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Best route from Tijuana to Ensenada or Tecate?

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Best route from Tijuana to Ensenada or Tecate?

Old 07-22-18, 04:53 PM
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planeguy5
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Best route from Tijuana to Ensenada or Tecate?

In two weeks I'll be heading down the Pacific Coast Bike Route from British Columbia to Mexico. If I have the time, I'd like to extend my trip from Tijuana to either Ensenada or Tecate, either of which would be convenient places to start back up when I have the time to keep touring. I'm heading to Ushuaia in segments.

Do you have any recommendations for routes from Tijuana to Ensenada or Tijuana to Tecate? I've heard mixed things about cycling on the 1D cuota (toll roads) to Ensenada, and know nothing about the 2 or 2D to Tecate. If you have any cyclist input I'd greatly appreciate! I'm fluent in Spanish and lived in Mexico for 10 months, so I'm familiar with security and how to get around. Thanks!
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Old 07-22-18, 05:55 PM
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I expect either can work fine.

I chose Tecate in November 2016 for several reasons:
- It was my initial introduction to Mexico and the crossing was much lower volume and the road to Ensenada was also much less hectic.
- Journals I read were a mixed bag about Tijuana. One or two were kicked off the cuota, others cycled it without problem. The libre had debris on the shoulder to avoid. I didn't read of issues with the cuota between Mazatlan and Mexico City, only Tijuana and near Puebla I saw some reports.
it worked fine, but I also don't have reason to doubt Tijuana might work OK as well.
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Old 07-22-18, 07:39 PM
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Just ride fast!

I applaud.your adventure spirit, but tijuana isn't worth it right now.
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Old 07-22-18, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
I applaud.your adventure spirit, but tijuana isn't worth it right now.
Thank you for your input. Like I said in my original post, I'm familiar with the security situation throughout Mexico. I've traveled through 13 Mexican states and have visited Tijuana at least five times in the past few years. I'm much more concerned about traffic than I am about other issues.
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Old 07-23-18, 01:47 AM
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My 2 pennies - when you go over the border at Diego, take the immediate first right out of the border station - follow the signs for the Cuota (Toll Road) and Ensenada. Do yourself a favor and take this route, do not go through TJ as that road takes you through a barrio that I do not recommend on a bicycle, even for a Spanish speaker. The actual Cuota does not start until outside of TJ, and you can start running side roads there if you want.

If you want to take the old highway route, you can do that as well - would actually recommend that between Rosarito and where it turns inland as it's a beautiful stretch. Puerto Nuevo is an awesome stop if you like lobster, several lobster places right on the beach. They have paid parking there, $5, toss the attendant another 5 or 10 and he will watch your bike like a hawk. After it turns inland, it gets sparse town wise fast and although it's not really dangerous during the day, there is no place to stop and camp and you will have to climb El Tigre up into the Valle de Guadalupe, and then go down the hill into Ensenada. Not a massive hill but it will get your attention. Depending on time of day, I would mix up Cuota and side roads to get to Ensenada if it's evening time.

The distance between Rosarito and Ensenada is an easy 50 miles, but I have only ridden it on a road bike, not sure about a tourer.

I think the cuota is the best bet until you get to the first turnoff for Rosarito, which takes you onto the old road. Before that, you will be mucking around in some areas where you probably shouldn't be, and I kinda feel that way about the 2/2D in general. And it's a mixed bag as you have heard, have seen bikes on it many times but you never know when you will run into a Federale having a bad day.

I spend a lot of time down in Baja Norte, but I wouldn't travel the side roads before Rosarito. Another foodie tip, just south of Rosarito is Popotla, there is a place on the right as you head south called Tapanco that I highly recommend. Best of luck!

Last edited by Vegasclimber; 07-23-18 at 01:50 AM.
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Old 07-23-18, 08:21 AM
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I crossed at Tijuana in 2016. The pedestrian crossing was easy and fast, but the roads in Tijuana coming out of there are complicated and confusing. I directed myself to the nearby Border Psycho taproom to have a beer and get my bearings using their wifi.

I had heard mixed reports about getting on the cuota so I took highway 1 out of town. It was narrow and heavily trafficked. Not fun but I felt the drivers were mostly courteous and I made it through without incident.

1 eventually joins the cuota and runs parallel most of the way to Ensenada before splitting off at some point and taking you inland up a bit of a climb. I stayed on the toll road. Just north of El Sauzal before the libre reconnects there's a toll booth. A security guard with a shotgun motioned me over and told me bikes weren't allowed. I asked if I could go back and he said no because it's the toll road. I asked if I could go forward and he said no... because it's the toll road... despite the fact that this was the end of the toll road and we could see where highway 1, the libre joined it maybe 100m ahead. So we stood like that staring at each other for a bit before he radioed someone who told him to let me through.
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Old 07-23-18, 03:48 PM
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South from Tecate or Mexicali

I will give you a couple of perspectives. A few years ago, my son rode from Calgary to Cabo San Lucas. He entered Mexico at Mexicali and took the "gulf route". Mexicali has a little hectic getting his bearings but nothing major as he headed south on MEX-5. It gets rural fairly quickly with little traffic. He continued on MEX-5 at the MEX-3 split where it got even more rural. He always found food/water but it was sometimes just the convenience store variety. However, he loved the mostly deserted beaches of Gulf of California. There was a few stretches of dirt/gravel/sand but that were in the process of paving it so I can't tell you how much is still unpaved. He connected with MEX-1 after quirky Coco's Corner (little food but a lot to drink) and continued south toward Cabo.

If you ride from San Diego toward Tecate, the US side from Otay Lakes Road to Tecate on CA-94 is hectic. We rode it from Tecate to San Diego so we had major downhills on a very twisty narrow road with heavy traffic. I can not recommend you ride it, especially east bound. Note I have almost 40 years and over 50k miles of touring so I am not just being wimpy. Maybe we hit it on a bad day (Tuesday mid-afternoon) but if I was not flying down at 35-40mph, I would not have enjoyed all the traffic whizzing by me. However, it was a scenic road.So if you go "inland" I would suggest you take ACA's Southern Tier route over to El Centro, CA, and head south from there.

However, if you want to head south from Tecate (maybe come in on ACA's Sierra Cascade's route), I would consider MEX-3 ok to ride. While I have not ridden MEX-3 south of Tecate, I have been doing a little research on and off the past view months and it seems to have a nice shoulder most of the route and even has a wine region near Guadalupe (NE of El Sauzal) and enough services.

Whichever you choose, have a great tour!
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Old 07-23-18, 04:10 PM
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You could also take the ACA Southern Tier to Buckman Springs, and then head south to 94, and then back west to the Tecate turnoff...it's longer and has more climbing, but avoids the narrow and busy Hwy 94 direct route.

Lake Morena County Park along the way near Campo has a hike 'n' bike site if you're camping and need a spot.
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Old 07-24-18, 02:06 PM
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I have not biked your route, but here's a suggestion. Because crossing at San Diego can be time consuming and crowded (thus confusing), you could ride east from SD at the Chula Vista area over to Rt. 94. That'll take you thru Dulzara down to the turn off for Tecate. This was part of a trip I did a few years ago which is why I suggest it. I did not cross the border there, but I imagine that it's super quick. Traffic was minimal along 94 as I recall (pretty much only locals and a local bus). If you want more info, you can contact me directly. (I see now that Tulsa has mentioned this route above. I did it in the early to mid-morning and certainly don't remember it being busy. There are a few curves with no shoulder and you have to be careful, and I do remember that route having lots of empty strewn beer cans, but oh well.)
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Old 07-24-18, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by travelinhobo View Post
I have not biked your route, but here's a suggestion. Because crossing at San Diego can be time consuming and crowded (thus confusing), you could ride east from SD at the Chula Vista area over to Rt. 94. That'll take you thru Dulzara down to the turn off for Tecate. This was part of a trip I did a few years ago which is why I suggest it. I did not cross the border there, but I imagine that it's super quick. Traffic was minimal along 94 as I recall (pretty much only locals and a local bus). If you want more info, you can contact me directly. (I see now that Tulsa has mentioned this route above. I did it in the early to mid-morning and certainly don't remember it being busy. There are a few curves with no shoulder and you have to be careful, and I do remember that route having lots of empty strewn beer cans, but oh well.)
I think this is what I'm now leaning towards. I went to Tecate back in December and it was indeed a faster and much more pleasant border crossing than San Ysidro. Plus when I start back up in the future I could continue on from there, perhaps on the Baja Divide route to La Paz.

Does anyone have experience riding Highway 3 from Tecate to Ensenada? I know several folks on the Baja Divide have been robbed in the past just outside of Tecate. I'm wondering if there is a similar security concern for the remainder of the road to Ensenada.
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Old 07-24-18, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by planeguy5 View Post
I think this is
Does anyone have experience riding Highway 3 from Tecate to Ensenada? I know several folks on the Baja Divide have been robbed in the past just outside of Tecate. I'm wondering if there is a similar security concern for the remainder of the road to Ensenada.
Route 3 was a good road. Here is my journal page for riding that route: http://www.scc2ush.com/2016/11/29/ensenada/
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Old 07-28-18, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Route 3 was a good road. Here is my journal page for riding that route: Ensenada - A bicycle ride across the Americas
Thanks for the link to your blog. I think this is the route I'm leaning towards at the moment. Seems to me that it is a little more straightforward than navigating through Tijuana on the 1 or 1D. It also looks like there are a number of camping opportunities just a few miles outside of town, which is good to know.
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Old 07-29-18, 02:52 PM
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Snippets of goodness:

Rosarito to Ensanada on the -bike- route is a nice ride.

Hopping on the commuter train at Chula Vista and taking it to the boarder was really smart choice. (The train stop is two blocks off the bike path)

San Diego airport was the easiest bike assembly to airport exit I have -ever- experienced.

​​​​​I butchered my way through Tijuana so I can't comment.

Next time ... Gulf side.
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Old 07-29-18, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by planeguy5 View Post


Does anyone have experience riding Highway 3 from Tecate to Ensenada? I know several folks on the Baja Divide have been robbed in the past just outside of Tecate. I'm wondering if there is a similar security concern for the remainder of the road to Ensenada.

Yes, I have ridden from Tecate to Ensenada on 3, 3 times, and Tijuana to Ensenada 1 time, and Ensenada to Tecate on what has become the baja divide a dozen or more times. I have used the ABC autobus from TJ to Ensenada, with bicycle a few dozen times.

The new crossing next to the Rio Tijuana has little or no line at migration. You get the best exchange rate in San Ysidro.


Their obsession to be on dirt, led the Baja Divide through the poorest barrio in Tecate. I wont go on that street. If you have been hanging around in TJ you know better than to have your $500 phone in plane sight in a neighborhood where there are needles all over the ground, (no visable display of wealth.) Would you walk around next to the border fence in Zona Norte late at night?

I will never ride TJ to Tecate, I don't like the road.

"I'm wondering if there is a similar security concern for the remainder of the road to Ensenada."
no. Just the one bad neighborhood.

Road tires are not going to work on the sandy roads of the Baja Divide. This time of year, why not ride up to Parque 1857, October could be nice up there, then down to Ojos Negros?
A person with a mountain bike and tubeless tires could learn to like Ensenada, where all trails are open to bicycles

In this order,
Dirt route, Tecate to Ensenada
3 Tecate to ensenada
toll road tourist route out of TJ
old Ensenada highway.
Mexican music from Mexacali

Last edited by chrisx; 07-29-18 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 08-01-18, 12:11 PM
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Think about the weather
There has never been a November hurricane in Baja.
If you are going now, August, it is going to be hot, and so is September,


November - March yes.
April - October, no.
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Old 08-02-18, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by chrisx View Post
Think about the weather
There has never been a November hurricane in Baja.
If you are going now, August, it is going to be hot, and so is September,


November - March yes.
April - October, no.
Oh yes, I totally agree. That's why I will be stopping once I get to Ensenada. I'll pick back up once the weather cools.
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