I have done all 3 loops of the Julian Bikepack Challenge individually on my 29+ hardtail, and aspire to do them all back to back one day. This is a great way to showcase what San Diego county has to offer. Make no mistake, any one of these loops are a challenge to finish, probably why only one person has completed the entire challenge! Spread the word about this event, it deserves to get a lot more attention! Very few races give you the opportunity to change bikes if you wanted to after every loop. Bring your skinny tired cross country lightweight for the beach loop, plus bike for the desert & full suspension for the mountain loop - or use what you have, as I did. Going back to your car after every loop adds a mental challenge, as it’s very tempting to get in & go home, so you’ll need to be mentally tough for this beast.
The Beach loop follows the Coast to Crest trail from Julian down to Lake Hodges in Escondido with a mix of fun singletrack, dirt & asphalt roads. Recover with a spin up the coast to Carlsbad along the coast. Check out the tunnels trail in Penasquitos Canyon before heading up the hill to Julian. You’ll get to know Eagle Peak Rd intimately between Ramona & Julian! This loop is not technical & can be done on a hardtail with normal tires. Except for the first 50 miles, there are plenty of resupply options. There are hotels & campgrounds along the coast and in Ramona, otherwise plenty of stealth camping opportunities exist.
The Desert loop will put your sand riding skills to the test! A plus bike works great on this loop - my Krampus was perfect. Be prepared to carry a little more supplies with you, as you will have few resupply points at the Stagecoach RV Resort (mile 30 & 84) & Borrego Springs (mile 54 - Los Jilberto’s Taco Shop). Abundant camping options everywhere along this route. Be prepared for a long & hard climb (12mi 4,000’ of gain) out of Borrego Springs.
Finally the Mountain loop. This puts the challenge in the Julian Bikepack Challenge! A lot more technical trails & elevation gain than the other two loops. Beautiful scenery to take your mind off the pain. The section south of Pine Valley (mile 80-128) has no resupply options, so carry a LOT of water to cover 50 hard miles. There can be a lot of dirt bikes & 4x4 traffic in this area over weekends, so stay alert. A full suspension bike will be ideal on this loop, although my hardtail was fine with a good amount of hike-a-bike. Several campgrounds, a hotel in Pine Valley and plenty of stealth camping opportunities. Resupply at the Lake Cuyamaca store (1mi off course), Mt Laguna store or in Pine Valley.