Tour Ortega Highway

I am repeating this from the last paragraph in this post, but this an extremely dangerous road! Driving this highway at speeds faster that the posted limit is not only dangerous, but a great way to get yourself a double find ticket! If you get stuck behind a car traveling slower, and in some cases, much slower, than the posted limit, settle in behind them and relax. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PASS UNLESS THE VEHICLE IN FRONT OF YOU HAS PULLED OVER, OUT OF THE TRAFFIC LANE!

It has also been suggested that this post is among the reasons that there are accidents on the highway. Not incompetent drivers. Not poor judgement. This post. So, I have taken the liberty to edit out some of the information that was previously here as I am not prepared to accept responsibility or liability for any problems that occur on this road.

Thank you

Since it’s too hot (105 degrees) and the cost of fuel is still way to high ($2.80 on 7/15/05), I’ve assembled a virtually motoring tour of Ortega Highway, courtesy Google Earth.

I’ve driven this road twice a day since 1995. It’s a great road to take if you aren’t in a big rush on your way to Temecula Wine Country or up to the cooler climes of Idylwild.

The Ortega Highway, from Lake Elsinore to San Juan Capistrano. This should be fun. Click below to continue on the tour. Dial-up users will have to exercise patience as there are 10 images total.
Ready? then…

The road starts here:

This section going up (west).

If this image would have turned out, you would see a fairly long straightaway with a a few turns.

Remember, you aren’t supposed to cross the double yellow!

El Carriso Village. 45MPH please if you don’t mind. All downhill too, so watch out!

All downhill.

Again downhill.

The big sweeper at the bottom of Bear Canyon is at the bottom of a very long downhill section.

The gravel trucks have a hard time keeping their line here, so watch out!

More of the same. Again, watch for the big trucks as they tend to loose their lines through here.

That’s it. Well, pretty much anyway. Fair warning This road is heavily patrolled by Highway Patrol everyday of the week, and CalTrans likes to send survey crews out without notice. The section of the road of the Orange County Line to Interstate 5 is a double fine zone as well. Traffic is so heavy that it really isn’t possible to hit the speeds I have listed here. Not that I’ve tried or anything, since this is an extremely dangerous road. It’s just that I’ve heard these speeds are possible :)

14 replies on “Tour Ortega Highway”

  1. I have begged and pleaded for such a program, but nobody seems game. Oh well, maybe after the construction…

  2. Actually it’s not that bad. When you can look down where the cliffs are, it’s not that big of a drop. Mostly it is steep slopes. If you have a fear of being driven off of or into a cliff then I would probably stay away from this road, or at least the Orange County side.

  3. Your and idiot. It’s people like you that wind up killing themselves or worse the innocent people that use this road every day.

  4. Thank you for your comments BadBob.

    As it would appear you too drive this road on a daily basis, you should know as well as I do that the speeds that I have listed here are impossible anymore. In fact, the only time I’ve even come close to being able to drive this road like this was New Years Day, 2003.

    Also, I have been driving this road, everyday, since 1994 and can drive at the speed limit in just about any vehicle.

    The real problem with this road is the drivers that aren’t familiar with it and travel at an extreme slow rate of speed which causes other drivers (that lack skill or common sense) to pass unsafely. And, the large trucks that don’t think they have to pull over to let the line of cars 6 miles behind them pass. Put the large trucks with the *rookie* drivers in a corner and watch as traffic goes from 40mph to 0mph in about 2 seconds. That’s not me BadBob. Or watch as the motorcyclists pass in the corners. Or the really angry people that tailgate about 2 inches from the car in front of them. Those also aren’t me. In fact, I pull over for tailgaiting guy.

    What about swerving-all-over-the-road-and-can’t-keep-it-in-my-lane guy? Or the gravel trucks that are too wide for the bridge on the OC side and can’t keep it in their own lane right past the bridge? What about them Bob?

    My vehicle is in perfect running order. My tires are in excellent shape as is the braking system of my car. I also have over 40 hours of driving training and as I mentioned, over 10 years familiarity with this road. I’m not the problem BadBob, trust me. It’s just I’m the only one with a website ranked #1 for Ortega Hwy, so I get picked on? I get blamed? Not really fair, but I’ll take it.

  5. No because you leave this post up here bragging about speeds that can be reached on this highway and some other idiot is going to go out there and try it and wind up as road kill or kill me and my family. That’s why you are getting the brunt of it. Post the info about the road without bragging about what speeds you were able to obtain on a perfect day in perfect conditions with no traffic, with no loose gravel on the road, with no one in your way or coming across the center line. It might be safe to do that on a closed road but not a public road. That is my gripe.

  6. do you mean the road that goes to the off-road park? That’s actually a very nice road as well, lightly traveled. Some of the roads that go south are pretty narrow so you really have to watch for on-coming traffic and hikers. And the pavement on those is pretty broken up or non-existant in some parts. Fun roads tho also.

  7. I think I’ll take the Ortega Highway this Sunday just to check it out. I live in Temecula and have always been curious to go up there and check it out.

    So basically (and correct me if I’m wrong) you start at the three corner stop, go up the mountain and you summit right after the Lookout Restauant. You pass El Cariso and then go downhill all the way down to the canyon. Do you pretty much go all the way down the mountain? Then you continue through the hills and canyon all the way to Capistrano. Is that it? Do you go all the way down the mountain after passing El Cariso or is the descent gradual?

    What campgrounds would you recommend in the area?

    Also, when is a good day or time to go see the hangliders take off from the South Main Divide (former Killen Trail)?


  8. You are correct. The summit is actually outside of El Carisos, then it’s pretty much a gradual downhill all the way to the Ranger station on the Capistrano side.

    Hang Gliders? Sunny, windy days. If the weather is poor, then they skip. If you see them at the bottom of the hill, then you know they are launching.

    Any of the campgrounds are really nice. I would, however, recommend taking a right at South Main Divide and go in a few miles. A bit more remote and less crowds/car noise.

    Don’t be in a rush to get over the hill that’s for sure. Especially if it’s a weekend. You will be going pretty slow.

    Also, mind your speed on the OC side. From the county line all the way to I5 it is a double fine zone. And it is patrolled.

    Have fun!

  9. Ortega Highway has been an unofficial racetrack since it was built. One article here is not going to make an iota of difference. Road and Track used it in their road tests back in the 60’s. A competent driver who knows the limit of his vehicle and is prepared to have an incompetent driver coming the other way in his lane at any time is going to find it a challenge. It’s the knuckleheads in cars, on bikes, etc that get themselves killed. If lucky they go over the side or under a truck. If unlikely it’s into the front of somebody else.

    Think of it as the Southern California equivalent of Highway 1.

Comments are closed.