S6 - S. Grade Rd. & S7 - E. Grade Rd.

Date reviewed - 8/03
Fun . . . . . . . . 5
Difficulty . . . . .Medium
Traffic . . . . . . Light
Driveways . . . .Light
Condition . . . . Good
Length . . . . . .19 miles

This road almost makes it worth the traffic you have to go through to get to it. Unfortunately the Palomar Observatory at the top has visiting hours most days and there is at least one campground as well, which means that there you are going to find at least one or two cars in your way.

I have driven this road in both directions, up E. Grade and down S. Grade and vice versa. Most recently I did the S. Grade to E. Grade and I really enjoyed it in this direction. Most of the traffic headed up the hill seems to be coming from the west, so E. Grade doesn't have quite as many cars on it. Also, S. Grade is considerably steeper with tighter turns and I usually prefer to drive these kinds of roads uphill instead of down.

E. Grade road takes much more distance to drop the same amount of elevation, and has enough places that are relativly straight to let you get your speed up. The last time I drove this I only got behind one car on this stretch and he kindly let me by. It was high speed all the way to the bottom after that.

Where E. Grade and S. Grade intersect there is a nice little diner that is open during the day. The only problem is finding a parking spot between all the motorcycles and sports cars. Warning:, due to the popularity of this road with sports bikes some local area residents have been rumored to set traps on corners, including deliberately spilling hydraulic fluid.

Reviewed by Black Cat from Team Spugen

Palomar Mountain South Grade is a road that I have enjoyed many times over. I understand that it was originally built to get the observatory's mirror up the mountain. It has now become a favored road amongst sport bike riders, and to a lesser degree, sports car owners. It is roughly seven miles of switchback hairpins, very technical, very fun, and while not very long, is demanding enough that if driven all out, you'll be glad when it is over.

Getting to Palomar is fun. I agree with LatG (for the most part) on not reviewing highways, but me being an early riser, I rarely hit anything resembling traffic on most any road I take. My point is that Highway 76 east to Palomar Mountain (from I-15) is a fun 20-mile jaunt as well, and on the weekend at 5am, traffic is sparse, aside from the occasional farmer or casino goer.

Once to Palomar, get ready to rumble! For the next 7-10 minutes, you're going to be fighting a lot of G-Forces! While there are no decreasing radius turns to speak of, the turns just keep going, and at speed it starts to feel like inertia is finally going to toss you sideways.

For the S2000, this is 2nd gear for 99% of the drive, I find myself just hitting red line as I need to prepare for the next corner. It is possible to carry a little speed in most of the corners, so second is just fine to come out in too. Super aggressive drivers may find themselves double clutching into 1st gear as they exit.

There is no danger of cross traffic, no driveways, and in the early morning (6am) weekends, no traffic at all. On weekdays commuters are coming down the hill. The few cars I have seen have all yielded.

On weekends towards the late morning, the sport bikes come out in force. They'll be going every direction on the South Grade, and congregate at the country store at the end of the run. If they glare at you and your shiny sports car, don't be alarmed. Legend has it that there's a black S2000 that they have to pull over for every now and then. J Be aware of the bikes, I've seen them in every lane, going up or down, and in every position, good and bad. For the most part, I try to get to the road and move on before they even get out of bed. The bikers I do encounter early morning are great guys, mature, experienced, and not too snotty to come over and talk about motoring.

The drive to the observatory is a fun one too. In order to get to the observatory, make a left at the top of the hill. During winter months, there will be ice and snow on the road. During the other months, it's another 5 miles or so of nice twisties. Early morning, no traffic at all and you can make pretty good time if you choose.

The East Grade is my preferred descent route. The East Grade is found by making a right at the top of the mountain. While not as technical as the South Grade, it is faster and still has its share of twisties. For the most part it is a 3rd/4th gear road for the S2000.

If you take the East Grade while the sport bikes are out, be aware. I have seen two tragedies and several accidents on the East Grade. I think this is because it is a faster track and not as technical as the South Grade, creating a false sense of security. I would offer the same advisory for the South Grade, but I personally have never seen an accident.

I have never seen police on either road (unless there has been an accident). That could be because I am on the mountain and gone before they wake up. Traffic is nil to very light in the weekend mornings, but will increase as the day goes by.

This is another run well worth the drive to San Diego. Overall, the roads are in very good condition. The surrounding area has plenty of side roads that are fun as well, some of them actually go somewhere.

- Back to Region

E. Grade looking north. Not as steep or twisty as S. Grade but just as fun.
S6- South Grade Rd.
Easy to see why it's a local favorite.