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NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Making the Trip Across the Line


If you really want to see San Diego County's northern border, you'd better rent a helicopter--or perhaps a horse. For most of the 86-mile county line, the terrain can best be described as "rugged," and that's putting it mildly.

However, there are a few inroads here and there across the northern rim where you can safely explore the region in a passenger vehicle. And, for the more hardy, the Cleveland National Forest offers hundreds of miles of trails for those willing and/or able to strike out on foot or horseback.

San Onofre State Park / Christianitos Road / Camp Pendleton

Exit from Interstate 5 on Cristianitos Road and head east. To see the surfers at Trestles, park just east of the freeway overpass and walk west, following the concrete pathway to the shoreline.

Cristianitos Road offers a rare opportunity to actually drive along the county line for several miles. Note, however, that you will be "aboard" Camp Pendleton, and, at the guard gate you'll be asked to sign in. The base is open to civilians in peacetime. If there are no maneuvers in the area, you'll be able to proceed.

Cleveland National Forest,

Trabuco District / De Luz

Since most of the southern part of this district is in a preserve that prohibits mechanized transportation (even mountain bikes), this is largely the domain of hikers and horseback riders.

However, you can reach the Tenaja Campground just north of the line in Riverside County via Tenaja Road, which is graded, not paved, and is subject to closure in rainy periods. Check with the Trabuco Ranger Station at (714) 736-1811 before attempting this, or to get more information on the trail system.

To reach Tenaja Road, take Interstate 15 to Murietta and exit west on Clinton Keith Road, turning right on Tenaja Road.

For a trip to De Luz, head to Fallbrook's Main Street and turn left on de Luz Road. The road is paved all the way through De Luz Canyon and in to Temecula, but go when it's been sunny -- rain can render the spillways impassable.

The road's on the curvaceous side, but it affords tremendous views of Camp Pendleton's little-seen back side and the Santa Margarita Mountains.

Rainbow / Pala-Temecula Road

If you're heading up Interstate 15, don't blink or you'll miss your chance to meander through the quiet streets of Rainbow Valley.

Exit northbound 15 on Old Highway 395 north of Pala, and follow 395 along the freeway, crossing underneath it about 2 miles past Reche Road. Turn right on Rainbow Valley Boulevard.

To reach Pala-Temecula Road, take northbound I-15 to County S-76 east. Follow 76 into the Pala Indian Reservation. Turn left on Pala-Temecula Road, County S-16, which winds north into scenic chaparral and eventually leads you into Temecula, where you can catch I-15 back south.

Cleveland National Forest, Palomar District / Oak Grove

The easiest access to Agua Tibia Wilderness is through the Dripping Springs Campground. From Interstate 15, exit east on Highway 79 to Vail Lake, and turn right into the campground. From there, it's hiking or horseback riding only, so check with the Palomar Ranger District at 788-0250 for trail and/or camping information. To follow the old Butterfield Stage route to and through Oak Grove, just stay on Highway 79 through Radec, Aguanga and Dameron Valley.

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