Road-tripping Southern California Through Surprising San Diego
Expect mountains, deserts, wolves and orchards in California's unsung county.
Veering onto the road less travelled will serve you well in southern California. While the west coast state is famed for cliff-hugging oceans and tremendously long stretches of beach, you shouldn’t overlook the power and beauty of San Diego‘s inland desserts and mountains.
From the charming mountain community of Julian to the desert enclave of Borrego Springs, to the state’s largest national park and wild animals, San Diego’s East County offers another side to the California we all know.
Here are the best stop offs on the road tripper journey through San Diego:
A town called Julian
You can find the delightful mountain community of Julian nestled among the picturesque Cuyamaca Mountains. It’s got tree-lined country roads, no traffic or commercial development, fruit orchards and roadside homemade jam stands. It’s like California’s Stars Hollow (knew that’d pique your interest).
Oh, and make sure you visit during August or September so you can experience the Julian fall apple harvest.
California Wolf Centre
Located just south of Julian, a visit to the California Wolf Centre is a must-do for a truly unique Californian desert experience. The non-profit wildlife education centre is dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding of the history, biology and behaviour of the grey wolf.
Visiting the centre, you get to view highly-endangered Mexican grey wolves, as well as a pack of Alaskan grey wolves. You have to reserve a tour, which you can do here.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park consists of 117 kilometres of hiking and horseback riding trails, as well as campgrounds and picnic sites, oak and pine woodlands, Lake Cuyamaca, creeks and Sweetwater River headwaters. The park is also home to magnificent wildlife, including herds of mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, an occasional mountain lion and more than 150 species of birds.
Nearby Lake Cuyamaca offers boating and fishing. On a clear day, you can climb up to Cuyamaca Peak to see all the way across Anza-Borrego Desert and through to Mexico.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state park and a living museum. Keep your eyes peeled to spot roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer, bighorn sheep, desert iguanas, lizards and chuckwallas. The best time to visit is spring, when you can see wildflowers dotted around the desert landscape.
Borrego Springs is a thriving desert community/oasis located in the northern part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It’s got luxurious resorts and a lively arts community comprising theatre, art exhibitions and concerts. However, you’d be best to spend as much time outside as possible, taking advantage of the world class hiking trails and golf courses.
(All images: supplied by San Diego Tourism Authority)