Temecula, CA is widely known for its abundance of vineyards. It also serves as a great jumping off point for some of Southern California’s best bicycle riding. The town itself sits scattered across rolling hills between two larger mountain ranges to the north and south. Given the right vantage point, you can see snow-capped mountains to the north-east as well.
On this ride, I elected to head south to hit some of my all-time favorite roads. The route is littered with picturesque highlights from start to finish. In about 55 miles and 4,600 feet of climbing you’ll get a taste of everything from canyon descents, quiet winding roads, a few different farm animals, a bit of dirt, and lots of fun. Depending on your fitness level, there are multiple options to extend or shorten the ride. Whichever you decide, these roads make for a challenging, yet rewarding ride.
I will say that it would be wise to start your ride early as the decent into Pala at the beginning is narrow and carries a lot of traffic for the casino down there. Tour buses are especially nerve racking to have passing you and they often do not give much space. I was descending this road just before 10AM on a Saturday morning and the traffic was already too heavy for my liking.
With that said, the start of ride immediately makes you happy to be on a bike. As you leave Temecula via Pala-Temecula road the vegetation starts to turn greener as you enter the top of the canyon. From there you have a fun 3.5 mile decent complete with expansive views and sweeping turns.
Pala connects to its surroundings by two main roads; the local casino being all that puts this dinky town on the map. After passing through the town you have to make a quick jog onto the 76 to connect with a little road called Lilac Extension. It does’t look like this will take you much of anywhere but this quiet hidden passage up and out of Pala makes the whole ride possible.
The first quarter of this two-mile climb is unpaved. The gradient is just mild enough to make climbing up the dirt a fun addition. The ascent is quiet and everything seems to stand still as you crest the first few pitches. Don’t use up your matches too early, as the final 5oo meters kicks up pretty steep and left me rocking out of my saddle.
You’ll know when you’ve made the top once you start to dive down the other side just as quick. The road then opens up to a view of numerous hillsides with a variety of different farms, orchids, and ranches. Already you’ve seen a lot, that was all in the first hour of the ride. If you were to turn right onto Couser Canyon road now and head back you’d have a great two hour ride in for the day.
Keep going and you’ll pass a unique road-side stop called The Yellow Deli. You’ll have to check the place out on your own as my words could not do justice to the odd realities of this possible cult. They seem to take a sabbatical every year as they are always closed in the Summer months. When they are open, it does make for a good mid-ride refuel option. Ask for their famed Green Juice and you’ll bounce back from any bonk.
Regardless, from here you’ve got a few options. I elected to head east on Lilac to meet up with Old Castle road and tack on a few extra miles that way. I wouldn’t recommend this route to everyone. Old Castle is much busier and the shoulder is not great. Rather, take W Lilac towards the 15. This area has some of the best roads in the area. You can connect with Camino Del Rey, Gopher Canyon, and Circle R, all of which are spectacular. Keep in mind, at that point you’ll be looking at upwards of a 70 mile round trip.
Here’s an extended version I did in February that was great.
I rode up Circle R and met back up with W Lilac to start my journey back north. This section is again one of the many highlights of the route. W Lilac is known to many cyclist in the area and never disappoints.
The return journey took me up through Couser canyon which features a wicked fun S-Turn heavy descent. The road fields little traffic so you’ll be safe taking these turns at speed. This is a perfect spot to practice your bike handling skills and have fun doing it. Plant that outside foot and work on your counter steering, then ride back up and do it again.
Once you’re done playing take a left at the T followed by a quick right. Rice Canyon will take you back up in elevation past large estates in a community which I imagine keeps to themselves, and likes it that way. The gradient isn’t bad as the climb stair steps it’s way up to the small town of Rainbow just off the 15 Interstate.
From here, enjoy the many flower-growing greenhouses (maybe why it’s called Rainbow?) and follow the frontage road to your final treat of the day. A quick little descent back into Temecula spits you out in the middle of a gorgeous golf course and onto Pechanga Blvd. Find your way home and enjoy the So-Cal sun for the remainder of the day.
This route is one of my all time favorites. It includes everything that’s great about riding a bike. If you’re in the area, I would recommend going out of your way to get on at least a few of these roads as they are all spectacular.
Share with your cycling friends if you found this helpful and let me know if you have done anything different yourself! I’m always in search of new and exciting rides.