North County Cruisers Motorcycle Club

Ortega Highway Trip Description

Related Links:
Info on Lake Elsinore
Info on San Juan Capistrano

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Ortega Map

The Ortega Highway (Rt. 74) is located North of Camp Pendleton and just South of L.A. You can ride it in either direction but we often ride from West to East in order to enjoy the great view as you descend to Lake Elsinore. If the weather is hot, we will ride from West to East in order to save the cool ride along I-5 until last. Unfortunately, the ride requires expressway riding to get to Ortega and often to get back. The ride is about 110 miles and takes about 3 hours.

The ride begins in Oceanside -- often starting from one of the shopping centers near Jefferson and Rt. 78 just East of I-5. We take Rt. 78 West to I-5 and then head North on I-5. Traffic is often heavy but the view of the ocean and Camp Pendleton makes the trip pleasant. You should stay on I-5 until you reach the Rt. 74 Ortega Highway exit at San Juan Capistrano. Make sure that you have sufficient gas to reach Lake Elsinore since there is essentially only wilderness in between. You should continue East on Rt. 74 into the Ortega area.

Ortega Highway
View along Ortega Highway.

The traffic can be relatively heavy since this is a very popular sport bike road. The road has a lot of tight turns and changes in elevation. The speed limit will typically be 55 so your pace can be brisk. We have heard stories of the police timing bikes from the air and then intercepting them at the end of Ortega Highway.

There are numerous turnouts that can be used for taking breaks and pictures. You will see several campgrounds along the way and several stops about halfway where you can buy drinks and snacks. We especially enjoy stopping at Hells Kitchen which is a popular biker hangout.

As you proceed Eastward, you will notice that temperature will slowly rise as you get farther from the ocean. The terrain will also become more arid and rocky. The road has big sweeping turns which make for fun riding. Be sure to watch for oncoming traffic that may cross the double yellow line.

Watch for Kileen Trail on your right just before you reach the descent above Lake Elsinore. You can follow it to your right (South) for a couple miles to where you can watch hang gliders and parasails launch over Lake Elsinore. You can continue another 4 miles South on a one lane road and reach the Wildomar Off Road Vehicle Area. The road actually continues on Cleveland Forest Road which is a one lane paved road with some pot holes that goes all the way to Clinton Keith road.

The best part of the ride is when you begin your descent to Lake Elsinore. There is a vista with a great view of the lake. This is also a small restaurant called The Lookout Roadhouse which is another popular biker hangout. Be cautious of the hard packed dirt parking lot.

Elsinore View
View from Lake Elsinore Vista

The descent to Lake Elsinore features more big sweeping turns with a great view to the East as you work your way down. You will eventually reach a Tee where Rt. 74 continues to your left and Grand Avenue goes to your right. You have the option of following Rt. 74 to I-15 and taking the expressway south to Rt. 78 and home. We prefer to take Grand Avenue South and parallel to I-15. We usually get gas in Lakeland Village and get bottled water to rehydrate..

The route follows Grand Avenue South until it ends at Clinton Keith road. Turn left on Clinton Keith road and almost immediately turn right on Washington. Follow Washington until it ends. Once again, you turn left and then turn right on Jefferson. Jefferson will take you into Temecula. Sometimes we follow Jefferson thru Temecula Old Town. There are a number of interesting restaurants and stores. Other times, we turn right on Rancho California and follow Sandia Creek thru the DeLuz Canyon area. See our DeLuz Canyon ride for a detailed map.