The ride starts from the main parking lot by the concession stand on the south side of Lake Murray in La Mesa (enter on Kiowa St from Lake Murray Blvd). There is plenty of parking there, a concession stand selling drinks, fishing baits, and even ice-cream, and good public restrooms. Follow the paved cycling/hiking trail that goes around the lake east, then take the first paved narrow ramp off to the right and climb your way up to Baltimore Dr (the ramp is paved but is quite rough and has a short steep pitch at the top). There is a crosswalk there, use it to turn left on Baltimore Dr and then right on El Paso St through a quiet residential neighborhood.
After about 1/2 mile, turn right on Jackson Dr for a nice downhill (it's a wide street with a bike lane, though much of the bike lane is in the door zone of parallel-parked cars, so stay alert). Merge early to the through lane as you approach the intersections with Fletcher Pkwy and with I-8, after which the road gently climbs up to the mesa south of the interstate. Go straight until the road ends and turn left on Lemon St (cross traffic doesn't stop here). Once you get past Bancroft, traffic will all but disappear as the road starts to climb up the saddle between Mt Helix and the adjacent (and apparently nameless) hill.
Lemon St is a narrow two-laner with very little to no shoulder. It isn't trafficky, though, and climbs up the hill is sputtering fashions; three steep pitches followed by short downhill sections. The first starts quite gentle and steadily steepens to around 10% approaching the intersection with Alto Dr before dropping off. The next section is a bit more vicious, with a block-long 12% grade ramp that crests at a right hand bend overlooking Lake Helix (you'll have to cross over to the other side of the road to see the charming private lake, however). A short recovery downhill section leads to a short steep pitch up to Fuerte Dr. A quick right turn there followed immediately by another right turn onto Mt Helix Dr takes you away from traffic up the steady 1.5 miles climb to the top.
|The straight-ish bit of Mt Helix Dr.|
|Looking ESE from Mt Helix Nature Theater.|
After a good rest stop, descend down Mt Helix Dr to the first ring of the road and turn left. Yes, yes, you've been here before, but we're only overlapping just a bit. Take a right onto narrow Alto Dr. This road is very narrow and twisty, but it is a two-way street, so keep right of center and don't speed into its many blind turns (you never know if someone is about to come out of their private drive way!). It was recently re-paved in spring of 2013, and the black asphalt is quite pleasantly smooth. There is a switchback turn and many S-curves as the road winds its way down the slope. Go straight through the intersection with Lemon St until the road ends at Mesa Vista Ave. Shift to low (climbing) gear and turn right and up a vicious little ramp (max gradient is about 17% here) and bear left onto Mesa Terrace.
Turn left on El Granito, then right on Grossmont Blvd and stay on it across to the south side of I-8. Turn right at the intersection and follow Murray Dr east and then north (stay left when it branches into Murray Dr and El Cajon Blvd). Keep right at Dennstedt Pl which then turns into Murray Dr again until it runs into a traffic circle. Exit at S Westwind St and follow it as it winds gently uphill to the intersection with Fletcher Pkwy. Look for a paved little bike path on the right curb between Fletcher Pkwy and Tyrone Ct and turn right onto it. Mind your downhill speed as the pavement is very bumpy (and tree shadows make the bumps hard to see)!
|Fletcher Hills bike path. Take the left branch here to exit.|
After some nice car-free (and very flat) riding the path ends very abruptly on the south side of very busy Mission Gorge Rd. Check the sidewalk for pedestrians and make the sharp right turn, staying on the sidewalk to the next traffic light (there's a pharmacy there) and use the light to turn north onto Carlton Hills Blvd. I'm afraid this is the only 'trafficky' bit of the route. Cross the bridge and merge to the left turning lane as early and safely as you can to turn left on Carlton Oaks Dr. Once you've made the turn the traffic lessens considerably and there is a nice bike lane to ride in. The road ends in a T-intersection with W Hills Pkwy. You want to make a left turn, but may have to use the pedestrian crossing light as the traffic light loop here also doesn't pick up bicycles.
|Old Mission Dam in Mission Trails Regional Park. Water & port-a-toilets available.|
If you have a bike bell, it would really come in handy riding through Mission Trails park on the Serra Trails as it is a favorite hiking and jogging spots even on weekdays. Please remember that pedestrians always have the right of way on multi-use paths like this (and that you may meet many of the joggers again on the road once they've gotten back in their car).
|Junipero Serra Trails through Mission Trails Regional Park.|
Of course, you could also stay on Park Ridge Blvd all the way into Lake Murray Park, but I find its intersection with Murray Park Dr rather dangerous as cross traffic doesn't stop, and any traffic coming from the right comes down a curvy 12% grade slope. Cross traffic as Belle Glade runs into Lake Murray park doesn't stop either, but it is a flat stretch removed from that fast downhill and makes for much more pleasant crossing.
|Cycling on Lake Murray multi-use trail.|
I shot a video preview of the ride a while back. Keep in mind that I used a handheld camera, however, so I couldn't shoot on steep up or down slopes (or on the narrow and steep descent of Alto Dr).