SR-74: Ortega Highway

ca_74_smallOrtega Highway / Pines to Palms Highway Runs from I-5 at San Juan Capistrano to SR-111 in Palm Desert

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The Ortega Highway was built in stages, mostly in the 1920’s and 1930’s. From Hemet to Palm Desert it is known as the Pines to Palms Highway. Over San Juan Creek east of San Juan Capistrano there is a nice 1929 arch bridge.

San Juan Creek Bridge - 1929
San Juan Creek Bridge – 1929
Narrows of San Juan Canyon approaching the bridge.
Narrows of San Juan Canyon approaching the bridge.

East of I-15, State 74 takes over a portion of former US 395 until I-215 in Perris. East of Perris, State 74 passes through Hemet before climbing into the San Jacinto Mountains up a very steep and twisty grade.

Passing through Romoland east of I-215.
Passing through Romoland east of I-215.
1929 bridge just east of Hemet.
1929 bridge just east of Hemet.

Highway 74 from Hemet to Lake Hemet by motorcycle

After Mountain Center, Hwy 74 passes through a large valley with ranching and some farming before working its way toward the Coachella Valley. The descent into the Coachella Valley is even more impressive than the ascent east of Hemet. It is known as Seven Level Hill and was completed in June 1932. Some of the original stone curbing remains on the grade today. State 74 ends at its junction with Hwy 111 in Palm Desert, though plans still call for its extension down Monterey Road to I-10.

Springtime along 74 near Lake Hemet.
Springtime along 74 near Lake Hemet.
Seven Level Hill - above Palm Desert
Seven Level Hill – above Palm Desert
Postmile marker painted on the curb at the State 111 junction in Palm Desert.
Postmile marker painted on the curb at the State 111 junction in Palm Desert.
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