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May 23, 2004

Camp Pendleton Route Follow-up

On May 3rd I wrote about the only route I knew about to get through the Camp Pendleton region, from San Clemente to Oceanside.

Several people left comments that only led to more questions, and showed me that we all needed a clearer picture of what our options were.

Cycling South Thru Camp Pendleton to Oceanside.

After several phone calls, and the asking of questions I took the 18.25 mile, 2 hour ride on Wednesday afternoon, and evening.

This entry is the 100th entry to The Cycling Dude, and what follows is my report of my ride.

Let me begin by acknowledging the following people, and agencies, for taking the time to answer my questions:

Ranger Zone of the Orange County District Office of the Ca. State Parks & Recreation Dept..

CHP Officer Latulippe, of the Oceanside Office.

A helpful MP at Camp Pendleton.

Laura Williams, Secretary of Traffic Operations for District 11 of CalTrans Traffic Dept..

The route described by me earlier, for getting from Las Pulgas Gate to Oceanside is only good during times when civilian access to Camp Pendleton is not restricted.

That time is not right now.

Right now anyone driving a car, or riding a bike, needs to have a Military ID to travel anywhere on the base, or be accompanied by a person with such ID in order to do so.

The other option is actually a year round option for those unwilling to travel through the base when the choice to do so is available.

Instead of going left from the bike path to the Gate, a cyclist turns right, goes under the I-5, and enters the southbound entrance to the Interstate.

Let me begin at the beginning:

( All distances are aproximate )

By car one takes I-5 south to the Christianitos Rd. exit, and turn left to park on the street, or in a parking lot next to the nearby Carl's Jr. restuarant, on El Camino Real.

By Bus a person can connect to the OCTA #1 anywhere along PCH ( Pacific Coast Highway ), from Long Beach to San Clemente, and take the #1, south, to the end of the line next to the Carl's Jr..

The Bike Path begins next to the southboud entrance to I-5, on Christianitos.

The first mile is on a wide path that finally narrows to enter old PCH, and after another hilly mile and a half you reach Surf Beach.

At 3.8 miles you arrive at the entrance to San Onofre State Park Bluff, and Campgrounds.

This area is open from 6am to 10pm.

By this time you have passed the Nuclear Power plant, and have hugged the freeway, and railroad tracks.

Now you are entering a widened stretch of road that has a series of more than 150 parking spots for campers, and more campground restrooms than you can shake a stick at.

There are numerous opportunities to stop, park your bike, and traipse down a path to the beach if you are so inclined.

During the busy summer season this stretch can be a tad hazardous to navigate because of the campers, their offsping, and their pets, and so caution is the watchword.

At the 7 mile mark thru traffic ends at a fence, and a bike path begins as you travel beyond the Campground, and travel onwward.

At 8.2 miles you can take a path, to the right, that ends overlooking the beach.

At 8.8 miles the trail veers left, under the Interstate, and then right again, so that you are now to the east of I-5, and on an abandoned stretch of road that has been turned into a marked Bike Trail.

This trail ends at 10.33 miles when you reach Las Pulgas Road.

The ride, so far, has been a scenic ride, of solitude, on mostly flat terrain, in stretches of near wilderness, except for the concrete, and campground ammenites.

Now, turning right, the cyclist travels under the interstate, and turns left to enter I-5, and travel along the freeway shoulder for the next nearly 8 miles to the Oceanside Harbor Dr. exit in Oceanside.

The ride has a few hilly stretches that are no big deal, and there are a couple of exits, and on-ramps for a rest stop where you will have to watch traffic very carefully, but otherwise this ride among the gas guzzlers is quite uneventful, as you travel through Camp Pendleton.

You will be reminded to get off when you see the white sign, with black letters telling Cyclists it is now time to exit the intersate. :-)

Go right on Oceanside Harbor, to reach the Harbor itself, or turn left, then right, past the gas stations, and Denny's, and onto Old Highway 101 to reach a bus stop for the North County Transit Bus #395 located a few blocks away at the Robertito's Taco Shop at Surfriders Way.

If you wish to retrace your route, by bicycle, just get back on the norhtbound I-5 and have at it, when you are ready.

I went and talked to 2 MP's at the base entrance nearby, and learned from Mr. Andres, and Mr. Collins, that the surface street route supposedly isn't that much longer than the route I'd just taken.

However, after seeing it by bus, I have to wonder.

From Christianitos Gate to Oceanside Harbor Gate has got to be a LONG haul, but I also believe the ride from Las Pulgas to Oceanside may make for a 23 mile, instead of 18 mile ride, at least.

The bus runs every 2 hours, and is always packed. Bring your drivers license, or state ID, or you won't be allowed on the bus.

Oh, and bring $1.75 for the fare.

The bus ride gives you an up close, 90 minute, view of the base.

The route follows, pretty much, the route a Cyclist would take, except for detours through several of the Camps to drop off or pick up soldiers, and civilians.

The south end of the territory is full of residential areas, complete with shopping centers, near various bases, but the further north one goes the more distant the bases are from each other, and the more rugged, mountainous, and hilly the terrain becomes, and the roads become 1 lane in either direction in many sections.

This is a ruggedly beautiful region.

A cyclist will find him, or herself, alone with nature, and the rugged beauty of the the surrounding countryside, and would have to come well prepared for at least a partial day trip by bringing plenty of liquids, snacks, and a spare tube or 2.

I envy those who have the opportunity to bike through this region whenever they have the chance to do so.

One amusing thing I saw was a sign for the 11 Marines NBC Defense.

I laughed as I imagined our military preparing to defend itself from Tom Brokaw, and wondered if there was an ABC, CBS, PBS, and CNN Defense as well. :-)

Anyway, there you have it.

This should clear up, once and for all, the options for bicycling through this area.

If there is anyone who has ridden the base from Las Pulgas Gate to Christianitos Gate, or the reverse, share the route, and your experiences with us, for future reference.

*** UPDATE -- MARCH. 2005 ***

The Route described in my previous post has been re-opened as described here

May 23, 2004 in Riding San Diego County | Permalink


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> By this time you have passed
> the Nuclear Power plant

Amazing how the plant resembles
a woman's, um, you-know-whats.
Some day, someone will sneak in
there and paint them pink.


Posted by: jaspar | May 23, 2004 3:55:39 PM

Cycling on the shoulder of a freeway. In Illinois, they specifically prohibit even the smaller motor-driven cycles from the interstates.

Posted by: Carolyn | May 23, 2004 4:46:01 PM



How else to distract folks from what the place is all about? :-)

Posted by: Kiril | May 24, 2004 12:13:10 AM


Under most circumstances, and conditions, banning is appropriate, but with a major trafic corridor such as this, if the shoulders of the Interstate are wide, and the exits, and entrances between the 2 ends of the section are few or non-existent then allowing Cyclists is a fine idea in my opinion.

Here there is a rest stop on either side of the route with 1 entrance, and 1 exit.

There is enough warning to allow the cyclist to use proper caution when crossing those lanes.

My one disappointment was that there were not signs alerting Cyclists that it is okay to enter this stretch in the first place.

There was just the sign telling cyclists to exit.

Posted by: Kiril | May 24, 2004 12:21:33 AM

Kiril: I'm glad that you figured this one out; I got very politely turned back on a short 60-mi coast ride last week when I unexpectedly made it to the southern gate of Pendleton right by the Oceanside harbor. In Oceanside going north the "preferred" bike route is along the waterfront rather than the busy old 101, and it dead-ends in this fashion. I was actually looking for the path to go inland that runs alongside 76 and the San Luis Rey River.

The point being, Oceanside is a little confusing.

Carolyn: Are you originally from Illinois? If so, where from? I can't imagine the reaction that I'd get riding on I-57 in my light blue UCSD gear.

Posted by: Chris | May 25, 2004 10:46:55 PM

Oh, yeah, aren't those nuclear power plant thingies in one of the Naked Gun movies? Or am I thinking of something else?

Posted by: Chris | May 25, 2004 10:47:28 PM

re: I was actually looking for the path to go inland that runs alongside 76 and the San Luis Rey River.


Not having a San Diego County Thomas Guide, yet, I can't comment on that, but if you want to get a first hand look at riding conditions IN Pendleton, along the bus route then a little trip to San Clemente and back will only cost you $1.75 each way. :-)

Otherwise the bike ride is a simple matter of doing the reverse of what I describe here.

Posted by: Kiril | May 26, 2004 1:51:30 AM

This weekend I rode from Dana Point Harbor to Christianitos and a bit further South on the trail that you mentioned. I was interested in heading farther though, so I googled and found your site and posting. I enjoyed it alot, and thanks for the very detailed trip discription.
One thing caught my eye, and gave me a chuckle though. You mentioned the 11th Marine NBC defense sign. Not sure if you were joking about the Tom Bokaw coment or not, but thought that I might clear up something if you were serious. Having been a Marine stationed at Pendleton some years ago... the NBC stands for Nuclear, Biological, Chemical.

Looking forward to making the trip. Maybe next weekend.

Posted by: Jim Lee | Sep 6, 2004 1:02:59 PM

Thanks for stopping by Jim, & enjoy the ride! :-)

Yes, I was joking, but to explain the joke would have spoiled my fun in seeing how long it would take for someone to point out what you did. :-)

Posted by: Miss MYSBGD-America | Sep 6, 2004 1:33:05 PM

I just had a long (argument) conversation regarding travel through Pendelton.

I used to live in San Clemente and rode to Oceanside and back quite often.

Then 9/11 happened. Since, I was prohibited from going on base. (I even knew a couple of the guards)

Anyhow, my friend says that he get's on base all the time. (he is not enlisted). His argument was that there are several public churches, museums, resturants and a bowling alley on base. Publically accessible.

I'd be curious to find out if anyone would try one of these as an excuse to get on base. Let me kow if it works. I don't like riding on the 5 next to the 18 wheelers...


Posted by: John K | Sep 13, 2004 4:49:34 PM

Interesting point, JOHN.

A North County Transit Busses go thru the base to several destinations all day long, and while passengers must show ID's I have to wonder what's to stop a non- military person, with bike or without, from getting off the bus at any point along the routes?

I'm going to see what I can learn on this subject, and get back here with an answer.

Posted by: Kiril | Sep 14, 2004 12:02:54 AM

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