Mexico To Big Bear Lake
297 miles 6 hours and 22 minutes
The San Felipe Valley road
The first section of the Pacific Crest Motorcycle Road, running from the routes beginning at the Mexican border to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernadino Mountains, is a land of open skies. A land where one can see for miles on a clear day. The dry desert air can be pungent with the orders of desert plants and even on this section, with 24 million people living within a couple of hours ride of the route. you can have long stretches of road to yourself.
We’re in a dry Mediterranean climate here, and even when we’re in the mountains, views from these forests are easy to come by, covered with well-spaced pines and a dense growth of brush know as chaparral. Unlike the forest of the Pacific Northwest at the other end of our trip, these forests allow some room to breathe.
8-1-20 Notice of route change.
If you have checked out this site in the past and maybe even been planning a ride, you may notice that the route of this first section has changed. In the past, it went through the San Jacinto State Park, and the town of Banning on its way to Big Bear. It was mountainous and had some great twisty roads but it is also crowded, with lots of traffic in the small areas of second homes near Mountain Center and the area around Banning is definitely urban. Not the greatest motorcycle roads. In fact, it’s just a place to go through on your way to somewhere else. That is not what motorcycling and the PCMCR is meant to be. It’s all about the journey, not the designation. So I decided to move the route to go down into the imperial valley near the Salton Sea, and then into Joshua Tree National Park. If you’re looking for the old route you can see it here.
Our route northward to Canada begins 1 mile east of the small town of Jacumba Hot Sprints, at the border of the United States and Mexico. To reach this spot:
From the east: coming from the town of El Centro, take interstate 8 west for 38 miles to exit 77, In-Ko-Pah road. Turn left at the stop sign, ride 2/10s of a mile and turn left onto old high 80. Go under the freeway and turn right at the stop sign heading to Jacumba Hot Springs, five miles down the road. Here you will find the Jacumba Hot Springs resort, and one more mile down the road bring us to the unnamed dirt road that will lead us to the Southern terminus of the PCMCR.
From the west: From San Diego, the fastest way to get to our starting point is along interstate 8, exiting at Ribbonwood Rd (high 94) 65 miles from the junction of interstate 5 and 8 in downtown San Diego, then going about a mile south on 94 until it intersects old high 80, or to avoid that super slab, taking CA 94 for 67 miles until it intersects old highway 80. At the junction or 94 and old high 80, we travel 7.5 miles southwest to reach our unnamed dirt road that leads less than a mile to the southern terminus of the PCMCR.
Mile 0: The US Mexican Border: After stopping to take a few photos we head back along our dirt road to the junction with
Mile: 2/10 Old Highway 80: We turn left on old high 80 and begin in earnest toward Canada.
Mile 7.8 Junction High 94 and Old High 80: Our route goes straight ahead on old high 80/high 94, passing the small Mountain Top Market and gas station on the right-hand side of the road before leaving high 94 behind in a short way, as it goes left toward the town of Campo and we head right toward Live Oak springs.
Mile 11.1: Live Oak Springs, another small store and gas station. Another 2 miles up the road, passing by the Golden Acorn Casino and Travel Center with more gas we arrive at a junction
Mile 13.2 Junction with Bia Road, here we turn left still on old high 80. We travel beside interstate 8 and watch the crazy freeway drivers jockey for a position as we enjoy our leisurely ride along the old road. In 8.4 miles we come to the first campground along our route, the
Mile 21.6 Golden Oak Campground. Continuing along old high 80 we arrive at
Mile 27.7 Laguna Junction, pass under Interstate 8, leaving it and old high 80 behind as we begin to climb into the Laguna Mountains on highway S1. Our first series of twisties on the PCMCR. This is what the PCMCR is all about, twisty mountain roads and the Sunrise highway, as S1 is known as, it just that. Traveling up into the Laguna Mountains, passing a tavern and Cafe, a Lodge and store, and the laguna Campground on our way to the junction with highway 79.
Mile 51.5 Junction, High S1 and High 79 Turn right on high 79 heading north toward the town of Julian, which we reach in just about ten minutes.
Mile. 57.3 Town of Julian, junction with high 78 Not too often do we find two highways with corresponding numbers intersect but here we do. The town of Julian is a quaint little hamlet that is a popular destination for Sothern California Riders, especially on weekends. Our route goes right on highway 78 and needs east, descending into the San Felipe Valley along some wonderful twisty roads to meet the San Felipe Valley Road, (county road S2)
Mile 68.9 Junction, High 78 and Country highway S2, the San Felipe Valley road. We turn left, heading north on this road that goes along this long open valley and soon come to the junction with the
Mile 81 Junction of S2 and S22 highway, the Montezuma-Borrego highway heading east into the Anza-Borrego Desert and the state park of the same name. We turn right on this road and begin a fin twisty descent into the town of Borrego Springs.
Mile 98.4 Junction of S22 and Palm Canyon Dr. We take a right turn here and just down the road reach the 100-mile mark on our journey to Canada as we go through the small town. We go straight on Palm Canyon Drive and go around a left-hand corner where the road becomes Pegleg Road. Now you got to love a place that names a road Pegleg. Were still on highway S22 her and all the way to our next junction with
Mile 127.2 High 86 Salton City Here we turn left, northward onto highway 86. We are riding along the eastern shore of the Salton Sea, an inland lake with no outlet. We travel along this divided highway for 15 miles until we reach
Mile 142.3 Junction of high 86 and 81st Ave. where we turn left, then in 3/10s of a mile turn right on Harrison St. Just a little ride in the country to get off the divided highway. Two and a half miles and we reach
Mile 144.8 Pierce St. Turn right, ride another 5.2 miles to reach
Mile 150 Junction with 66th ave. Turn right. Cross high 86 and just pass Lincoln St. you come to
Mile 152 high 111, Grapefruit Blvd, turn left and almost immediately turn right, where we enter the little hamlet of Mecca. So now you can tell your friends that you have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. We come to our first roundabout on the trip and go to the right, following 66th ave again for 2/10ths of a mile, where Hammond road goes straight our route curves to the left and we follow high 66th through irrigated fields again until it becomes Box Canyon Road. Here we are once again in the open desert again. For the next ten miles, this road has some fun twisties as we rise up out of the town imperial valley or the low desert and begin our ascent into the high desert of California.
Mile 172.1 Junction with Interstate 10 Know as the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway. Where we go straight ahead over the freeway and head up into Joshua Tree National Park. Our first of seven national parks along our route. In a short but fun 6.8 miles, we arrive at the
Mile 178.9 Cottonwood Visitors Center, at this park entrance there is no “entrance station” and you stop at the center to pay the fee or show your pass, get a map, information about the park and here also is the entrance road to Cottonwood Campground, not a bad place to camp. A little under 30-mile ride through the park on Pinto Basin Road, with numerous opportunities to stop and learn about the parks flora, fauna, and geography brings us to the aptly named
Mile 208.5 Park Boulevard where we turn left and ride for about 21 more miles through Joshua tree before coming to
Mile 229.3 the west entrance station where Park Bulv changes its name to Quail Springs Road and begins to travel through a widely spread out housing development on the outskirts of the town of Joshua Tree. When we cross Alta Loma Dr. the road returns to the name Park Blvd again, stranger things have happened. After five miles traveling through the town, we come to
Mile 234.4 Junction with Highway 62 smack in the middle of the town of Twentynine Palms. Here you will find just about anything you need, food, gas, hotels, and just up the road a Walmart supercenter. We turn left onto highway 62 and luckily don’t have to travel but six miles to the junction with
Mile 240.2 highway 247, Old Woman Springs road. where, in just a short time, we are out of the hustle and bustle of Twentynine Palms, and headed out into the high desert again. We stay on 247 for forty miles until we reach the intersection of
Mile 280.2 Camp rock road, where we turn left and head toward the San Bernaernando Mountains and Big Bear Lake.
Mile 285.1 Junction with Highway 18, turn left and for 12 and a half miles we twist our way into higher ground, a welcome relief for you summer riders, and arrive at the
Mile 297.6 junction of high 18 (here it’s called N. Shore Drive) and Greenway Drive where we end the first section of our ride. We will continue this in section two.