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The Best Backcountry Route to Mountain Bike to Mildred Falls

Experience surging waterfalls and bubbling creeks on a 28-mile loop near Julian
Photo Credit: James Murren

A majestic piece of land protected and managed by the San Diego River Park Foundation, Eagle Peak Preserve offers over undeveloped 1,100 acres that are part of the Upper San Diego River Watershed. One of the best parts? When the winter rains and snowfall arrive, a seasonal waterfall emerges, plummeting more than 200 feet over a cliff. And there’s no better way to see the beauty of Mildred Falls than on a bicycle.

My favorite path to the falls is a 28-mile lollipop loop through San Diego’s rugged backcountry. With nearly 4,000 feet of total elevation gain, it’s a rewarding doozy of a ride that can be completed on a gravel, mountain, or cyclocross bike. Here’s how to do it:

Views from the path to Mildred Falls
Photo Credit: James Murren

How to Bike to Mildred Falls

Start in Julian and head southwest out of town on Route 79. In approximately one mile, turn left onto Pine Hills Road. About 1.5 miles after that, pivot right onto Eagle Peak Road, which eventually turns to gravel and dirt. 

After about 10 miles, you’ll find yourself in the vicinity of Mildred Falls. Keep an eye on your right-hand side and listen for the water’s rush. Dismount from your bike and trek out on foot for a better view. Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, and watch your footing if you get closer to the edge.

In spring, wildflowers push up from the ground, with carpets of California poppies sometimes blanketing the mountain sides in quilt-like patches. Hawks soar overhead, scanning the canyon for a meal.

Once you’ve snapped plenty of photos of Mildred Falls, continue south on Eagle Peak Road, going in the direction of Cedar Creek Falls. Twelve miles into your ride, you will arrive at the trailhead for the popular hike to those famous falls. This time, though, you’ll pass on by, bearing left onto Cedar Creek Road. 

Stay on Cedar Creek for about 3.5 miles to the Three Sisters Falls trailhead, yet another popular San Diego County hike. Pass this trailhead, too, turning left onto Boulder Creek Road.

Mildred Falls | Photo Credit: James Murren

Remain on Boulder Creek Road for 8.5 miles, enjoying the idyllic country views as you climb, twist, and turn your way back up towards Julian. Turn right onto Eagle Peak Road and follow it for approximately 1.5 miles. When you arrive at the T intersection with Pine Hills Road, turn left. Trace along Pine Hills Road for another 1.5 miles to reach Route 79, then turn right and bike for another mile or so to reach town.

Note that the first seven miles of this ride are relatively flat, and then the next five miles provide a fast downhill slope, dropping all the way to Cedar Creek, which is the low point of the trek. From there, you’ll partake in sustained climbing for the next seven miles, so it might be a good idea to enjoy the natural creek music while refueling and rehydrating. 

The path plateaus out a bit after the first major climb, but you’ll head uphill some more until you connect back into Eagle Peak Road. From there, it is relatively flatter as you roll back into Julian, where pizza, BBQ sandwiches, and a few pints of ale await at Julian Beer Company. Cheers!

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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