San Diego's backcountry features a wide range of natural and historic attractions, venues, restaurants and recreation areas. Rancho Cuyamaca State Park & the Cleveland National Forest feature a labyrinth of over 70 designated trails totaling over 150 miles. Streams & waterfalls abound in one of the densest concentrations of Pine, Conifer & Oak Tree forests in Southern California. Wildlife such as deer, turkey & hawks frequent the area regularly and Lake Cuyamca has some of the best trout fishing in the region.
Starting in Mount Laguna, our Cleveland National Forest Recreation Area sits atop one of the highest peaks in the county at over 6,000 ft elevation. These mountain forests of the San Diego backcountry are sky islands where pristine nature & wild-life thrives. You can learn more about the CNF during your visit to Mount Laguna at the Laguna Visitor Center, located next to the Laguna Lodge and Store. The Outpost is our local restaurant featuring amazing food, as well as a full bar. They have a play area for children and cabins for rental. They are open on Wednesday - Sunday from 11-8pm.
Our massive and interconnected network of trails in Mount Laguna are undoubtedly the most popular attractions. One of the best ways to enjoy the forest is by mountain bike, or you can also hike. We offer mountain bike rentals and can help you get started, if it’s your first time. There are many beautiful trails to choose from including; Penny Pines, Big Laguna Lake and Sunset Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail is known the world over, spanning thousands of miles and starting in Mexico and ending in Canada! Our portion of the PCT trail features some of the most spectacular drop off views of the Anza Borrego State Park and the best sunrise views in the whole county.
Lake Cuyamca is an attraction in itself, featuring some of the best fresh lake fishing in the region. Their restaurant offers a variety of delicious plates & libations, as well as locally produced craft beer.
The historic town of Julian offers a multitude of tours, attractions, restaurants & shopping. Don’t forget to try our world-famous Julian pie. Our local brewery Nickel Beer has some of the best craft beer in San Diego. Menghini Winery & Volcan Mountain Winery are one of Julian's most popular attractions, along with our local orchards & u-pick farms. While you’re in the area stop by the Volcan Mountain Preserve & learn about their amazing efforts towards conservation of the region.
The Julian Station & Wynola are an attraction in themselves. Jeremey’s on the Hill offers farm-to-table cuisine, or you can visit Wynola Pizza & Bistro for some delicious pizza & craft soda. Head on over to the Julian Station afterwards for libations ranging from wine, craft beer, cider, mead & komboucha. Julian Hard Cider & Julian Ciderworks are a must try! Manita’s Mexican food is another local favorite.
Further on down is Santa Ysabel, Warner Springs, Lake Henshaw & the La Jolla Indian Reservation all waiting to be explored. There is no shortage of unique attractions & activities to choose from while visiting the San Diego Backcountry.
"For 250 years since Pedro Fages first traversed the Cuyamacas - the place has preserved its integrity nearly free of commercialization and human intrusion. The spirit of the place, uplifting as only mountains can, a haven of nature and far views, has persisted in a developing county with more than three-million inhabitants. It is something less than a miracle that the original unique spirit of the Cuyamacas has mostly survived for us to savor today."
Leland Fetzer - The Story of San Diego’s High Country