So, I've heard tell of a trail that links the various parts of Upas Street from the northeastern corner of Balboa Park to the northwestern corner. If you're traveling west on Upas, the paved street stops at Alabama Street, then picks up again at Florida Street, then runs all the way to Vermont Street, where it dead-ends again, then picks up again at the northwestern corner of Balboa Park. Well, the dead ends are all connected by trails, so I decided to set out with the Peugeot and the camera on a little expedition today to see if there was, in fact, a good way to get from one side of Balboa Park to the other without a car. You may remember that I bemoaned the lack of such in an earlier post. Well, the answer is yes and no. You can get from one side of the park to the other without a car, but it's not really a trail for the faint of heart or weak of knee.
I started from the corner of Pershing Street and Wightman Street, rode down Wightman to Arnold Street, then turned south to Upas. At Upas and Alabama, Upas dead-ends, but if you cross Alabama to the dead-end turnout, you find the entrance to the first leg of the trail.
The first section of the trail between Alabama and Florida Streets is too steep and narrow to ride comfortably, so I walked down. At the base of the hill, you're in Florida Canyon and at Florida Street. Cross Florida, and continue up Upas. The climb up is formidable, and also not ridable for most. There are no sidewalks, however, so keep an eye out for cars coming down/up the hill.
At the top of the hill, the street levels-out for few blocks and you can ride all the way from Park Boulevard to the next part of the trail, where Upas ends at Vermont. The trail entrance is on your left, marked by a gate to keep cars out, and a helpful sign informing you of the "HILL".
There is a hill, and it is substantial, so most riders will be dismounting again. The trail is also pretty rough, and probably not the best for road bikes (it would be fun on a mountain bike). But, man, is it beautiful. I'm always amazed by Balboa Park, there are so many beautiful places tucked away.
The trail then crosses the 163 on a pedestrian bridge.
On the other side of the freeway, take the trail to the right, which is another steep climb, and not exactly bicycle friendly.
At the top, you come out in the northwestern part of the park, near the Marston House mansion, and here Upas Street picks up again.
By this time, though, I had abandoned Upas Street for a ride through the park. You can either get on Balboa Drive, which runs south down the western side of the park (and which is an obstacle course of bad pavement, car doors, and drivers pulling in/out of parking spaces), or you can toodle along on one of the paved paths. I did the latter, and eventually ended up at the lawn bowling greens for a few minutes. Then, I got on Balboa Drive for a ride down to the far southern boundary of the park, overlooking I-5 and part of downtown.
Where Balboa ends, or rather where it turns back and loops north, there's a really wicked hairpin turn at the base of a gentle (but velocity-building) downhill grade, which is really fun to whip around at top speed, if you're comfortable with that kind of thing. Then, I toodled back up through the park on the trails, and picked up the Upas Street trail again and headed home. It was a beautiful ride and hike, but in terms of ease and convenience, I would say that it is not an especially practical way to get from one side of the park to the other without a car.
For a few more pics, see my Picassa album, and for a map of my route, see my Google map.