Otay Mesa Gravel

Otay Mesa Gravel | Orucase

“Never have I done a ride that sucked that much on a road or mountain bike”


Situated just south of San Diego this ride takes you through urban decay, nature preserves, and the type of housing developments where people drive Maseratis. This ride is split 50/50/50 on dirt, singletrack, and things that resemble roads. And the gravel bike reigns supreme.

5 of us headed out from the marina to tackle some dusty bike paths that weaved away from the Pacific. Passing salt processing plants, and bridges covered in graffiti we rode packed dirt trails that split off into mini sections of flowy single track with the occasional rock garden and bridge pieced together from scrap wood.

orucase otay mesa gravel san diego

As we left the city and the housing developments that keep popping up further and further away we started to come across the remnants of buildings and industrial projects, not yet bulldozed and turned into cul-de-sacs. The warning signs for unexploded ordnance kept us on the roads, and the industrial machine traffic had created these ruts that were perfect mini pumptracks.

otay mesa gravel

An hour and a half in was our first junction point. A three way intersection, the way we came, a trail south towards the border with Mexico that will lead you up an hour long climb on dirt, and the way we headed, the shorter 60km loop towards Otay Lake. It was here I took my first sip of water and ate an apple fritter from Rose Donuts.

orucase rose donuts apple fritter

Unexpected mud pit crossing. Those ruts we saw earlier ended up being some tracks headed to a quagmire near some high voltage power lines. The trail was gone and replaced with what I imagine is the mud version of quicksand. Fun times of speedplay pedals. This is also where I realized I had never done a ride before that sucked on a road bike or a mountain bike. Out of the 5 of us, we had 3 gravel specific bikes, one road bike, and a 29er XC rig. The gravel bikes reigned supreme.

otay mesa gravel mud pit crossing

A quick stop at the Otay Lake trailhead allowed us to refill our bottles and clean the mud out of our cleats before hitting some single track that wrapped its way around the lake before climbing up towards a dam covered in graffiti.

otay mesa gravel graffiti dam 

From here on out we rode hopped from trail to trail by using regular roads and weaving through parks and baseball fields. I stopped taking at this point since I was in my largest gear trying to keep up with the gravel bikes. Here’s our strava ride map, next time we’ll be tackling the full loop and we promise to take more photos.

otay mesa gravel