rains well.   So unlike the Pacific Northwest or the East Coast, the trails need time to dry out before we ride them.  Riding trails when they are too wet results in damage that can be noticed for months and sometime years.   We are blessed here in San Diego to be able to ride over 330+ days a year.   You can and should take the time during our rainy season to let our trails firm up after rains.

Some basic “rules” about San Diego riding after rains are:
– Give the trails time to dry out!  If you can see your tracks, TURN BACK
- Your tracks may last until the summer!
– Use your brakes wisely, Don’t be a Skidiot!
– Ride through any puddles not around it. *unless it is a vernal pool (Del Mar Mesa!)
- If you don’t like getting dirty, get a road bike.  Going around puddles only makes the trail wider.
– Stream crossing – even a small fast moving stream can be very powerful and dangerous.


This is a non-inclusive list of some of the best and worst trails to ride after the rains in the San Diego area:

Here is the general rating system
1 – Could ride there in rain or the day after.
2-5 – Two to five days
6-7 – About a week
8-9 – More than a week upwards to three weeks
10 – Place is a wreak after a rain, can take more three weeks to dry out enough so riding on it will not trash it.

Remember these are general rules for just a day of mild to moderate rain.   A few years back San Diego was pounded by rain for weeks and the ground was so saturated that nothing was okay to ride for weeks. A general rule is to give most trails at least 48 hours after any significant rain to dry out.  

Here are just a few of the trails in San Diego County and their ratings: 

Calavera Lake (Carlsbad)– 5
Daley Ranch (Escondido) – 1 on the Fireroads, 3 on the singletracks
Elfin Forest Recreation Reserve – 2
La Costa - 2
Lake Hodges – Northside -7
Lake Hodges – Southside – 7
Nate Harrision Grade – 2 
Santa Margarita River Trail – 2 – Mostly sandy trails that are best after a good rain packdown.

Mission Trails Regional Park – 4
Black Mountain - 4
Penasquitos Canyon – Most Trails – 5 (*These trails usually close with any significant rain.  Call 
Del Mar Mesa – 7 – Place gets some of that sticky clay that will freeze up your tires
    Trails may be closed due to flooding or damage. For up-to-date PQ trail status call the Park Ranger Office at
    (858) 538-8066.
Sweetwater Reservoir Area – 10 – Probably the worst area in San Diego. Give it a freaking month.
Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch – North End – 4, South End – 8
TriCanyons Area (Rose, San Clemente, Tecalote) – 4

Big Black Mountain/Orosco Ridge in Ramona – 4
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park – 3
Lake Morena – 1
Laguna Mountains/Big Laguna Trail – 6
Indian Creek – 3
Noble Canyon -3
Oriflamme Canyon -4

*note that east county trails at high elevation can get snow and will enter into a freeze/thaw cycle. Low lying meadow areas are slowest to drain.