EMTB Access in San Diego County

 

Where can I legally ride my eMTB in San Diego County? 

 
  • City of San Diego
    • Class 1 and Class 2 eMTBs are allowed on any trail where a traditional bicycle is allowed unless otherwise posted.  Check our Map page for links to City of San Diego trails. 

      This means eMTB's are ok at Penasquitos Canyon, Del Mar Mesa, Mission Trails Regional Park, Black Mountain Open Space Park, Tri-Canyons(Rose, Tecolote, Marion Bear), Florida Canyon/Balboa Park, Otay Valley Regional Park, and other urban canyons with designated trails and other trails listed on City Maps Page. 
 
  • County of San Diego
    • Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are currently allowed on all County paved areas and trails where non-electric bikes are permitted, unless specifically restricted by DPR for safety and maintenance concerns.  The Department has restricted the use of Class 1 and 2 e-bike at 17 parks and preserves. Signs have been posted at trailheads where e-bikes are prohibited.  
    • The County will be evaluating this trial period soon to determine the appropriateness of their continued use on trails.
    • Read the County Ebike fact sheet including list of areas that are closed to ebikes. If a County managed area is NOT on this list, then class 1 and 2 eMTB's are ok. 
    • This means eMTB's are allowed at Otay Valley Regional Park, Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch, Del Dios Highlands Preserve, Flume Trail(Lakeside), Lake Morena, San Dieguito County Park, Sweetwater Regional Trails/Bonita Valley (except campground trails), and  Santa Ysabel East and West. 
    • Check full County of San Diego trails list HERE.
 
  •   Daley Ranch (City of Escondido):  Class 1 eMTB's are permitted on trails where regular mountain bikes are allowed. 
  •   San Dieguito River Park (Lake Hodges) - Class 1 and 2 eMTB's ok on designated trails.   Trail Map 

No matter where you stand on the idea of e-bikes, let’s all make sure that we can politely share the rules of the specific trails we’re on as well as model best practices when it come to standard trail etiquette.  


 

WHERE ARE EMTB's NOT allowed in San Diego County - 
SDMBA continually monitors Federal and State updates and news regarding policies related to eMTB access and share any such updates here. 

Federal Agencies
United States Forest Service - Cleveland National Forest
(Laguna Recreation Area, Noble Canyon, Palomar District)
The USFS considers all eBike classes to be “motorized” and eBikes are permitted only on Motorized OHV trails & fire roads within Federal land.  The Forest Service has an e-bike ban on all USFS trails where motorized use is not allowed. So dirt roads, specific-ATV tracks and motorbike trails are OK but that’s it. If you can’t legally ride a motorcycle on it, or legally drive your car on it, you can’t ride your e-bike there.
You can read the USFS 2016 memo on Electric Bikes and Trail Management here: 2016 USFS Electric Bikes And Trail Management Letter

SDMBA's public comment letter to USFS October 26, 2020

United States Fish and Wildlife - San Diego Refuges (Mother Miguel/RockHouse)
All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails
The Code of Federal Regulations that covers this topic is 50 CFR 27.31 - General provisions regarding vehicles.
The code states, "Travel in or use of any motorized or other vehicles, including those used on air, water, ice, snow, is prohibited on national wildlife refuges except on designated routes of travel, as indicated by the appropriate traffic control signs or signals and in designated areas posted or delineated on maps by the refuge manager... "

Department of the Interior (National Parks, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife and Bureau of Reclamation)
Oct. 2, 2020 Bicycle Retailer Article summary

August 29,  2019 DOI Order #3376 
August 2019 DOI Press Release


State Agencies
California State Parks -
Ebikes are not allowed unless there is a District Superintendent's Order allowing their use.  

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Palomar State Park -
eMTB's are not permitted.
Anza Borrego State Park -  Anza Borrego Desert State Park is currently the only park unit in the Colorado Desert District that allows the use of a “Operated Propelled Vehicle” which includes Ebikes.  The use of Ebikes is limited to all park roads where motorized vehicles are allowed to travel, paved “All Access Trail” from the Visitor Center to Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, Middle Willows Trail in Coyote Canyon, and designated roads and trails within Hawi-Vallecito Cultural Preserve.  

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Crestridge Ecological Reserve, Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area)  - All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails


Other agencies

Center for Natural Lands Management (La Costa) - All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails.

Escondido Creek Conservancy/Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (EFRR) -All classes of eBikes are considered motorized and are not allowed on non-motorized trails.   EFRR's trail standards are modeled after the US Forest Service's Standard Trail Plans and Specifications.    


FAQ's
What is a Class 1 eBike?  
A class 1, pedal-assist e-bike is, by Federal Law definition, a motorized vehicle (when on dirt trails).  Most eMTB's from major manufacturers are Class 1. This is important to keep in mind and answers a lot of questions for us. Yes, you will find that the Department of Transportation defines e-bikes as bicycles, but this is specific to roadway situations. For example an e-bike is by definition a bicycle when it comes to insurance (it’s not required), freeways (no matter how fast one goes, they’re not allowed), and paved bike paths (in most cases e-bikes are allowed).


What should I do if I see an eBike on the trails?
First of all, BE NICE!  Usually, everyone out on the trails is there to enjoy themselves.  You don’t have to say anything as its not your (or SDMBA's) responsibility to enforce land manager policy.  If you want to educate them about eBike access, be polite!  No one likes to be told they are in the wrong, so BE NICE!  California’s eBike law has been confusing and there is a lot of misinformation online.  There is plenty of conflict in the world and let’s help keep our trails an enjoyable and peaceful place.

Is eMTB trail etiquette different than traditional mountain bike trail etiquette?   
Yes.  eMTBers should yield to ALL non-motorized users regardless of the direction they are traveling.  More info HERE

Other resources:
-People for Bikes eBike Resources


This page is a work in progress as ebike access and issues evolve. Do you have any additions or corrections to this list? Please let us know by contacting info@sdmba.com