North County Cruisers

Palm Desert Trip Description

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Palm Desert Map

Our standard ride to Palm Desert usually starts from the Mobil Gas Station at I-15 and Rt. 76 just North of Escondido. The round trip mileage is approximately 155 miles and takes about 5 hours including breaks. Since there is no other short route to Palm Desert, we tend to double back over the same route that we used to reach Palm Desert. I've added side trips on Burnt Valley Rd, Wilson Valley Rd., and Pala Rd. for some variety.

The ride begins by heading North on Old Highway 395 from Rt. 76. This road is on the West side of the Mobil gas station. Old Highway 395 generally parallels I-15 on the West side and then switches to the East side at Mission Rd. This route will take you thru the small town of Rainbow and past the Rainbow Oaks Restaurant. The Rainbow restaurant is a good place to stop for breakfast and you get a lot for your money. This has become a tourist attraction with a flea market and an antique store.

As you continue North, you will pass thru Rainbow Canyon. Rainbow Canyon is a great route to bypass the potentially long line on I-15 at the INS checkpoint and has some gentle sweepers too. Be sure to watch out for the golf carts as you pass the golf course. When you reach Pechanga Pkwy, turn left and then turn right on Rt. 79. You are now heading east on Rt. 79.

As you head Eastward on Rt. 79, the road narrows to two lanes and becomes a lot more fun. The land is semi arid with rolling hills. Mountains are visible to the South and the road has more sweeping turns. The speed limit is 55 but traffic is often faster. Continue Eastward until you reach Rt. 371 in Aguanga. Take 371 North and then Northeast past the Cahuilla Casion. Rt. 371 follows part of the Juan Batista de Anza National Historic Trail commenorating the route taken in 1775 -1776 by Batista with his contingent of 30 solders with their families bound for the San Franciso to found the presidio and mission.

Rt. 371 also has rolling turns like Rt. 79 but then flattens out as you pass thru the high desert around the town of Anza. Be sure to get gas and drink fluids since this may be your last opportunity until Palm Desert. When you leave Anza on 371, the road begins to climb quickly into the mountains and you enter San Bernadino National Forest. This is a great stretch for cruisers and for sport bikes. Rt. 371 eventually ends at Rt. 74 where you will turn right to continue East. There is a nice restaurant at this intersection that welcomes bikers. The parking lot is hard packed dirt so some caution is advised.

Heading East on Rt. 74, the road becomes generally flat and straight. After 20 miles, this will change as you begin your descent to the desert floor. The terrain becomes very rocky with a steep drop off and the scenery is just gorgeous. The high point of this trip occurs when you reach the Vista above Palm Desert. The view is breath taking as you look out and look down at the spaghetti bowl road ahead of you. Often you will find Native Americans selling jewelry at the Vista.

The descent to Palm Desert is exciting and challenging. You need to concentrate on your riding so there is not much opportunity to enjoy the view. The temperature will climb by as much as 30 degrees as you descend to the desert so this ride is not recommended for the summer months. We usually take an hour to get gas, have lunch, and perhaps stop at the Palm Desert Swap Meet. It is possible to ride to Palm Springs but Rt. 111 is usually continuous stop and go traffic. A back road route is recommended.

The return route follows Rt. 74 West back to Rt. 371 and then takes 371 left towards Anza. For variety, you can turn left on Burnt Valley Rd. which eventually Tees into 371 in Anza. You should continue West on Rt. 371.

When you pass the Cahuilla Casino, you should start looking to turn right on Wilson Valley Rd. which is the second side route. Wilson Valley winds thru the hills and boulders with very tight, twisty turns. Caution is advised. When you eventually reach the end, turn left to go South on Sage Rd. Sage features more rolling, tight turns and can be a lot of fun. Sage ends at Rt. 79 where you will turn right to head West.

The course follows Rt. 79 Westward into Temecula. You may wish to stop at a gas station. Resume heading West on Rt. 79 and turn left on Pechanga Pkwy. Continue straight on Pechanga and you will soon pass the Pechanga Casino. The road now becomes very interesting as it follows a long, huge canyon. Be sure to slow down to 25 mph when you finally enter the Pala village. Pala road will end and you should turn right. This will take you to Rt. 76 near the Pala Casino and you should head West (right) on 76. This concludes the ride. Hope you enjoy the route.

Palm Desert Map

The road to Palm Desert as seen from the Vista Point.