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Trails and Ales: Where to Bike and Drink in San Diego

Our favorite places to grab a cold pint after knocking out some miles


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San Diego is home to hundreds of miles of trails—and breweries. | Photo: Rob Hammer

Like peanut butter and jelly or macaroni and cheese, mountain biking and post-ride beers are made for each other. With hundreds of miles of trails—and 137 breweries at last count—San Diego has some amazing riding options where you can wet your whistle after knocking out some miles. Here are three suggested pairings to check out—the MTB Project app can help with route maps and details.

 

EASY

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

Tucked between the 5 and 15 with rolling hills of open space ringed by houses, Peñasquitos Canyon offers a great place to get some dirt on your tires while staying close to town. Seven miles across, the valley features a meandering creek and waterfall in the middle, with wide, welcoming dirt paths on either side. Start in Sorrento Valley in the west or at Canyonside Recreation Center in the east and take the main fire roads to one of several creek crossings where you can come back via the other side. Ready for the next stage? Check out side trails up to Lopez Canyon, Camino Ruiz Neighborhood Park, or Del Mar Mesa.

Post ride: To keep it pure and simple, New English Brewing on Sorrento Valley Road is a great place to start, with Green Flash Brewing Co. and its in-house food truck a few minutes up the hill in Mira Mesa.

 

MEDIUM

Mission Trails Regional Park

Centered around the 1,593-foot Cowles Mountain, Mission Trails offers many opportunities for you to figure out what your granny gear is and how to use it. Start at the east end of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and head east to hook up with an open trail network that lets you choose your own adventure in the rugged terrain of one of the largest urban parks in the country. Follow the trail rules, stay south of the 52 to avoid run-ins with the Marines, enjoy the sweeping, bermed turns leading down E-Ticket trail—and don’t forget you’ll have to climb out of there as well.

Post ride: Societe Brewing usually has a food truck and plenty of space to spin your tall trail tales, while Kilowatt, Quantum, Helms, and Council Brewing provide more intimate options in nearby Kearny Mesa.

 

HARD

Noble Canyon

The big-dog trail of Southern California, Noble Canyon is a truly epic ride that takes you through three ecosystems of high-alpine trees at 5,400 feet, down shady oak groves, and across desert chaparral on a challenging, rocky single-track descent that will keep your body—and your bike’s suspension—working. Starting in Pine Valley, the hard way up is to climb eight miles and 1,800 feet up Pine Creek Road, or shuttle it, leaving one car at the bottom and taking the other to Penny Pines for the traditional 10-mile Noble descent. Or head to Red-Tailed Roost to add Los Gatos Ravine and the Big Laguna Trail network for 18 miles of some of the best mountain biking San Diego has to offer. This one can be unforgiving, so it’s best to go with someone who has been before—and can help you survive.

Post ride: It’s hard to beat a sleeve of fries from Frosty Burger in Pine Valley, but if you can hold on till you get closer to town, Alpine Beer Company’s pub offers outstanding fare and impeccable IPAs. If you’ve just ridden Noble Canyon, you’ve earned either one.

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