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

Cuyamaca LakeLake Cuyamaca Highlights: The 110 acre lake is about 3 miles in circumference. It lies in a meadow surrounded by Cuyamaca State Park and near Cleveland National Forest. You drive up through the Cleveland National forest to an elevation of 4,600 feet to reach this mountain oasis. There are plenty of activities to keep the whole family happy. Here are some things to look for:

Cuyamaca Lake Map – Shows location of fish, docks, ramps, picnic area, and more.

Fishing – The lake is stocked with 44,000 pounds of fish including Trout, Florida Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish; Crappie; Bluegill, and Stureon. Fishing records include a 28 pound catfish and a 14 pound trout. Free fishing classes are held every Saturday morning at 10AM. If you can’t make the class, there is an online fishing guide for Lake Cuyamaca. For those with GPS units, you can take advantage of Cuyamaca Lake’s GPS Fish Guide. Fishing rod rentals as well as boat rentals are also available.

Bird Watching – San Diego County is regarded as the best place in the country for bird watching. More bird species have been identified in San Diego than any other county in the country. The coastal, mountain, and desert regions of San Diego provide bird watchers unparalleled access to a wide variety of birds. Lake Cuyamaca is one of the prime destinations due to its mountain meadow location, only minutes away from the high desert. Nearly 200 birds species have been spotted and documented at Lake Cuyamaca. This Lake Cuyamaca bird guide provides a list of what birds look for and when to find them.

Hiking – There is a flat, 3 mile trail wrapping around the Lake. The Picnic Area on the opposite side of the lake is a good resting point. There are several more trails in the adjacent Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Boating – Canoes and Kayaks are allowed during the summer months. You can rent paddle boats during the summer months. Row boats, motorized boats, and pontoon boats can be rented year-round. Private boats can be brought to the Cuyamaca Lake but most go through the decontaminating wash provided next to the Lake for a nominal fee.

What to Expect

  • Check the Mountain Weather Forecast. Weather is generally good year-round for outdoor activities but it can get chilly and snow a couple times during the winter and get hot a few times during the summer.
  • Weekends during the fall are the busiest time of the year. There is still plenty of space for everyone to enjoy activities in and around the lake. However, if you want to have the lake more to yourself, try visiting during the weekdays or at other times of the year.
  • Visitors often include a trip into nearby historic town of Julian to stroll along a quaint street full of shops, restaurants, and attractions. You will also find bed & breakfasts in Julian and the surrounding area.
  • Handicap facilities are available for those with disabilities.

Food – There is a full service restaurant on site. There is also a nice picnic area (noted on the map provided above) on the opposite side of the Lake. In addition, you will find dozens of food options in Julian, just 9 miles north on State Highway 79. Note, Julian is famous for its Apple Pies, which is available in most restaurants and at several take-out windows.

Information on Visiting Lake Cuyamaca

Fees: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Fee for car entry is $6 if you do not plan on fishing.
  • Fishing permits start at $6 per person ($3.50 for Kids)
  • Day and Annual California Fishing Licenses are available starting at $12+ (Required for those 16 years of age and higher.)
  • Nominal Fees are charged for Rentals, Camp Sites, and RV Hookups.

RV & Camping Information – Visit the Lake Cuyamaca home page to access all of the details for bringing RV’s or renting tent sites or one of two cabins available for visitors.

Directions from Google Maps to 15027 Highway 79 just south of Julian, CA 92036.

Traffic – Daytime travel to Lake Cuyamaca is relatively easy. After leaving San Diego on highways, the last 15-20 minutes of your trip will take place on curvy and hilly two-lane roads. The roads are generally wide enough to make it a comfortable drive for most drivers, despite the winding roads that take you through the Cleveland National Forest and into the mountains. (You will climb to about 4,000 feet above sea level.) Traffic is a little slower during the busier months of September and October but it still moves along quite well. Also, keep an eye out for possible mountain snow in the forecast, when tire chains may be required to get into Julian. (Visit our page about traffic in San Diego to learn more.)

Transit – There are no transit options that get you to Lake Cuyamaca.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: Fishing, Hiking, Julian, Laguna / Southern Mountains, Parks - Local, State & National, Picnics - Great Places, Scenic Views, Walking / Jogging, Wildlife - Places to See |

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