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Biking the Unsanctioned Anderson Truck Trail

This lesser-known trek offers rewarding climbs and stunning views of East County
The Anderson Truck Trail for mountain biking in San Diego near Alpine featuring a mountain bike on the trailhead
Photo Credit: James Murren

The Anderson Truck Trail (ATT) has been around for upwards of 80 years. Today, it is not a trail that you can actually drive a truck on from end-to-end. Technically, when mountain bikers, hikers, dog walkers and trail runners are on it today, they are actually using an unsanctioned trail. From top to bottom, there are various land use/title designations, including: United States Forest Service, Capitan Grande Reservation, San Diego River Park Foundation, and private property owners. Officially, there is no legal way to access the trail (but that does not prevent countless people from using it every day). I’m not saying you should go. 

But if you did find yourself there, this is a trail riding experience that affords breathtaking views of the El Capitan Reservoir and surrounding foothills. The farther up you climb, the more rewarding the views. In late spring/summer, the rocky landscape becomes green and wildflowers pop. Winter’s rains course their way like lifeblood from the ground up through the trunks of oaks, the groves taking on a deeper green hue than the grasses.

The Anderson Truck Trail for San Diego mountain biking near Alpine
Photo Credit: James Murren

To get started, some visitors park at the T intersection of Alpine Blvd. and Peutz Valley Rd. off of the I-8 near Alpine in a dirt parking area, or they simply park along the road below the 8 that runs overhead. They then pedal up Peutz Valley Rd. for about one mile, watching on their left for a single track entrance. They take it. They then descend at the outset a little ways, about a mile or so. 

The trail has a cross-country-esque feel to it, meaning it dips and bends and has an uphill bump or two along the way. When it begins to noticeably climb, riders settle in for the relatively steep and long grind to the top, roughly three miles. With some chunk here and there, it is a perfect tech-lover’s training ground for boosting one’s ascending abilities.

View from the Anderson Truck Trail, a popular San Diego mountain biking spot in Alpine
Courtesy of Singletracks

The oak grove somewhere mid-way through the climb is a solid spot for a break to take in the views. At the summit, the trail opens up into what feels like a giant dirt parking lot. Again, the views. Not done? No problem. 

The ATT continues, but riders will come upon a well-signed and fenced area when reaching the Capitan Grande Reservation. No continuing past that point. Riders here must turn around and head back in the direction they came up. Along the way, though, they can watch for unmarked single track to the sides of the ATT. If feeling adventurous, riders can take one, like those choose-your-own-adventure books of yesteryear.

Not feeling it? The descent on the original up hill trail is phenomenal. It’s fast, hair-raising, white-knuckle downhill glory at its best. One thing though: that little descent at the start of the ATT—after all the fun downhill ends—riders have to climb a little to get back out.

The Anderson Truck Trail, a popular mountain biking trail in San Diego near Alpine
Photo Credit: James Murren

Riders who choose this trail should be respectful of locals by not parking at the trailhead. There is no legal parking there. Also, riders should not try to access Capitan Grande Reservation lands. Riders are not permitted to be there.

Anyone who is hungry after can take Alpine Blvd. into Alpine for about three miles. Order what sounds good at Tapatio’s and take it up the sidewalk to Mcilhenney Brewing Company. Order what sounds good there and then carry beer and Mexican food out back. Enjoy!

By James Murren

James Murren is an award-winning adventure/travel writer, with nearly three decades of independent journalism experience. He's often having a good time in our local mountains, deserts and waters, when he's not teaching classes at SDSU.

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