Mt. Gower

Mt. Gower is a prominent peak dominating its eponymous open space preserve. Located about 15 minutes southeast of Ramona, the peak offers granite-clad views over central east county, including El Cajon Mountain, the San Diego River Valley, and the Mt.Woodson/Iron Mountain range. Distance: 8.4 Miles Elevation Gained: 2,600′ Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous Time: 4:30 Critters: Hawks…

Nate Harrison Grade and Palomar Mountain State Park

Nate Harrison Grade is a windy fireroad that connects Palomar Mountain State Park to Highway 76. It passes through orange groves, open grassland, and burned forest before entering the park just below Boucher Hill. Palomar State Park is, of course, Palomar State Park, and it’s also my favorite place in San Diego County. Distance: 6…

Granite Springs Backcountry Camp

Granite Springs Backcountry Camp is a backpacker’s campground accessible via East Mesa in Cuyamaca State Park. This park is one of two dedicated to backpacker campgrounds – the other being Arroyo Seco. It features a water pump (needs filtering), dedicated campsites, and vault toilets. Distance: 8.8 Elevation Gained: 1200′ Difficulty: Moderate Time: Overnight Critters: Hawks,…

Soapstone Grade/Green Valley Loop

The view from Soapstone Grade   Green Valley This long, elliptical loop travels through some of the less-traveled portions of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The first half, Soapstone Grade, grants wide-open views of meadows and far-off mountains, while the second half, Green Valley, travels along the headwaters (dry) of the Sweetwater River through gradually-recovering riparian…