How to get there:

Travelling from San Diego,  take I-8 east and exit at Boulevard travelling south until you get to Old Hwy 80.  Turn left on Hwy 80 and drive (about 1.5 miles) until you see MhcCain OHV signs on the left side of the roadway. Take this road and continue until you get to a fork at which point you take the left hand fork; it turns into a dirt road. Stay on this road - there is no other turn off - until you get to the McCain OHV which is marked by a sign on the left side of the road.  Drive into the area and keep to the left - refer to the satellite map for the staging area.

This is about a 50 minute drive using SDSU as a starting point.

Level:

Beginner to Intermediate

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Staging Area:

The photo to the left was taken from a rock face adjacent to the staging area. A small picnic area and restroom mark the spot where you want to park and unload.

At the time of this writing there apparently construction crews in the vicinity and they are seemingly developing a roadway through the middle of the park !

 

Route:

There really isn't any route !!  McCain is a large enough area with single track that goes everywhere in much the same way a spider build a web. Below are two arial photos with some of the trails that are depicted in red;  they spread out over the entire area. The red "dot" in both views is the staging area and you can either head north or south.

There is an outlaw area where riding is prohibited - and this is to the west of McCain Valley Road. There are trails inside of this area but getting caught by law enforcement can result in a heavy fine and possible confiscation of your bike.  There are posted signs and fencing that mark this area.

I have posted a route that I shows a ride recently taken.  There is a variety of terrain from sandy to rocky with hills climbs, sharp turns and some fairly intimidating rock face climbs.  It can be hard to get a bearing on your location within the park unless you have been through the area many times. One way of navigating through this area is to get to high ground where you can get a view of the park in general; there are some landmarks you can reference to get a fix on your location.

If new to McCain,  leave the staging area either to the south or the east bringing you to high ground.  From this vantage point you can take a look around and identify reference points such as power line towers, large rocks on hills etc.

Although at first this area may seem intimidating, it is hard to get lost. If you head east,  you will eventually come to McCain Valley road. If you use this method to get back to the staging area,  be aware that riding on McCain Valley Road requires that you have a plated bike.

An all time favorite way of assessing direction and finding the staging area is to use a GPS device - mount one of these to your handlebars and your worries are over.

 

 

 

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Terrain:

The area is relatively easy to ride - good for beginners if you stay on the larger main trails.  There are some hill climbs that are challenging- possibly more suited to the intermediate rider. I have included several pictures of different trail types but for the most part,  the terrain is very ride-able.  The best time to get out there is after a rainfall and this is for 2 reasons:  first the traction is amazing supporting a more aggressive ride and secondly, NO DUST !  Summer rides can be a challenge if in a group because of the amount of dust that gets thrown up from the lead bike, making the trail almost impossible to see... not to mention that you get to breath in this dust which you will be coughing up for a week !!

McCain is a great place for those that ride trials bikes - there is a (very) rocky area adjacent to the staging area which is alot of fun... even for those on a dirt bike.

 

One word of caution - cactus are not your friend !  In many (most) places,  there are cactus that line both side of the trail and if you get close enough to catch one of these with your leg or hand,  you will know pain.  They tend to be prevalent during the winter when it rains and they grow,  some to handlebar height.
Wear shin pads.  Have hand guards installed on your bike - which I would highly recommend for any form of riding.  I cannot tell you how many times that hand guards have saved my hands as I held on for life skidding down a wash or road. .. also good for keeping the levers on my bike.  Take a look at the video below...  riding at noon and in dust .. I never saw the  rut that pulled my front wheel out from under me.

Even with guards, it is possible catch a needle in the hand - and it hurts for the duration of the ride even after you pull it out.

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Cactus of varying height tends to border the single track, take care. You can select the level of difficulty of the trail you ride as there is a  wide variety from which to choose. Some of the more challenging terrain is shown below - but the majority of riding can be done on flatter terrain.

 

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If it gets too boring,  you can always find something interesting to try out.

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Rock faces make for some interesting riding as do uphill rutted narrow track.  McCain provides a very diverse set of riding situations which in most cases do not pose a serious threat to your health as falling off tends to happen at slower speeds.  Falling into a cactus may be your biggest concern.

 

Scenery:

McCain is a hilly pseudo-desert area full of large boulders.  In general,  picking a larger hill to rest often gives you great scenic views of the area.  To the west is open desert;  to the east you get a view of green hills. The giant rocks offer those inclined to climb a place where they can test their abilities in  solitude and the absence of close and easily accessible medical assistance if ever there is a need for such help.

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As you can see,  there is not alot of vegetation in the area.  The "big rock" can act as a landmark to help you navigate through the area. It stands on the top of a hill and is visible throughout most of the park.

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One huge rock on a hilltop - a great landmark to get your bearings in the park.
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Geology of the Area

Where did all of the rocks come from ?  Why is the ground so sandy ?