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Old May 8, 12, 8:03 am   #1
 
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Driving from Indio to San Diego via the Pines to Palms Highway

In a couple of weeks, I'll be heading from Indio to San Diego. I've never been to either place before and I'm wondering about which route to take.

Interestingly, I note that Google Maps recommends a route comprised mainly of I-10 and I-15 if you're starting out from Palm Springs, but from Indio it recommends taking the Pines to Palms Highway (CA 74) and then 371 and 79 to Temecula before heading south the rest of the way on I-15.

Being someone from the flat lands I'm interested in the mountain scenery of CA 74 but I'm also a bit curious as to whether this is a wise choice of route. Google Maps says it should take about 2.5 hours which is fine (I'd anticipate stopping at least a few times along the way to admire the view). But I was wondering if anyone can tell me:

1) is this a realistic time estimate, and

2) is this a good highway to take?

With mountain roads I'm never quite sure what I'm getting into. If this highway has a history of closures, accidents, congestion or other issues I might be inclined to just take the Interstate instead. (But I hope not because I'd really like to check it out.)

Also, if anyone has any advice on other routes - I had been considering driving past the Salton Sea and heading west to San Diego on CA 78/79 - it would be much appreciated!
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Old May 8, 12, 12:26 pm   #2
 
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I drove from San Diego through historic Julian and Anza-Borrego State Park to Palm Desert in March of last year. Not difficult driving. Scenic. I stopped for long breaks in Julian and at the Anza-Borrego visitor's center. I'd recommend that route except it might be a bit hot by the time you go, especially before you climb out of the desert.

I've not taken Pines to Palms. It would involve more driving on an interstate highway (I-15) than would the route through Julian. Some would count this as a plus, others a drawback. PTP route could be cooler, since you'd have less time in the desert (others will have to judge that), but I don't know that it'd be exactly cool along I-15. Of course, if you spend a few days in Indio, a little heat may not phase you any longer.

For Indio to San Diego, Google Maps gives 3 options: Palms to Pines, I-10 and Hwy. 78 (through Julian). Estimated times for the three routes are 2 hrs. 32 mins., 2 hrs. 37 mins. and 2 hrs. 58 mins. Google Maps isn't necessarily recommending one or another. It simply lists options, and PTP is estimated by them as the shortest time-wise (though not by much), so it's listed first. The driving times are their general estimates, not scientific calculations. I generally find the estimated times generous, though they do not usually take rush hour into account. Happy driving.

Last edited by SoCal; May 8, 12 at 12:47 pm.
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Old May 8, 12, 12:48 pm   #3
 
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Thank you for the explanation - having some information from someone with first-hand knowledge makes me much more comfortable about setting out on one of the non-interstate routes. It is really now down to either the Pines to Palms route or the one through Julian...
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Old May 8, 12, 2:16 pm   #4
 
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One of the car clubs I used to belong to would do a Julian drive every year if that tells you anything

That's a lot of driving - if you do the road to Temecula, you'll already get quite a bit of mountain/desolation. I seem to recall when leaving the Palm Springs area, the ascent over the mountain was the most dramatic. The rest of the way was somewhat downhill on a grade and through more valley/meadow-like areas with the mountains in the background.

Either way, it would probably be quite a bit different than what you're used to in Winnipeg
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Old May 12, 12, 12:30 am   #5
 
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Pines to Palms is a great road, and, depending on where you're going in San Diego, 2.5 hours is a reasonable estimate. We do this drive every few weeks (Dad lives in La Quinta), and really enjoy the scenery.

The climb out of Palm Desert is a bit challenging, but it's only about 10 minutes of the drive - the rest has good visibility and isn't too twisty.

It will be much cooler when you get up to Anza - if you plan on getting out of the car you may want a light jacket - the temperature is frequently half that of the desert!

It's also a good idea to stop for fuel in Temecula - for whatever reason gas is $.30-$.50/gallon less there than in either San Diego or the desert.

Taking the 78/79 generally takes much longer, even though it is fewer miles.
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Old May 12, 12, 10:13 am   #6
 
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Great advice. I think I'll avoid the 78/79... as intriguing as the route looks, I'd like to get to San Diego in time to do some things in the city that day, so I figure the Pine to Palms is the best compromise between the speed of the Interstate and the scenery of 78/79 through Julian
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Old May 12, 12, 2:54 pm   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heraclitus View Post
Great advice. I think I'll avoid the 78/79... as intriguing as the route looks, I'd like to get to San Diego in time to do some things in the city that day, so I figure the Pine to Palms is the best compromise between the speed of the Interstate and the scenery of 78/79 through Julian
FYI, I think Palms to Pines is a gorgeous route, and I've driven it maybe 100 times between Palm Desert and Anza down to Aguanga and then Temecula. But I also had the only serious wreck of my life on it, in August of 2001, a combination of fresh new asphalt, 110 degree air temperature, and a large rock in the middle of the road around a blind turn combined with my going too fast for the conditions, resulted in my swerving to avoid the rock, loosing traction as the fresh asphalt tore away from the road bed, and I put my right-side wheels just onto the steep uphill side of the road, and I flipped my car over going something like 55-60 MPH. Fortunately, I was not seriously injured, but my car was totaled and the guys that cut me out of it with the Jaws were astonished that my injuries were as minor as they actually were (a mild concussion and some broken glass in my forehead from hitting the windshield - actually it was the other way around, the windshield hit me in the head when the car landed on it's roof and flattened the front of the roof on a straight line to the rear roof pillars). My lap/shoulder belt probably saved my life, or at a minimum, from quite serious injury.
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Old May 12, 12, 7:52 pm   #8
 
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Duly noted. Sounds like a very scary incident...

I am not used to mountain driving so I'll be sure to heed your words and take it down a notch or two when it comes to speed.
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Old May 13, 12, 11:57 am   #9
 
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The Pines to Palms Highway is fine, but you won't see many "pines" on that portion, the pines are more the Ortega Highway side of the trip.
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Old May 31, 12, 9:39 pm   #10
 
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Did the drive from Indio to San Diego via Temecula and the PTP with a few observations:

-Wow was the scenery ever beautiful. As Oskibear said, the inital ascent was really quite dramatic. The landscape certainly varied a lot between Indio and Temecula - you couldn't really get bored on this road.

-It got very cold in a hurry going up the mountain. We started in sweltering heat with the top down and within 20 minutes we had to pull over to put the top up on the car.

-The road itself is quite safe although I could imagine it could get a little hair-raising in inclement conditions, especially fog.

-Slow drivers are a bit of an annoyance as there are few opportunities to pass, but fortunately the road wasn't too crowded.

-Sushi Camp in Temecula was the only disappointment of the trip

Otherwise everything was great! Thanks!
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