Pamo Valley and Black Canyon
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This 20-mile ride through Pamo Valley and Black Canyon north of Ramona
affords some magnificent views. About half of the ride runs along unpaved
There are several side trips of varying length.
You can also drive this entire route, including the side trips. Pamo Road
and Black Canyon Road are well maintained and can be driven in just about any
vehicle. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended for unpaved portions of
other roads. The road up Black Mountain is difficult to drive even in a
four-wheel drive vehicle, but it can be done.
The description and map were first compiled in 1997. On May 25, 2015,
I did the ride again and found that there were very few changes,
which are noted in this version.
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- 00.0 - Start at the corner of Magnolia Ave. and Highway 78. Ride north
on Magnolia Ave.
- 01.2 - Turn left onto Pile Street.
- 02.0 - Turn right onto Pamo Road.
- 03.2 - Pass the entrance to the Ramona Landfill on the left. Pamo Road
descends steeply into Pamo Valley. The views are great, but be careful because
the road is narrow.
- 04.7 - Pass the entrance to Orosco Truck Trail on the left. Pamo Road
- SIDE TRIP - Turn left and follow Orosco Truck Trail about three
miles up to Orosco Ridge. Return by the same route. The views are quite good.
However, target shooting is permitted on Orosco Ridge, and the area is
apparently quite popular with four-wheelers. CHANGE: Shooting is now
- 06.7 - Pamo Road crosses a small stream in a shaded area.
- 06.8 - The pavement ends, but the road is still quite smooth and mostly
- 08.2 - Cross a cattle guard, turn right into a dirt road, pass through an
open gate and cross another cattle guard. The sign says this is "Upper Santa
Ysabel", but the map says it's Santa Ysabel Truck Trail. This is the first
CHANGE: The sign now says "Upper Santa Ysabel Road".
- 08.9 - Cross another cattle guard and keep ascending.
- 09.6 - Another dirt road off to the right leads a short distance to a
fairly good view point.
- 09.8 - A fork in the road. Take the right branch, which goes downhill. The
signs at this intersection have been vandalized or removed.
- SIDE TRIP - Go straight ahead and ride for approximately 5.4 miles,
uphill most of the way, to the summit of Black Mountain, where there is a
shaded area. The views are spectacular, but the road is very rough in some
places. Return by the same route.
- 10.2 - Cross a small stream, which may be dry most of the time, and enter
a shaded area. You might want to stop here for a rest.
- 10.4 - Pass through an open gate on the other side of the shaded area and
start to ascend.
- 12.2 - Cross a cattle guard. The road has some significant ups and downs
and a few very rough spots over the next mile.
- 12.4 - Pass through an open gate. CHANGE: This gate is no longer
- 13.2 - Cross a stream at the bottom of Black Canyon and enter a shaded
area, which used to be Black Canyon Campground. You might want to stop here
for another rest. The worst hills are behind you.
- 13.6 - Pass through an open gate and turn right onto Black Canyon Road.
- 13.7 - Cross a small bridge and then turn right. The road ascends gently
for approximately two miles. CHANGE: A newer and bigger bridge carries
Black Canyon Road. The older bridge is still there, but it is accessible
only to pedestrians.
- SIDE TRIP - Turn left and ride approximately 0.9 miles uphill to
Sutherland Dam. Return by the same route.
- 15.7 - The highest point on Black Canyon Road. From here on, it's nearly
all level or downhill, with only slight ascents in a few places.
- 18.2 - The pavement begins.
- 19.7 - Pass Pile Street on the right. This is where you came in.
- 20.9 - Return to the starting point.
Last revised May 25, 2015