Distance: 57.2 miles (92.1 km)
Notes: mixed terrain urban routing out of San Diego, 3000′ Otay Mountain ascent, few wild camping opportunities, BMX Hall of Fame at the Olympic Training Center, stop at the historic Barrett Junction Cafe for one last American meal, bring $20 cash for tourist permit at USA/MX border crossing, for free camping after Tecate plan to ride to Cañon Manteca or stay in town at one of several hotels and campgrounds on route, most pavement of any route section
Warning: Camping is limited due to the proximity of San Diego and the border.
Resupply legend: F-Food store, f-limited food resupply, W-Water, M-Motel, C-Campground, R-Restaurant, B-Bike shop, $-Bank ATM, Bus, Airport
Resupply: San Diego-FWMCRB$ BusAirport, Barrett Junction-WR, Tecate-FWMCRB$ Bus
The Baja Divide route begins at San Diego International Airport, several miles north of downtown San Diego. A variety of bike paths, on-street bike lanes, urban dirt paths, and singletrack lead out of the city to the base of Otay Mountain. The route passes a high density of suburban resources while leaving town including a Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Home Depot, and an REI. Just before dropping out of town onto a mellow singletrack system around Lower Otay Lake, the route passes the Olympic Training center in Chula Vista, which is also home to the BMX Hall of Fame and Museum, a worthwhile stop.
The climb over Otay Mountain is one of the single greatest climbs on the route, however the track follows a well-graded dirt road up the mountain which begins very steeply from Otay Lakes Road. The view from the top of the mountain visually connects the city of San Diego and its many neighborhoods and harbors with the bustling city of Tijuana, Mexico, while the Rio Tijuana and the international border are visible from up high. To the east, rocky, folded mountains allude to the terrain along the route in the next few days south of the border.
There is little camping on this section, although a possible campsite is found on the east side of Otay Mountain (BLM) in a grassy meadow just before descending to the paved road at Engineer Springs, whereafter the route passes a series of rural communities along dirt roads and irrigation ditches, descending to Barrett Junction via an old wagon road. The Barrett Junction Cafe is an historic establishment on Hwy 94 and is the only service in the valley. The cafe was especially popular during post-war years when San Diegans would drive out for the fried fish dinner and populate the dance hall on weekends– fish dinners were free, but patrons paid for their beers. The cafe is now an informal museum of a bygone era and features vintage beer signage, B&W photos, and more than a few guns and animals on the walls, and still serves a classic American menu. A paved climb and descent lead from Barrett Junction to Tecate, a city of approximately 65,000 people at 1775 feet. Traffic along Hwy 94 is moderate at times and is one of the busier parts of the route.
A valid passport is required at the border. For extended travel in Baja California a tourist permit is also required, available for purchase at the border in US or MX currency for about $20, cash only (no cards). You must enter the immigration building on the right to fill out paperwork. The tourist visa is paid at the window outside where a receipt is provided. Once across the border, you will enjoy the energy of a small Mexican city. This, however, is the quietest and most pleasant border crossing between the US and Baja California.
The Sweetwater Summit Regional Park is a about two miles off route at the edge of Chula Vista and offers camping. Recommended bike shops in San Diego include RIDE Cyclery (location in downtown SD) and Cal Coast Bicycles. The route also passes near several shops, including Hub and Spoke Cycleworks, Performance Bicycle, REI Chula Vista, and the Trek Bicycle Superstore.