View Attractions Related to: Mountains & Desert

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Explore the San Diego Mountains and Desert

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What is the best thing about San Diego? You and a friend can go for a walk on the beach in the morning, throw snowballs at each other an hour later while playing under the pine trees in the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest, and then have lunch amidst colorful wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Many tourists come to San Diego for the beaches and then try to make time for the most popular attractions like the Zoo or SeaWorld. Once they arrive, they figure out there is a lot more to do in San Diego than they realized. They are also surprised to find we have mountains and desert attractions for them to enjoy as well.

The Eastern Europeans seem to have figured this out. The deeper you go into the mountains and desert, the more the Eastern Europeans outnumber everyone else.

This guide is your opportunity to find out why people love to live in San Diego and why the Eastern Europeans come to the Mountains and Desert of San Diego in large numbers. Start reading about each of the attractions by selecting the pictured tabs above. Enjoy your travels.

Cleveland National Forest

Location: Cleveland National Forest (1 Hour Drive from the Coastal Areas of San Diego)

 

Cost: Most Visitors Will Need An Adventure Pass – $5 per Day or $30 per Year.

Features: Mountains, Meadows, Views of Ocean and Desert; Scenic Drives; Eagles; Falcons; Trails for Hiking, Biking, and Horseback Riding; Campground & RV Sites

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Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Location: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (14 Miles South of Julian and 48 Miles / 55 Minutes Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: Dawn to Dusk

Cost: $6 per Vehicle; $15+ for Camp Sites

Features: Mountains, Meadows, and Woodlands Ranging from 4,000 – 6,512 Feet Above Sea Level; Mountain Top Vistas; Trails for Hiking, Biking, and Horseback Riding; Campground & RV Sites

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Historic Mountain Town of Julian

Location: Julian (62 Miles / 1.25 Hours Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Features: Historic Town in the San Diego Mountains with Hiking, Wine Tasting, Gold Mines, Stargazing, Shops, Famous Apple Pie, and Surrounded by Forests

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Eagle & High Peak Gold Mine and Museum

Location: Julian (62 Miles / 1.25 Hours Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Weekends: 10AM – 5PM (longer during holiday season)

Cost: $10 ($5 for Kids 5-12; $1 for Kids under 5) – Includes Mine Tour and Panning for Gold

Features: Gold Mine Attracted People from across the Country in the 1870s; Learn the History and Pan for Gold.

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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Location: Anza-Borrego Desert (Visitor Center is 93 Miles/ 2 Hours from the Coastal Areas of San Diego)

Visitor Center Hours: 9AM – 5PM; Thursday through Monday From October to May; Weekends from June to September.

Cost: Free (Except for $6 per day parking at 3 Campgrounds)

Features: Sonoran Desert Meets the Peninsular Mountain Ranges Creating the Most Diverse Desert Landscape in the World and offering Hiking, Camping, Horseback Riding, Desert Wildflower Viewing, Stargazing, and Geological Exploration.

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Agua Caliente – Desert Hot Springs

Location: Anza-Borrego Desert (94 Miles / 2 Hours East of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: 9:30 AM – 5PM from September 1 – May 31; Closed During Summer

Cost: $5 per Vehicle, Extra for Camping

Features: Indoor and Outdoor Mineral Hot Springs; 142 Camping Sites; County Park; Hiking; Scenic Vistas

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Carrizo Badlands

Location: Anza-Borrego Desert (102 Miles / 2 Hours East of Downtown San Diego)

Best Time to Visit: September – May

Cost: None

Features: Fossils over a Million Years Old; Caves; Hiking; Scenic Vistas
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Borrego Springs

Location: Borrego Springs is surrounded by the Anza-Borrego Desert (93 Miles/ 2 Hours East of San Diego Coastal Areas)

When to Visit: October through May

Features: Desert Town Providing Hospitality to Guests of the Anza-Borrego Desert; Includes Resorts, Spas, Stargazing, Adventure Activities, Life-Size Pre-Historic Animals, and Cultural Events.

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Palomar Observatory

Location: Palomar Mountain (78 Miles / 1 Hour and 45 Minutes Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: Generally open 9AM – 4PM (Closed on December 24th and 25th)

Cost: None

Features: Home to One of the World’s Most Powerful Telescopes; Took Clearest Pictures Ever of Outer Space in 2007; Images Used in Google Sky; One of America’s Finest Scientific Achievements.

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Palomar Mountain State Park

Location: Palomar Moutain (77 Miles / 1 Hour and 45 Minutes Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: Dawn till Dusk

Cost: $6 per Vehicle; $15+ for Camp Sites

Features: Pine Tree Forest with Hiking Trails, Trout Fishing, and Camping.

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Lake Cuyamaca – Mountain Lake

Location: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (9 Miles South of Julian and 53 Miles / 1 Hour Northeast of Downtown San Diego)

Open Daily: 6AM – Sunset

Cost: $6 Minimum for each Car. (See Fee information below.)

Features: 4,600 Feet Above Sea Level; Surrounded by a National Forest; Fishing; Boating; Bird Watching; Hiking Trail; Tent & RV Camp Sites

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