Climb summary by Graham Johnson, San Diego, CA, USA.
Mt. Helix is a short, steep, and enjoyable climb that rises prominently above the east San Diego town of La Mesa. Note that there are several routes to the Summit of Mt Helix , all eventually connecting to Mt Helix Dr.
Because this hill is in my backyard, I have spent countless hours training on its numerous but consistently steep slopes. I enjoy stringing together 3 or 4 different routes to the peak to keep the climb inspiring. Today, I’ll detail the most popular route to the top which ascends Alto Drive from Lemon Ave - this is PJAMM’s documented route.
If you are driving to La Mesa to begin your journey and looking for a spot to park and grab coffee, I have a few recommendations;
The Alto Mt Helix climb can be approached from a few different directions, but the best bang for your buck is by beginning your ascent from the intersection of Bancroft and Lemon. Turning East onto Lemon street the gradient gradually begins to tick up as you climb the half mile towards Alto Dr.
A right turn onto Alto quickly offers the first brief double-digit gradient of the climb. A couple twists of the road hide the quickly approaching The Wall section that disappears into some large trees leaving you to wonder, “how much abuse am I about to put my legs through?”.
Fortunately, the gradient mellows substantially for climb’s middle segment, giving riders a chance to catch their breath and appreciate the beautiful gardens and view they pass enroute to the finish - the beautiful old homes are shrouded in large trees and wonderful well manicured landscaping. Normally a neighborhood climb is not my jam, but this one has charm.
After a quick descent around a corner (note here that people are often out walking their dogs so be cautious) Alto Drive merges with the aforementioned Mt. Helix Drive and becomes a one-way road. You will continue wrapping around Mt. Helix (it’s not named Mt. “Helix” for nothin, after all) in a right twisting spiral as you ascend under a bridge and towards the peak. This last pitch, while not as steep as The Wall, can often hurt the most depending on how hard you pushed at the bottom.
Towards the top you’ll reach another intersection where you can either descend to the left or continue up another quarter mile to the peak. Push on to the top! The view from the beautiful amphitheater is astounding - seriously!! Views from the peak feature the Ocean to the South and West and expansive mountain ranges to the north and east. You can see many of the other local climbs from this vantage.
Enjoy the View
To the South, you can see Mt San Miguel, marked by it’s radio Towers. A little bit further east of there, a winding road marks Jamul Drive and Lyons Canyon. And far to the East, Mt Laguna prominently rises from the Cleveland National Forest (460,000 acres; est. 1908).
If you travel to La Mesa to ride Mt Helix, make a day of it and hit a few of the other local climbs. Honey Springs Road, Jamul Drive, the Lyons climbs (Upper and Lower), Mt San Miguel, and the Alpine area (see PJAMM’s “Routes in Area” on the above) are all easy riding distance from Helix. My personal strava is a good place to find some interesting routes through these areas as well as the many different ascents to Mt. Helix Peak.
Enjoy my neighborhood!