Devils Canyon Off Road Trail Riding
Breaking New Off Road Trails on Old Grounds
In the modern times of trail closures and vehicle use restrictions, it's incredibly uncommon to hear about a new trail being opened. It is even stranger still to be asked along to break it in. But lo and behold, that rare event actually happened. We were invited along for the inaugural run by the members of Geared 4 Fun and My Jeep Rocks.
Back in the mid 1800s in Southern California, there was a road cut through Devil's Canyon that ran from the Yuha Desert up to Mountain Springs. This road was developed and turned into a toll road for stages and freight to travel to and from San Diego. The route was further improved with the invention of the automobile. In the early 1900s, a better route was developed and the old Se Trail was promptly forgotten and fell into a state of serious disrepair.
In the 1960s, when the westbound portion of Interstate 8 was under construction, the route was used to gain access to build sections of the new highway. After the highway project was completed, the route was once again forgotten. Years of rainfall and other geological conditions took its toll on the trail and rendered it all but impassable and most people forgot about it all together.
Then, a few months ago, Vern Britain made a fateful phone call to Steve Unwin about trying to traverse the route and once again make it passable by 4x4s. So it was that during four trips spread out over three months, Steve and Vern toiled away, moving rocks and trimming back brush to make the trail passable. This past April the trail was deemed ready for use. On May 6 a group of nine well-prepared Jeeps gathered at 9 a.m. at a little gas station off Interstate 8 about 80 miles outside of San Diego to run the trail for the first time in more than 40 years.
The trail is short at a mere 2 1/2 miles, but it still took our group a good eight hours to traverse the trail. Make no mistakes, Steve and Vern did make the trail passable, but only to the well equipped and well prepared. The trail is tight, narrow, and difficult with several very challenging obstacles. Equipment recommended to successfully traverse this trail are a minimum of 35-inch tires, lockers front and rear, a winch, and some spare parts. Mechanical breakage is common and body damage is almost certain on this trail. Our group suffered body damage all around, several bent and broken tie rods, an exploded wheel hub, and a broken stub shaft.
This is an incredibly fun and challenging trail with a very unique and interesting history. The trail is very scenic and there is a good variety of cactus, plant life, interesting rock formations, and lizards to be seen along the way. Like most trails in this area, it gets hot very quickly in the summer and there is not much shade to be found along the route. If you would like more info on the trail and its history, contact the Geared 4 Fun four-wheel-drive club (www.geared4fun.com).