Experience Montezuma Grade

Motorcyclist riding his bike on a sunny day in Montezuma Grade mountains

In the riding community, Montezuma Grade is a 31.6-mile stretch of road that starts out in Borrego Springs, CA, and climbs to elevations of close to 4,000 feet. In this article, we’ll share our top tips on how to experience a Montezuma Grade motorcycle ride fully.

What is Montezuma Grade?

The Montezuma Grade was paved by inmates from local prison camps over a 10-year time span. It is a challenging ride that climbs 3,300 feet in a mere ten miles, and the real fun comes on the descent. It’s been described as dropping into a “heaven of sweepers and twisties.”

The Montezuma Grade motorcycle ride road is known for having some sharp corners and blind turns, so as always, exercise caution.

Another fun fact about Montezuma Grade is that it’s nicknamed the “Glass Elevator” because the views are reminiscent of what you see in a glass elevator as you ascend to the top floor of a skyscraper. There’s not much (if any) room for error.

How to Experience Montezuma Grade

The Montezuma Grade boasts an ever-expanding view, including a relatively clear view of the Salton Sea. Despite the blind curves, the road is blessed by minimal traffic. Accidents and mishaps are rare but expect to see a fair number of bicyclists and e-bike riders when the weather conditions are favorable.

Depending on the time of year you go, you could see the infamous spring wildflower blooms, which draw in onlookers from all over the state. The peak season typically lasts about two weeks, and it tends to fall somewhere in March or April, depending on weather conditions from previous months. Check the weather before you ride, as temperatures can soar to 115F.

Once you begin your descent, you’ll notice a substantial landscape change, including swaths of rounded granite reminiscent of Joshua Tree vibes.

At the end of your ride, make sure you check out the great sea serpent of Borrego Springs. This art installation is so massive that it won’t fit in a single picture unless you set your camera to panoramic.

The best post-ride refueling options (for your body) include Carlee’s, a burger joint, and Los Jilberto’s Taco Shop. If you’re a San Diego resident and you’ve never tackled Montezuma Grade, you are surely missing out on an incredible experience!

Montezuma Grade Route Options

There’s more than one way to arrive at Montezuma Grade, so you can choose whichever is most convenient or try all of them during the course of your riding career and see which one you like best.

One option is to begin in Ranchita and take Montezuma Valley Road to Borrego Springs. Twenty miles in, you’ll end up at the Montezuma Valley Road Lookout, which is a great place to pull over and take in the sites for some photo ops. Inevitably, the road gets jammed here without other people also breaking to take in the sights.

Alternatively, you could take the reverse option and start in Borrego Springs. Either route of the Montezuma Grade motorcycle ride is bound to delight.


Final Tips

Due to the nature of the roadway, you are unlikely to see police officers and speed traps, so resist the urge to approach Montezuma Grade Evel Knievel style. Follow the posted speed limit signs and adapt to road conditions as needed.

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