Ortega Highway, California, USA
The Ortega, as it is known locally, meanders along an old Native American Indian trail through rural South Orange County. Then it climbs into the Santa Ana Mountains, with rock walls on one side and canyons on the other.
But this narrow, 33.5-mile serpent of a road is no leisurely drive. With sections bearing nicknames like Dead Man’s Curve and Blood Alley, it is the most dangerous road in the state, but that’s what makes it so appealing.
The best way to enjoy the Ortega Highway is to take exit 74 off Interstate 15 freeway towards San Juan Capistrano. Follow the signs, and you will immediately begin the climb through the mountains, with a stunning view of Lake Elsinore.
Passing is discouraged and extremely dangerous, and to do so could yield cataclysmic results.
Before long you come to a small eatery called the Lookout Roadhouse. Open since 1968, this is a popular place to prepare for the next leg of the journey. After enjoying the view, continue the trip up the Ortega, gathering speed and braking hard on the tight corners.
This is perfect 911 territory – some corners make you feel as if you’re at the corkscrew of the famous Laguna Seca raceway. These allow you to use the 911’s rear engine bias to catapult you out of a turn with significant speed: the road pushes you and your 911 to the limit.
Latitude: 117 20 12W/33 41 31N
Length of drive: 33.5 miles
Points of interest:
Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded 1 November 1776 by Spanish Catholics
Food and accommodation:
Hell’s Kitchen Motorsports Restaurant
Marriott Residence Inn
San Juan Capistrano
If this isn’t your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed with the next stop. Hell’s Kitchen, a self-proclaimed motorsport restaurant, was founded in 2004, and is a great place to catch your breath along the route.
Continuing on, you drive through the small village of El Cariso and the California Forestry Fire Station as you begin the descent to San Juan Capistrano. Your ears ‘pop’ with the altitude change as you come out of the mountains known as the Cleveland National Forest.
Do ensure you bring that throttle down quickly though, for awaiting you could be the California Highway Patrol, aware that you have just experienced one of the fastest and most breathtaking roads in southern California.