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 […]

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Eagle Crag via the Cutca Trail

View from Eagle Crag   Cutca Valley Eagle Crag is a promontory with a sheer drop of about 1,000 feet in a lonely, wild corner of the Agua Tibia Wilderness. The Cutca Trail connects the Palomar Crest, on which Eagle Crag perches, to the High Point Truck Trail that runs from Aguanga to High Point […]

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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 […]

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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, […]

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Sweetwater River and Green Valley Falls

The Sweetwater river drains the Cuyamaca rivershed before dumping its contents in the Sweetwater Resevoir. At its headwaters in Green Valley, the Sweetwater is an unspoilt watercourse along which one can spend a cool, sunny day. Distance: 7.5 Miles Elevation Gained: 850′ Difficulty: Moderate Time: 2:45 Critters: Wild turkeys Get there like this. Note: There […]

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Chiquito Basin and the San Juan Trail

Chiquito Basin is a lovely stretch of meadows and woodlands in the Ortega Corridor of the Santa Ana Mountains. The San Juan Trail is a rugged single-track trail that runs from Blue Jay Campground to Highway 74 just east of Caspers Wilderness Park. The trail is quite popular with mountain bikers, but it can still […]

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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 […]

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Rodriguez Mountain/Hellhole Canyon Open Space Preserve

Hellhole Canyon Open Space Preserve is a 1,700 acre county park that is a lot nicer than the name suggests. There’s nothing particularly hellish about a stream that still trickles even in the midst of a severe drought. In addition to the lovely riparian strip along Hellhole Creek, there are mountains to climb and vistas […]

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