I discovered State Route S6 (better known as the Del Dios Highway) on my second-ever trip to San Diego way back in 1997. The company I was working for at the time had graciously offered to transfer me to San Diego from Dayton Ohio (woo-hoo!), and in August of that year several of my coworkers and I took a trip out to southern California for the purpose of house-hunting. Never mind the fact that I was only 23 years old at that time and in no financial position to purchase a home – they sent me anyway as part of the relocation package and I didn’t hesitate for an instant to take them up on their offer. Only an idiot would turn down a free trip to San Diego, right?
The three of us rented a house in Leucadia right on the beach, but our house and apartment hunting was focused inland around Rancho Bernardo. That meant a lot of back and forth driving between the beach and inland areas, and we quickly discovered that the Del Dios Highway was the best (and most scenic) way between the two.
State Road S6 runs from Rancho Santa Fe all the way up to Escondido, and it’s a very scenic mountain drive between laid-back beach communities and the inland north county of San Diego. It runs parallel to Lake Hodges for a few miles, and it’s full of higher-speed sweeping turns with a fair amount of rolling elevation changes along the way. For a midwestern boy who was new to southern California and mountain driving, this ribbon of asphalt was amazing to me – especially since it was technically right in the middle of San Diego and not way out in the east-county mountains. We didn’t have roads like that back in Ohio!
I ended up renting an apartment in Rancho Bernardo, but soon after I moved in I spent a lot of time driving Del Dios Highway in order to get to the beach. The Eagle Talon Tsi I had at the time was a lot of fun on that road, but I’ve got to admit that the Dodge Neon R/T I replaced it with a few months later was a lot better in the twisties. As a matter of fact, the very first thing I did with that Neon (the day I bought it) was to cruise this road back and forth a few times.
18 years later, Del Dios Highway is a bit busier than it used to be – but it’s in much better condition now. The city of San Diego has maintained it well, including widening it in some spots to make room for much-needed turn lanes. Traffic flows relatively fast along this route, and it was always a bummer to lose momentum when having to slow for traffic turning onto side roads.
If you find yourself in central San Diego itching for a fun and flowing mountain drive, the Del Dios Highway is a qreat way to get your fix.