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  1. #1
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    Seeking advice for moving to Eastern San Diego. Mtb trails? towns? cost of living?

    I'm considering leaving Santa Cruz and moving down south to San Diego, probably the inland parts of SD county as cost of living seems cheaper than coastal SD.

    My reason for leaving is due to the extremely high cost of living in Santa Cruz (3/2 1500sqft home goes for around $900k). My wife and I are both hospital workers and would prefer to live within 15-20 minutes from work.

    How do the towns of El Cajon, La Mesa, and Lemon Grove compare based on cost of living, general livability and liveliness etc?

    How far are local trail networks from these areas?

  2. #2
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    Local trail networks down here would be, Penasquitos, Black Mountain, Mission Trails, Mt San Miguel (Sweetwater), [Noble Canyon, Anderson Truck Trail, depending on where you move to]. There are others whose names escape me at the moment, such as the trails in Poway area that may or may not survive the near future. You might want to look at where these are on a map and then relate that to the different neighborhoods.
    We moved to the Eastlake area in Chula Vista, right off the 125. Depending on where you're going to be working I'd likely look more at the daily commute than the proximity of trails.
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  3. #3
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    Shouldn't you just move to Reno like everyone else in Norcal?

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    I love San Diego. But I'd think this through.

    The neighborhoods that you mention are cheaper than Santa Cruz - but Coastal San Diego is as expensive as SC or more.

    San Diego is also kinda big. If you buy a house in La Mesa, and then get a job in Carmel Valley, you're gonna wanna stab your eyes out after a week or two of that commute. So I'd be real sure you can get a job in eastern San Diego before you pull the trigger. There certainly are hospitals over there in the east, so it's definitely possible - but check the map. To just throw out a number, I'd say that you don't want to commute more than 15 miles if you can help it - although as a hospital worker, maybe you can commute during off-hours, which helps a lot.

    Lemon Grove / El Cajon / La Mesa are probably closest to the Mission Trails system. I've actually never ridden there But one of my friends is a regular, and enjoys it for a local network. You're also about as close to Noble Canyon / Big Laguna as you can be and still live in San Diego.

    Good luck and keep us posted. The more mountain bikers the merrier.

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    Liker all places, the 3 areas you specifically mentioned have their nice areas and not so nice locations as well For instance, El Cajon is home to the Hells Angels. You probably don't want too be their neighbors. However, there are nice areas of El Cajon as well. Lemon Grove is the least "developed" of this 3 areas and I'd say most San Diegans would choose La Mesa off your list. A little further out is Alpine. It's not w/o it's own issues but tons of cops and firefighters live out there for some reason. It's also reasonably close to Cuyamaca, Big Laguna and Noble Canyon. Grossmont is the largest hospital out that way that I'm aware of.

    It may be riding a bike on dirt but Mission Trails is NOT mountain biking. Avoid it like the plague.
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    I grew up in east county. El Cajon and La Mesa have their nice and not so nice areas like virtually any city. I currently live in Santee and it's overall a nice area, close to Mission Trails, the Stowe Trail and other riding trails, and it's one of the more affordable areas in San Diego county. Check out crimemapping.com and you'll quickly see the areas to avoid living in.

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    Thanks for all the useful information everybody. I plan to take a road trip down to SD in April to see these areas in person and tour the hospitals.

    Also, Is the Ted Williams trail network still open?
    My riding buddy built some of the jumps and features there and said the trails were really fun.

  8. #8
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    Seeking advice for moving to Eastern San Diego. Mtb trails? towns? cost of living?

    I live in Poway, and it could be on your list of “affordable” spots too (only in context of SC or other parts of San Diego, ha). The southern end of the city tends to be cheaper, and the market has softened lately. I’ve seen lots of decent 3/2, ~1500 sqft selling around $600k. Could be closer to some of the major hospitals than the cities you mentioned, especially if you end up working somewhere near UCSD.


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    Lots of affordable housing in north east SD. Also better local riding. Better weather and lots of hospitals. I moved to SD from Portland a few years back, best thing I've ever done.

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    What the other poster said. Your commute can make or break you.

    Get on Google maps at 8am on a weekday and look for what's red. Check again at 5pm.

    Maybe I put too much weight on it, but I hate traffic! I've had too many afternoon plans ruined by 20 mile, 1 hour commutes.

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by p1nhead View Post
    If you buy a house in La Mesa, and then get a job in Carmel Valley, you're gonna wanna stab your eyes out after a week or two of that commute. So I'd be real sure you can get a job in eastern San Diego before you pull the trigger. There certainly are hospitals over there in the east, so it's definitely possible - but check the map. To just throw out a number, I'd say that you don't want to commute more than 15 miles if you can help it - although as a hospital worker, maybe you can commute during off-hours, which helps a lot.
    It isn't the miles that make the commute brutal it is the recurring heavy traffic in certain spots. If you commute off hours or against traffic, it shouldn't be that bad. My commute is 18mi. With no traffic it's around 20min. In normal to bad rush hour, it's an hour to 1:20. I can ride my bike in 1:20. Or my moto in :30 to :40. So that's what I do a couple times a week to preserve sanity.

    It wouldn't be hard to map out where the hospitals are in town. Check out potential areas to live on zillow to get an idea of housing stock in your price range and then look at Sigalert.com for problem areas and google maps during morning/evening commute to see what the commute times might be like. I'd rent for a year or two anyways until you know for sure where you want to buy. People can recommend trail systems all day long but everyone likes different stuff so you'll ultimately have to figure that out on your own. But looking at Trailforks and comparing to what you found on zillow and hospital locations will give you an idea of what's nearby.

  12. #12
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    I lived in San Diego for 7 years (Spring Valley, Vista, Oceanside, Jamul). The commute time is what matters. I mostly commuted before rush hour (worked in commercial HVACR) and carried running shoes with me to workout if traffic sucked on my way home.

    I absolutely loved living there, could easily go back. But the commute has to be taken into consideration. Weather is good enough for year round bicycle commuting, and depending on your location you can leverage mass transit (I have used all the train systems).

    I also agree that every town there had good and bad parts. The Spring Valley area I was in I was by far in the white minority, but the neighborhoods were wonderful and most people there at the time were long time residents, I felt like I was in a great home. Really liked Vista. I was in the rich part of Oceanside, so of course it was nice. Jamul was a near hour drive to a grocery store...not an ideal commute.

    I am in the IE now, my 18 mile roadie commute is an hour, my drive (25 miles? if I do it) is 30 minutes. Hard to find in SD. Oh, and cheaper, and I have lots of riding near me. But...it isn't San Diego.

    I was a triathlete back then, which San Diego (home of triathlon) is great for.

    Rode Noble Canyon yesterday...I'm a fan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I lived in San Diego for 7 years (Spring Valley, Vista, Oceanside, Jamul). The commute time is what matters. I mostly commuted before rush hour (worked in commercial HVACR) and carried running shoes with me to workout if traffic sucked on my way home.

    I absolutely loved living there, could easily go back. But the commute has to be taken into consideration. Weather is good enough for year round bicycle commuting, and depending on your location you can leverage mass transit (I have used all the train systems).

    I also agree that every town there had good and bad parts. The Spring Valley area I was in I was by far in the white minority, but the neighborhoods were wonderful and most people there at the time were long time residents, I felt like I was in a great home. Really liked Vista. I was in the rich part of Oceanside, so of course it was nice. Jamul was a near hour drive to a grocery store...not an ideal commute.

    I am in the IE now, my 18 mile roadie commute is an hour, my drive (25 miles? if I do it) is 30 minutes. Hard to find in SD. Oh, and cheaper, and I have lots of riding near me. But...it isn't San Diego.

    I was a triathlete back then, which San Diego (home of triathlon) is great for.

    Rode Noble Canyon yesterday...I'm a fan.
    I am from north LA county and have been looking at the vista or oceanside san Marco's area. Carlsbad is too expensive. The housing prices are all over the map. But what areas around vista would you recommend?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by motoguru2007 View Post
    I am from north LA county and have been looking at the vista or oceanside san Marco's area. Carlsbad is too expensive. The housing prices are all over the map. But what areas around vista would you recommend?
    Not sure if you've been down to check Vista out but it's an "old school" layout as it was a farming community its in it's heyday. Half of Vista is 1 acre+ size lots that most city folks would call rural, even though you're 5-7 minutes max from a freeway. Most of the other housing in Vista is on the older side....vs much of Oceanside and San Marcos. San Marcos has some older stuff too but they have plenty of newer housing in San Elijo Hills too. Oceanside where I live has housing the runs the gamut...Ocean Hills is on the southeast side of the city and borders Calavera. You could ride from the house to get a quick fix. Rancho del Oro is the MONSTER master planned community that runs north/south up College Blvd to Hwy 76. Then of course you have the beach communities west of I-5. Avoid the back gate area of Camp Pendleton (River Road) and much of the area that is east of I-5 but West of El Camino Real. Both those areas still have gang bangers but admittedly, they have been quiet for quite a while now. I almost forgot they existed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by motoguru2007 View Post
    I am from north LA county and have been looking at the vista or oceanside san Marco's area. Carlsbad is too expensive. The housing prices are all over the map. But what areas around vista would you recommend?
    Shadowridge (south of the 78) is by far the nicest area in Vista.

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    Thanks for input. Yes I have checked out a Vista Carlsbad several times when I camp at South Carlsbad beach.
    Have only been through San Marco's a few times. I'll check out google Maps and look at your recommendations. I would like to be 15 to 20 minutes to surf and also MTB trails. Also looking for cooler summer temperatures so Escondido looks a bit far east.

  17. #17
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    Looks like the others answered it. Vista is a mix of rural and city. I lived on a 1.5 acre lot at one point on the Shadowridge side (walking distance from Nucci's restaurant, and must hit family Italian place!), and also lived right next to the water park, walking distance from Curbside Cafe (another must go to place!). I liked both areas.

    I think "living near MTB trails" has to be defined for you. Yes, Calavera is a place to ride, but without getting into illegal trails you are pretty limited and I don't remember any of it being technical. But still a place to ride. I'd spend WAY more time doing road or mixed terrain down in that area, lots of back roads to ride all over the place that are great on an adventure bike.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by motoguru2007 View Post
    Thanks for input. Yes I have checked out a Vista Carlsbad several times when I camp at South Carlsbad beach.
    Have only been through San Marco's a few times. I'll check out google Maps and look at your recommendations. I would like to be 15 to 20 minutes to surf and also MTB trails. Also looking for cooler summer temperatures so Escondido looks a bit far east.
    Next time you're down if you remember, take a drive over to Skyhaven Ln on the south side of Lake Blvd in Oceanside. I don't know if there are currently any rentals right there that are available (though I see them semi-regularly) but that's where I would want to live if I could. It borders Calavera so you could be on dirt in 10 seconds, Hwy 78 is 2 miles away and the beach is probably 4-6 max as the crow flies.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewalk View Post
    I think "living near MTB trails" has to be defined for you. Yes, Calavera is a place to ride, but without getting into illegal trails you are pretty limited and I don't remember any of it being technical. But still a place to ride. I'd spend WAY more time doing road or mixed terrain down in that area, lots of back roads to ride all over the place that are great on an adventure bike.
    The trails at Calavera have always been "illegal" (wink-wink) for the most part but with no concerted efforts to actually curtail the activities, it continues unabated on a MASS scale. The riding is a whole bunch of up and down with plenty of rocks. There is definitely technical riding to be found as well including a jump line and a few features I won't even attempt.
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  20. #20
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    Where are the better fun trails Elfin? How far is Noble time wise from Vista area.?

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    Good info in this thread. East county is going to be a whole lot hotter than Santa Cruz. You are considering moving from a redwood forest to the desert. If you like cool weather, shade, trees and plant life, you may reconsider. We took a trip up to SC this year and rode Soquel and the University trails. We were all super jealous of the people who get to ride there weekly. You won't find anything that fun down here unless you drive out to Nobel Canyon. There are some decent trails but they are loose and rocky, there aren't the extended downhill runs with sculpted berms and jumps you find in SC.

  22. #22
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    I will say that while I don't remember Hodges being all that exciting on an MTB (I have done the 50k and 50 mile races out there), there is a weekday race series called Quick and Dirty, so that is something worth checking in to. I have never done it, but they seem popular. Lake Hodges is just south of Escondido, right off the 15.

    Quote Originally Posted by motoguru2007 View Post
    Where are the better fun trails Elfin? How far is Noble time wise from Vista area.?
    1:15'ish:
    https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Vist...1544341800!3e0

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    I have ridden La Costa a few times and the west side if Hodges and they were just ok not something I would want ride a lot. I forgot that Noble was that far east.
    I have a freind that moved to Fallbrook and likes it but I don't think there is any riding there. I now Salespunk had a thread on they better riding. Maybe check that out for the OP

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    I grew up in La Mesa/El Cajon/Santee/etc. Riding out there is sub par unless you head towards Anderson (single trail) or Noble/Laguna (30 minute drive). Compared to Santa Cruz you will be bummed, seriously bummed on the riding. In addition these tend to be more conservative communities.

    Vista, San Marco, Oceanside, Escondido, etc are much better options IMO. A lot of solid riding options depending on what you want to ride. One thing to be prepared for is that almost everything is vertical in North County. You have to work hard NOT to do 1500' of vertical per hour. Riding areas include La Costa, Calaveras, Double Peak, Elfin, Hodges, Ted Williams, Black Mountain and a few others. Most of these locations can be linked if you want to do monster rides. La Costa for example has 5 separate descents and can be easily linked to Double Peak, Elfin, Hodges, etc.

    In addition, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista are more costal influenced. Better food, access to beaches and healthier lifestyles in general. You can find a 1500' 3/2 in Carlsbad for $700K and prices are coming down rapidly as well on the high end. Won't be long before the mid market gets hit as well. In addition you have Palomar, Tri City, Scripps and other health care systems up here.

    We all have our bias', but my daughter goes to UCSC and I also have some good friends that have moved down from SC. Knowing what the riding is like up there as well as the community these would be my recommendations. If you were coming from a more rural and conservative area I would recommend East County much more.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by motoguru2007 View Post
    I have ridden La Costa a few times and the west side if Hodges and they were just ok not something I would want ride a lot. I forgot that Noble was that far east.
    I have a freind that moved to Fallbrook and likes it but I don't think there is any riding there. I now Salespunk had a thread on they better riding. Maybe check that out for the OP
    Hodges can be fun for fast XC rides and also has one of the best descents in San Diego on Bernardo. Need to get back out there now that you have reminded me!

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    Quote Originally Posted by NORCAL1979 View Post
    I'm considering leaving Santa Cruz and moving down south to San Diego, probably the inland parts of SD county as cost of living seems cheaper than coastal SD.

    My reason for leaving is due to the extremely high cost of living in Santa Cruz (3/2 1500sqft home goes for around $900k). My wife and I are both hospital workers and would prefer to live within 15-20 minutes from work.

    How do the towns of El Cajon, La Mesa, and Lemon Grove compare based on cost of living, general livability and liveliness etc?

    How far are local trail networks from these areas?

    A lot of people laugh at Santee, because it has a reputation (as does El Cajon, and well, Clairemont too) for white trash meth-heads that have Confederate flags in their garage, and tweak out on their inoperable 1984 IROC Z in the driveway all night, but it's otherwise not a bad place to live, and the trails are GREAT on the North part.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salespunk View Post
    Hodges can be fun for fast XC rides and also has one of the best descents in San Diego on Bernardo. Need to get back out there now that you have reminded me!
    Bernardo Mountain trail on trailforks?

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    +1 for santee. It's quickly becoming less redneck and more "suburban" as it's been connected to the freeway system for several years. it's a nice place to live with good schools.

    And it has very good riding if you know where to look.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    A lot of people laugh at Santee, because it has a reputation (as does El Cajon, and well, Clairemont too) for white trash meth-heads that have Confederate flags in their garage, and tweak out on their inoperable 1984 IROC Z in the driveway all night, but it's otherwise not a bad place to live, and the trails are GREAT on the North part.
    It wasn't called Clan-tee for nothing back in the 80's & 90's. Quite frankly, it was because it was rural and predominantly white vs an issue with racial problems.
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  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by motoguru2007 View Post
    Bernardo Mountain trail on trailforks?
    Yes, out and back. High(ish) speed, rocky and loose

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    I used to live in SD, Tierrasanta neighborhood, few blocks from Claremont Mesa entrance to MTRP. Rode my bike to trails from home all the time.

    Not defending Missing Trails Regional Park, just pointing out that you can put together some physically demanding rides, as well as hone technical climbing skills.

    That part of SD, Santee, or South Poway can give you long ride options with arse-kicking climbs, albeit mostly fire roads.

    Depends on where you work and what you can afford for housing. Our son was born while in Tierrasanta and we could easily get to Scripps Lajolla, Sharp on 163, or UCSd, and we had to go to all of them.

    If you are looking in those areas being closer to 52 can be helpful for better riding in Alpine or out to Noble.

    As others have said, North County has better riding.

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    +1 on Tierrasanta if you're looking for a "sweet spot" considering central location, a trail network you can ride to from your driveway, drive times to other trails & the beach, reasonable work commutes and somewhat affordable housing in a nice area.

    The section of Mission Trails just to the East is actually one of my favorite places to ride or hike after work.
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    Bernardo sounds fun the Mission trails not so much for my tastes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by motoguru2007 View Post
    Bernardo Mountain trail on trailforks?
    Here you go

    https://www.strava.com/segments/929705?oq=bernard

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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    A lot of people laugh at Santee, because it has a reputation (as does El Cajon, and well, Clairemont too) for white trash meth-heads that have Confederate flags in their garage, and tweak out on their inoperable 1984 IROC Z in the driveway all night, but it's otherwise not a bad place to live, and the trails are GREAT on the North part.
    The IROC Z was announced in 1984 and released for sale in 1985. Like I said I grew up out there!

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