Palomar Mountain East Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

10.9 mi
2,779 ft
4.7 %



Cycling Palomar Mountain East Grade: This is the easier of the two routes to the top of Palomar Mountain.  While the wildly popular Palomar Mountain South Grade is on busy Highway 168 for the first five miles, the route from the east is peaceful and on a country road with little traffic. 
Average grade of 4.6% (5.4% climb only) 40% (4.4 miles) are at 0-5% and 47% (5.1 miles) at 5-10%.  The steepest quarter mile is 9.1% and steepest mile 7.2%.  

See more details and tools regarding this climb's grade via the “Profile Tool” button above.
Roadway: Good shape as of 2019.
Traffic: Mild.

Parking: Most cyclists do not do just Palomar Mountain East, but if you are, there is parking on the side of the road overlooking the Lake Henishaw Dam a few hundred yards up from the start of the climb. Map; Street View. 
Provisions:  There is a the Palomar Mountain Store and Mother's Kitchen Restaurant 4/10's of a mile past the finish of the climb. Map; Street View.  We love Mother's Kitchen and highly recommend it. 
Before heading out on any cycling adventure check out our Things to Bring on a Cycling Trip and use our interactive check list to ensure you don't forget anything.
Other climbs in the area include the most popular bike climb in San Diego County, Palomar Mountain South GradeCole Grade Road, and the epic Nate Harrison Grade.  The out-and-back for the two Palomar climbs is 48 miles with 7,590' of climbing (Map). Also see our San Diego County and Southern California climb pages for great bike climbs in the region. When staying in San Diego County, there are plenty of options for hotels or vacation rentals, depending on your preference.

Use the “Routes in Area” button on the menu bar above to see other bike climbs in this area. 



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Beginning of bicycle climb up Palomar Mountain - East Grade Road sign

Cycling Palomar Mountain East - Ride from Lake Henshaw into the Cleveland National Forest

Ride 10.9 miles gainine 3,200’ to elevation 5,370’ at 4.7% average grade.

Climb summary by PJAMM’s John Johnson.

    Riding East Grade Road by bike - cyclist and silos 

Silos at mile 7.7 on East Grade Road

Palomar East Grade is the shorter and easier of the 3 Palomar ascents (Palomar South Grade and Nate Harrison Grade).  The scenery along this route is quite nice and includes pastures with grazing cattle and views south to Mt Laguna and mountain peaks in Mexico just south of the border.  

This San Diego County road bike climb enters Cleveland National Forest (created in 1908 by Teddy Roosevelt and named after Grover Cleveland; 460,000 acres).

Cycling up East Grade Road - views of distant mountains 

    Climbing Palomar Mountain east by bike - views of open fields and cattle.

We begin the climb near Lake Henshaw (a shadow of its former self) and begin our gradual and steady 11 mile climb towards the top from there .As is seen in the slideshow above, this is a climb that justifies the effort to get to.

Lake Henshaw Dam on Palomar Mountain bike climb.

Lake Henshaw Dam

Lake Henshaw on Palomar Mountain Bike Climb

Lake Henshaw Overlook near start of the bike climb.

​Points of Interest:  There is, “Jilberto's Taco Shop” at the start of the climb (decent spot for lunch at the end of the descent) and a store there for provisions.  At the top of the climb continue straight for about a half mile to the
Palomar Mountain General Store and Mother's Kitchen (nice cafe with great pastries and pie).  4.8 miles beyond Mother's Kitchen (800' climbing to and 451' back) along Canfield Road takes us to the Palomar Observatory.  

Roadway and Traffic:  The roadway is a little rough in spots towards the top – 6.5 of 10 on our Roadway scale.  There is mild traffic along the climb – safe ride.

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