Beaches, mountains, parks, trails, and museums are just a few things the San Diego area offers, not to mention the beautiful scenery and mild climate. Below are just a few examples of what one can expect from this area.
Running 25 miles East to West and 50 miles South to North in Southeastern California is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Driving the roadways in the park, is an excellent way to explore the rugged mountain ranges, badlands, and metal sculptures known as “Monsters in the Desert” inspired by creatures that roamed here millions of years ago. Today Bighorn sheep, coyotes, and mountain lions call this place home. Where highway 78 cuts through the center of the park running West to East the S1, S22, and S3 roads are known as connecting highways through the park.
A great place to start the loop through the park is at County Road S1 also known as Sunrise highway where natural beauty and wonder is in an abundance. This byway travels from I-8 in Pine Valley to just South of Julian between the Cuyamaca Reservoir and Laguna Junction through the Cleveland National Forest passing into and back out of the State Park. The byway turns and twists its way to the top of Laguna Mountain where pullouts have views of mountain meadows with wide panoramas and the Anza-Borrego Desert some 6,000 feet below.
Reaching the small community of Julian is worth a short drive around town, founded in 1870 after placer gold was discovered. As the gold played out as all mines do, Julian managed to survive due to its climate, close proximity to San Diego and rich soil, which produces world known apples. Today Julian’s entire town is designated as a Historic District with pioneer stores dating back as far as the 1870’s.
Leaving Julian on highway 78 East, for the next 10 or so miles the highway winds its way around the upper portion of the mountains through the lush Cleveland Forest where some spectacular views of the canyon can be seen along the way. As the highway winds its way down from the mountain it enters back into the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. After a short distance highway S3 or Yaqui Pass branches of and winds its way over the barren mountain into the Montezuma Valley where the visitor center is located.
Not only does the visitor center provide information about the park, there are two hiking trails here. The.25-mile loop trail in front of the visitor center leads through the desert with signs explaining desert plant life. A one-mile hike or drive to the back of the campground leads to the Palm Canyon trail head. This three-mile round trip trail leads deep into the canyon. Although the trail has very little elevation change the trail itself is treacherous, but very rewarding. The trail ends at a beautiful Palm Grove Oasis tucked away deep in the canyon, surviving by the faults crack in the earth allowing water to rise to the surface.
Leaving the visitor center County Road S22 AKA Erosion Road travels West winding its way around steep turns and sharp grades to the mountain peak where 10 pullouts provide views of canyons, Montezuma Valley, and the badlands as well as the Salton Sea far off in the distance with mountains as a backdrop.
Another wonderful drive which displays some of California’s beauty is about fifty-miles Northeast at Palomar Mountain. A drive which is not for the faint of heart, with crazy curves, hairpin turns, drastic elevation changes, and where the scenery is absolutely gorgeous is known as the Palomar Mountain Loop. The loop starts in Pauma Valley on Hwy 76 and veers left onto CA 6 and takes a right turn onto E. Grade Road descending down to Lake Henshaw where the road ends at Hwy 76. Along the way are breath taking vista of the valleys and surrounding mountains. Five miles off the route is the Palomar Observatory. For fifty years this observatory housed the largest telescope, the 200-inch Hale Telescope. To see this massive telescope up close was amazing; however, a chilling experience, for the observatory is kept at 35 to 38 degrees to protect the delicate instruments. Every clear night the Hale Telescope is peering deep into space doing astronomical research lead by a team of scientist from around the world.
With what seems to be endless miles of beaches along the San Diego County shores, stretching from Oceanside to the Mexican border, one can find pretty much anything the heart desires for fun in the sun.
Amusement park, beaches, and boardwalk is what Mission Bay and Pacific Beach is all about. The boardwalk stretches for 3.25 miles along the beach full of people roller blading, skate boarding, bike riding, or just walking. The boardwalk provides endless views of the Pacific Ocean as well as daily volleyball games played on the beach side, while the opposite side is lined with beachfront restaurants, cabanas, tiki bars, vacation rentals, and shopping.
The short drive along the coast from Oceanside to Pacific Beach is one that will not be soon forgotten. The 3.5-miles of beaches in Oceanside provides some spectacular scenic beaches and are some of the widest and sandiest beaches in Southern California, as well as a picturesque view of the boat harbor boasting 1,000 slips. Furthermore, Oceanside beaches are well known for their surfing conditions, hosting major surfing events every year.
Carlsbad known by the locals as “the Village by the Sea” where the Northern part of Carlsbad is composed of several small sandy beaches divided by sea walls and the Southern end is a State Beach and is often uncrowded. Most of the Carlsbad coast has relativity low cliffs and the historic Coast Highway 101 where, in most cases, passes right next to the shore providing some jaw dropping scenery of the Pacific Ocean; however, there is a stretch where the cliffs along the coast are high and steep.
Continuing South on 101 alongside the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean is the seven-miles of La Jolla which sparkles with sights of a picturesque village, rugged coastline, beautiful beaches, where La Jolla Cove has sweeping panoramic ocean views, and one can come face to face with hundreds of Sea Lions and Seals basking in the sun on the rocks. Shell Beach has tide pools which is the home of crabs and sea anemones, only visible during low tides. Also, La Jolla is the home of a historic San Diego tourist attraction located at the Cave Store, where a century old tunnel leads to the Sunny Jim Sea Cave. Descending down the 145 wooden stairs through the tunnel leads to a dock inside the cave where the view of looking out into the ocean is stunning.
With most of the Ocean Beach area being a rugged coast there are very few sandy beaches available for the beach lover. However, Ocean Beach is home to the longest concrete pier on the West Coast at 1,971 feet and is visited by more than 500,000 people each year, and the waves here are beyond spectacular for surfing. Just North of the pier is Newport Avenue Beach with a section just for surfers and is very popular for photographers with its wide variety of objects to shoot. In addition, the very Northern section has a beach just for the dog lovers. Just a few blocks from the pier, a sense of history and identity capture the essence of this seaside town through murals painted on the side of buildings around the old neighborhood.
?The mid-section of the peninsular is where Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is located. This park runs for 1.5 miles along the Point Loma Peninsula’s Western shoreline, where the trails along this rugged coastline features expansive ocean views, caves and dramatic cliff formations, making this park popular for ocean-gazers.
Not only is Coronado the birthplace of Naval Aviation, the community is packed full of glamour, beaches, and park lands which boasts a level of charm in a near-perfect climate, not to mention, the National Historic Landmark and ever so popular “Hotel Del Coronado” built in 1888, which overlooks the South end of Coronado Beach. Coronado offers visitors and locals beaches on the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. Just South of Coronado Village is Silver Strand State Beach which provides a long and wide stretch of beach for daily use as well as a camping area. The State Park also provides a pedestrian underpass which allows access to Bayside Beach and Resort.
Point Loma’s lower section is where the Cabrillo National Monument is located. Within the monument is the old lighthouse, stature, and cemetery as well as hiking trails along the cliff walls which lead to some of San Diego’s best tide pools, as well as some outstanding views of San Diego Bay and the city’s skyline. The lighthouse was built in 1855 and standing at 422 feet above the sea wasn’t enough, the lighthouse was often obscured by fog and low clouds, as a result, a new lighthouse was built closer to the point in 1891; however, the old lighthouse restored to its 1880’s appearance still stands keeping watch over San Diego Bay serving as a link to the past. The Cabrillo Stature is a tribute to Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo whom sailed into the San Diego Bay in 1542 becoming the first European to step onto California soil and a memorial for those who served our country is at the Fort Rosecrans National Commentary.
Twenty miles South of San Diego is the popular city of Tijuana Mexico. Pure amazing how a short walk across the border will completely alter one’s surroundings so dramatically. The mile or so walk across the bridge over the Tijuana River leads to the downtown area where donkeys have Zebra stripes painted on them are in an abundance. Souvenir shops, restaurants, curb side dinners, and pharmacy stores line the streets offering most anything one would want and just two blocks from main street is the beautiful Historic Cathedral De Nuestra Church.
Just North of San Diego in La Jolla is Torrey Pines National Reserve, which is one of the wildest stretches of land on the Southern coast of California. This stretch of land remains the same as it did before San Diego was developed and is home to the rare Torrey Pine, has miles of unspoiled beaches and a protected lagoon vital to migrating birds. The preserve is used by locals and visitors from afar to walk the peaceful trails and to just enjoy the beautiful environment.
The easiest trail is the.75-mile loop Guy Fleming Trail through the forest to where the trail follows the cliffs edge providing panoramic views of the ocean. The short, but steep High Point Trail provides a view of the reserve, inland, and the lagoon. A little more challenging is the Razor Point Trail which is.75-miles one-way. While walking through coastal sage scrub the trail provides views of sculptured sandstone and gorges. Along the way take the time to climb to the top of Red Butte for an outstanding view of the preserve and ocean. The trail ends at the Razor Point Overlook where the views of the beach far below are outstanding. On the way back take the.25-mile one-way spur trail to the Yucca Point Overlook which displays more views of eroded sandstone cliffs, as well as a different view of the beaches. By far, the most challenging, but the most rewarding is the.75-mile one-way Beach Trail, which menders its way through the forest to a rustic footpath which winds its way down more than 300-feet to the beach where the finale decent is through a narrow section of cliff wall via stairs.
Built in only seventeen months and named after the famous battle of Midway, the USS Midway is now a Historical Navel Aircraft Carrier Museum in downtown San Diego. Midway was the first carrier that featured an armored flight deck which carried 120 aircraft and for its first 10 years was the largest ship in the world and the longest serving air-craft carrier in the 20th century.
Today the carrier houses an extensive collection of aircraft’s and helicopters, many of them built right here in Southern California. Walking around the massive 4-acre flight deck provides up close encounters with different types of aircraft, with the ability to enter into some of them, the deck also provides views of San Diego’s downtown skyline. The command center for the ship known as “The Island” can only be toured with a guide. The Island is located on the flight deck and rises above all the aircraft. The tour takes one up through a series of narrow serpentine ladders to the flight control room through passage ways to the navigation room and forward to the bridge. Exploring the over 60 locations on the ship including galleys, officer quarters, sleeping quarters, engine room, and towers gives one the feelings of what it may have been like to be one of the 4,500 crew members.
All within walking distance through a quaint atmosphere are boutique shops with unique merchandise, restaurant’s, museums, and historic buildings where one can learn some of the history of San Diego’s early days, this is “Old Town”, the birthplace of California. During the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 Nearly 500 Mormons of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints joined the Army to gain finical support for their families and other Mormon Pioneers. The Battalion marched nearly 2,000 miles across the Midwestern States from Iowa to San Diego, improving the trails as they moved along. The Mormon Battalion Historic Site commemorates their journey through an interactive video tour, historical artifacts, and the art of brick making.
Just one block from Old Town is Heritage County Park, measuring nearly eight areas. This park was developed to preserve some of San Diego’s historic Victorian Homes, as well as classic revival styles.
Just outside of downtown San Diego is Balboa Park, with museums of local history to the history of flight, trains and automobiles, numerous gardens, a diversity of culture of people near and far, and where there is no shortage of things to do. Balboa Park is the perfect place to experience shopping for gifts, art, a picnic in one of the beautiful parks, sight-seeing and the San Diego Zoo.
Taking a walk through one of the gardens can be very relaxing as well as rewarding. Each one of the gardens have unique landscaping with towering trees to grassy areas, where some have plants native to dry climates from around the world., while others have developed a relationship with another country’s culture. While some of these gardens were designed decades ago, others are more recent.
One hundred acres, more than 3,500 animals of more than 650 species makes the San Diego Zoo the 10th largest in the world; however, it’s the most visited in the world with more the 4 million visitors yearly. The San Diego Zoo not only connects people with wildlife, but nature as well, by pioneering the way for open-air exhibits, eliminating individual cages. The Zoo is much more than just seeing wild animals, it consists of seven zones with waterfalls and streams sitting amidst a lush forests, where the Asian Passage is a forest of Fiscus and Bamboo where Red Panda and Bears roam or the Lost Forest with winding paths through a tropical habitat where Flamingos, Monkeys, Apes, and Hippos thrive.