EMTB Access in San Diego County
Where can I legally ride my eMTB in San Diego County?
- eMTB's can travel anywhere a motorized off road vehicle is allowed. A complete list of these routes in San Diego County is available at Dirtopia
- 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, Mission Trails Regional Park, Black Mountain Open Space Park, Tri-Canyons, Florida Canyon, 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.
DPR is studying the impact of e-bike use on all trails over the next year (May 2019 – 2020) to determine the appropriateness of their continued use in these areas.
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 Ebikes 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 (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
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
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
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.
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
-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 firstname.lastname@example.org