James Murren
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Mountain Bike Noble Canyon


Noble Canyon National Recreation Trail in east county San Diego is ten miles long from top to bottom. You can hike it, bike it, run it, and horseback ride it. While doing so, you’ll pass through some six eco-zones, ranging from pine forested slopes to a breathtakingly beautiful oak grove, complete with a mountain stream from winter through late spring/early summer, the trail then stretching into desert land with cacti, succulents, and chaparral. For mountain bikers, it is an IMBA Epic and one of the top adventure rides in Southern California. There are many ways to ride Noble, including the use of a shuttle if you set it up.

To turn it into a longer ride, I like to link it up this way: Park at the trailhead in Pine Valley > Climb up the old Pine Creek Road > Stay straight at the big tree up top and continue on the dirt Deer Park Road > Turn right at Indian Creek Trail and climb up to Champagne Pass > Go left on Pine Mountain Trail > Turn right at Sunrise Highway/Pioneer Mail and ride to Penny Pines Trailhead > Hop on Noble Canyon Trail and ride it all the way back down to where I parked my car.

A few notes:

You need an Adventure Pass for parking at the Noble Canyon Trailhead in Pine Valley because it sits in Cleveland National Forest. You can get a pass at the gas station in Pine Valley town. If you have a National Parks pass, that works too. Pack plenty of water and food, and then pack a little more hydration. There is a hand pump/water at Penny Pines, which is used by PCT thru-hikers. You cannot count on this, though, as I have been there when it has been turned off. If the water’s turned on, top off your bottle/hydration pack.


Indian Creek Trail and across to Pioneer Mail on Pine Mountain Trail is my favorite stretch of single track in San Diego County. It feels remote, has some tech sections, and affords vast views of the Laguna and Cuyamaca Mountains. Noble in late spring/early summer pops with wildflowers and I especially love when the yuccas are flowering. The oak grove in the middle of Noble is a favorite spot to stop and eat. Think Tolkien.


earn your beer noble canyon

If you ask anyone to name the top five family brewers in San Diego, the Mcilhenney family in Alpine, CA will be on everyone’s list. They are masters at crafting West Coast IPAs. Back at it in their original location in town for a year now, they are also canning some of their beers. Stop in, have a pint, and pick up a 4-pack. I recommend their rendition of a Nelson-hopped, rye IPA called Muntz (7.2% ABV).

It is quintessential Mcilhenney Brewing Company. Their 1-year Anniversary triple IPA called Higher Times came in at 11%. I had it as a late evening summer sipper that tasted like sunshine-infused tangerine flowers with drops of melon-touched honeysuckle breezes all landing milliseconds apart on my palate the way orange blossoms flutter to the ground on a windy day (not really … I’m simply poking a little fun at some beer descriptions these days). Cheers!

Read other Earn Your Beer columns here.