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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
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