Weekend Getaways

Weekend Getaways

BACKCOUNTRY HIDDEN PLEASURES: WEEKEND GETAWAYS IN SAN DIEGO'S INLAND REGION

 

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Bobbi Zane and Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine

San Diego’s backcountry is home to mountains with hiking trails, miles and miles of pine and oak forests, wine regions, deserts, historic highways and rural areas --- known as the playground for San Diegans who want a close-to-home getaway. 

This beautiful country is mostly untouched by urban development. You can walk through forests, ride bikes on country lanes, horseback ride, pick apples in the fall, sample local wine, hike and dine in the great outdoors most of the year.

 East County Magazine's  Backcountry Hidden Pleasures series profiles weekend getaway destination that you can find close to home in San Diego County's inland region, including lodging plus unique activities and attrations in each region.  We have visited them all.

It’s an hour’s drive or less from downtown to the mountains, where you can discover the hidden pleasures by checking into one of many bed and breakfast inns and lodges in Julian, Mount Laguna or Ramona. Elsewhere in our inland region, savor luxury at Native American casino resorts, visit historic lodges, stay at a winery, hot springs retreat, or lavender farm, visit our historic cities and an emerging restaurant row, or find spa pampering services, golf and tennis at hotels in Borrego Springs.

Your lodging options in our inland region also include campgrounds, tipis, "glamping" , cottages, vintage '50s trailers, and cabins afloat on a lake.

  Start your adventure by clicking here and scroll down to read our entries below, plus check back for new additions soon!

HISTORIC HIGHWAY 94: TRAVELING THROUGH TIME

 

By Miriam Raftery

June 20, 2018 (San Diego’s East County) – A trip along Highway 94, a state-designated historic highway, is like traveling through time—a place where you’ll find elements ot the region’s colorful past juxtaposed against new elements such as the region’s emerging wine industry, an Indian casino and golf courses.

VINEYARD HACIENDA: A SECLUDED RETREAT ALONG HISTORIC HIGHWAY 94

 

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

June 30, 2018 (Spring Valley) – Vineyard Hacienda, a 13,000 square-foot adobe estate home built in the 1930s in old-style Spanish tradition on a nine-acre property, is secluded retreat that also serves as an idyllic base for guests seeking to explore historic Highway 94.

“As soon as you drive down our driveway, you escape into a little paradise,” says Joseph Harmes III, proprietor.

A JEWEL IN THE WILDERNESS: WILLIAM HEISE COUNTY PARK

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures: our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

 

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Photos by Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze

 June 24, 2018 (Julian) -- Nestled at the end of a series of winding roads shaded by pines and oak trees minutes from downtown Julian is William Heise County Park, a comfortable getaway just over an hour away from the bustle of downtown San Diego.  This park is the jewel of the San Diego County Park system in our inland region.

MOUNT LAGUNA: A PLACE FOR ALL SEASONS

Backcountry hidden pleasures: our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry and inland areas

By Miriam Raftery

June 24, 2018 (Mount Laguna) – At 6,000 feet in elevation, Mount Laguna is the highest peak in San Diego’s East County.  From meadows filled with spring wildflowers to summer picnics, colorful fall foliage and winter snowfall, it’s a place to find beauty in all seasons in the heart of Cleveland National Forest.

If you go, consider a stay at the historic Laguna Mountain Lodge or the Blue Jay Lodge, both along Sunrise Highway about a 60 to 90 minute drive from downtown San Diego, depending on the season.

CABINS , CAMPING AND FISHING ARE LURES AT LAKE MORENA COUNTY PARK, GATEWAY TO THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry and inland areas

 

Story by Jonathan Ronald Goetz

Photos by Jonathan Ronald Goetz, Ronald Goetz, Miriam Raftery, and County of San Diego, Department of Parks and Recreation

June 18, 2018 (Campo) – People have been hiking, fishing and camping in the area today known as Lake Morena as well as the surrounding creeks and mountains for over 12,000 years, starting with the Kumeyaay, Luiseño, Cupeño and Cahuilla Native American tribes.

Today, much of this area in southeast San Diego County is preserved for the public to enjoy.  At an elevation of 3,000 feet, the park has mountain, desert and coastal habitats including over 3,250 acres of dense chaparral, ancient oaks and open grasslands surrounding the lake, the most remote reservoir in San Diego County, according to ranger Jessica Geiszler..

Lake Morena County Park remains one of the most affordable and inclusive places around, with boating from $12-$50, nightly tent-site for $22, RV for $31 or cabins starting at $50.

LA MESA: EAST COUNTY’S EMERGING RESTAURANT ROW

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry and inland areas

By Miriam Raftery

Farmer's Table, one of  La Mesa's newest restaurants, offers fork-to-table fresh cuisine.

June 17, 2018 (La Mesa) – if you’re looking to savor lots of great restaurants in San Diego’s newest culinary destination, you’ll want to visit  La Mesa.  Tracing its roots back over a century, the city is just 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, also close to backcountry destinations.  

The biggest attraction is La Mesa’s restored historic downtown village, with a  thriving restaurant row that now attracts visitors from far and wide, plus several happening night spots. Additional great eateries are scattered through the city with the motto "jewel of the hills."

MARRIOTT COURTYARD HOTEL, CORNERSTONE OF EL CAJON’S DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT, CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING

  

 

 

 

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor, and Miriam Raftery, Editor

June 21, 2018 (El Cajon) — The seeds of El Cajon’s Herculean downtown redevelopment plans for the city's historic heart bore fruit at Thursday's grand opening of the Courtyard-by-Marriott El Cajon hotel, drawing an enthusiastic crowd.

The four-story, 88,000-square foot hotel is located on Magnolia Street just off Main Street near the city's “superblock”, which also includes the East County Performing Arts Center set to reopen in spring under management of international concert promoter and producer Live Nation.

Numerous restaurants, sidewalk cafes, shops, galleries, and civic festivals  are all within a couple of blocks of the hotel in the revitalized heart of El Cajon, a city that celebrated its centennial in 2013. Located just off Interstate 8 in San Diego's East County,  the hotel is 20 to 30 minutes from downtown San Diego and beach areas, also close to attractions in the region's backcountry. 

But there's plenty to do right here in downtown El Cajon, where major community events include Friday night outdoor concerts at Prescott Promenade Park and Wedneday night classic car shows (photo, below right)on Main Street all summer long. Visitors can also enjoy seasonal celebrations such as America on Main Street, Hauntfest on Main, and holiday festivities. The superblock also includes city hall, the courthouse, library, and police headquarters.

ENJOY A COUNTRY STAY AT DULZURA WINERY GUEST HOUSE ON THE HISTORIC CLARK RANCH

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

June 15, 2018 (Dulzura) – The pioneer-era Clark Ranch, home of the Dulzura Winery  in Dulzura, California dates back to 1885 and has remained in the Clark family to this day. Once known for its groves of olives and production of pickled figs, the land today is planted in vineyards and the former pickling house has been converted to a wine-tasting room, with a cozy guest cottage upstairs.

It’s an idyllic retreat for a peaceful stay in the country, miles away from city hustle and bustle, along historic Route 94. The name Dulzura means “sweet” in Spanish and may originally have referred to honey grown in the region.  Pioneering in Dulzura, a book written by Dorothy Clark Schmid, offered this picturesque description: “A rugged but sweet land, relaxed as its sun-based hills and deliberate as a prospector’s burro.”

VALLEY CENTER’S TRIBAL CASINO RESORTS: GETAWAY RETREATS IN SAN DIEGO’S NORTHEAST COUNTY

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2018 (Valley Center) – Tucked into the largely rural Valley Center area of northeast San Diego County are two tribal-owned casino resorts on Native American reservations: Harrah’s Resort and Valley View Casino and Hotel.

SAN DIEGO’S RIVER AND LAKES REGION: OUTDOOR ADVENTURES AND MORE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2018 (Santee and Lakeside) – The Lakeside and Santee areas in San Diego’s East County encompass portions of the San Diego River Park as well as multiple lakes and reservoirs idyllic for fishing, boating, hiking, and birdwatching. Lodging options range from camping and cabins to a casino and spa resort on tribal land.  You’ll also find museums, a rodeo, racetrack speedway, breweries, nature preserves, parks, live theatre, modern shopping and quaint downtown district to explore.

There are wonderful getaway adventures to be found along local trails, ranging from easy hikes to mountain climbing, as well as fishing,  kayaking, canoeing, pedal boats, inner tube floats, rowboats and even places to bring jet skis and water skis.

RAMONA WINE REGION ALSO HAS PARKS, PRESERVES AND HISTORIC SITES TO EXPLORE

 

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

 

San Diego’s Ramona Valley has emerged as a nationally recognized wine region that also has a historic downtown district and beautiful natural settings including many parks, preserves and trails to explore. You’ll also find seasonal activities such as a musical festival, country fair, grape stomp, camel dairy festivals and holiday celebrations.

BAILEY’S PALOMAR RESORT: A HISTORIC HAVEN ON PALOMAR MOUNTAIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego's beautiful backcountry.

By Miriam Raftery

June 10, 2018 (Palomar) – Bailey House, built in 1888, is the centerpiece of Bailey’s Palomar Resort on Palomar Mountain.

It’s been family-owned and operated ever since, for 130 years in San Diego’s northeast county.

Today, guests can choose from renting the entire historic 7-bedroom home, a variety of guest cottages each with its own character and charm, or “glamping” tents on the 60-acre property that includes apple orchards, a walnut grove, forests and a fish pond. 

AYRES LODGE ALPINE: GATEWAY TO SAN DIEGO'S BEAUTIFUL BACKCOUNTRY

 

Our guide to unique lodging and adventures in San Diego's beautiful backcountry.

Photo, left: Courtesy: Ayres Lodge Alpine

Photo, right, by Jonathan Goetz

Story and most photos by: Jonathan Ronald Goetz

June 10, 2018 (Alpine) – The Ayres Lodge Alpine is a friendly, well-maintained hotel with old West feel and modern appeal It’s located just off Interstate 8 at Tavern Road in Alpine, gateway to the Cuyamaca Mountains, Cleveland National Forest, local lakes and other backcountry adventure areas. Alpine is in San Diego's East County, within 30 to 45 minutes from downtown and coastal areas.

JULIAN’S ORCHARD HILL COUNTRY INN: ELEGANT AND EXCLUSIVE

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry 

By Bobbi Zane

When Pat and Darrell Straube opened Orchard Hill Country Inn in 1994, they created a whole new style of lodging for the area that goes beyond the typical B&B in Julian. They have a most beautiful Craftsman setting, amenities go beyond expectation, and they are known for their customer service.

HEALING WATERS AT JACUMBA HOT SPRINGS RESORT

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

May 31, 2018 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Jacumba means “healing waters” and once drew Kumeyaay Indians, who wintered at the warm springs.  Nowadays, visitors come for the reputed therapeutic benefits at the rejuvenated Jacumba Hot Springs Resort.

STARRY NIGHT INN: A WINERY VACATION IN RAMONA

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Liz Orient

May 31, 2018 (Ramona) -- “We live a good life and people tend to pick up on that when they stay here,” says Arline Bartick, co-owner of Starry Night Inn. Upon arrival at Don and Arline Bartick’s charming bed and breakfast, I couldn’t have agreed more.

Located in the idyllic countryside of Ramona, California’s winemaking region, Starry Night Inn is an award-winning winery and guest house. From concept to fruition, Starry Night Inn has been a labor of love.

LA CASA DEL ZORRO: FIRST AND FINEST IN THE DESERT

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Bobbi Zane

Photos courtesy of La Casa del Zorro and Miriam Raftery

May 27, 2018 (Borrego Springs) -- Luxury starts the minute you step into the lobby of La Casa del Zorro Desert Resort and Spa, where you’ll hear a cheerful “May I help you?” to begin your stay at this sumptuous resort, located in the heart of the beautiful and historic Anza Borrego Desert in San Diego County.

BARONA RESORT: VACATION IN THE HEART OF LAKESIDE

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

May 27, 2018 (Lakeside) – The Barona Resort & Casino offers luxury and comfort, with plenty of amenities onsite at the Barona Native American reservation, as well as a wealth of activities nearby including spectacular county parks, lakes and reservoirs all in Lakeside, the Lakeside rodeo in season, and nearby attractions including wine tasting in the Ramona wine region.

SOOTHE AWAY YOUR CARES: WEEKEND GETAWAY AT KEYS CREEK LAVENDER FARM

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Francine Phillips

 May 25, 2018 (Valley Center) -- Tucked among ranch lands of Valley Center in northeast San Diego County is a space of peace and tranquility that offers the perfect getaway for San Diegans who want to set aside the hustle and bustle and reconnect with land, fragrance, and beauty.

Keys Creek Lavender Farm is a working farm where sloping hillsides grow rows of lavender, which is harvested, distilled and transformed into essential oil, medicinal creams, ointments, food ingredients and bouquets.  Guests are transformed through yoga classes, cooking classes, gourmet meals, a walk on the labyrinth and vistas of native plants and palm trees.

 Overnight guests take the transformation a step further, with a pleasant swimming pool, hot tub and sleeping in a luxury yurt or a charming cottage.

SYCUAN TOPS OFF HIGHRISE HOTEL RESORT

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

May 24, 2018 (Sycuan) – The Sycuan Casino held a topping off ceremony on Tuesday to celebrate placement of the final beam at the 12-story, 300-room hotel and resort slated to open in March 2019.

Sycuan Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez thanked tribal elders and members, the executive team, and Swinerton builders.  “It really is a collaboration,” he said, calling the tribe’s achievement “a family effort--everybody bringing together the vision of what it is going to take to bring Sycuan to the next level.”

The hotel will create 700 new jobs for the community, Chairman Martinez said.

DAY TRIPPING IN ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Liz Orient

May 16, 2018 (Anza-Borrego) -- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a unique destination for anyone looking for a fun day trip from San Diego. There are two classes of people: those who love the desert and those who hate the desert. I happen to be one who enjoys the bizarre plants, resourceful animals, and how the mountains change colors at sunset. I hadn't been to Anza-Borrego in several years and it was time to revisit one of my favorite places in California!

BORREGO VALLEY INN AND PALM CANYON HOTEL & RV RESORT: WEEKEND GETAWAYS FOR STARGAZING COUPLES AND FAMILES

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

Story and most photos by Jonathan Ronald Goetz

Photo, left: Borrego Valley Inn, courtesy of Bryre Roots

Photo, right: Palm Canyon Hotel and RV Resort with renovated Western theme

May 7, 2018 (Borrego Springs) -- Borrego Springs and the surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  are among the best places in the world to see the night sky, drawing visitors from across the globe.

Borrego Valley Inn, an intimate couples-only hotel and its sister property, Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort, a Western-themed, family-friendly hotel also offering ‘50s-style vintage glamping, both provide historic charm and comfort for guests seeking affordable lodging  as well as celestial night sights.

THE BEAUTY OF BORREGO

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery

April 24, 2018 (Borrego Springs) – Located in the heart of the Anza-Borrego Desert in the furthest east reach of San Diego County, Borrego Springs is a place where visitors are surrounded by nature, can stargaze in an internationally designated “dark skies” region, enjoy spring wildflowers, visit the largest state park in California, gaze at whimsical statues across the desert and also find cultural attractions from art shows to musical programs in a performing arts center.

HISTORIC HAVEN: JULIAN GOLD RUSH HOTEL

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Bobbi Zane

Photo, left, and interior photos courtesy Julian Gold Rush Hotel

April 17, 2018 (Julian) -- Julian Gold Rush Hotel is a lovely Victorian bed and breakfast that dates back to the 1890s. Known as the “Queen of the Back Country,” the hotel is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places 

WHAT’S UP AT WIKIUP?

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

 

By Bobbi Zane

March 6, 2018 (Julian) -- Innkeepers Lee and Linda Stanley have a lovely B&B tucked into a heavily wooded four-acre hillside just a mile east of Julian, a historic gold rush town in the mountains of San Diego’s East County.  The Wikiup Bed and Breakfast Inn is a friendly haven, where guests find new friends all over the place.

COURTYARD MARRIOTT IN EL CAJON PLANS GRAND OPENING FEBRUARY 28

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Robert Gehr

February 25, 2018 (El Cajon) – The new Courtyard Marriott Hotel will hold its grand opening this week on February 28th.  in the heart of downtown El Cajon complete with a restaurant and bar, fitness center, business and wedding facilities.

COMFORTABLE CABINS AT SANTEE LAKES, INCLUDING FLOATING LODGING

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Mike Allen, East County Magazine

February 22, 2018 (Santee) -- Ever since wood cabins were built at the end of Santee Lakes some seven years ago, I’ve been curious about what they were like.

I’ve stayed in a few cabins in my life, some quite rustic and spartan, and others with all the stuff you’d ever need if you’re “camping,” including one that had a spa tub.

The cabins at Santee Lakes are definitely at the higher end, in fact, downright luxurious with just about everything a family would need to enjoy one of America’s best campgrounds situated smack dab in the middle of Santee.

VIEJAS CELEBRATES GRAND OPENING OF THE WILLOWS HOTEL AND SPA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backcountry hidden pleasures:   Our guide to unique lodging adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry

By Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine

 

 

February 9, 2018 (Alpine) – At the grand opening last week of The Willows Hotel & Spa, an adults-only luxury high-rise  at the Viejas Casino & Resort in Alpine, located in San DIego's inland region, tribal chairman Robert Welch reflected told the crowd to "put on your sunglasses, because the future of Viejas has never looked brighter!”

The entire facility is reserved for adults only (families may stay at the original Viejas Hotel nearby). Each suite is sumptuously appointed and attention to architectural and design details are evident in craftsmanship throughout.

The Willows features a tower with 159 suites, a saltwater swimming pool, spa and salon facilities, restaurants, fitness center, and business center.

VIEJAS CASINO & RESORT ANNONUCES ANTONIO VOTTA AS EXECUTIVE CHEF FOR NEW RESTAURANTS LOCALE AND GINGER NOODLE BAR

 

Votta brings more than 10 years of experience to Willows Hotel & Spa’s culinary destinations

East County News Service

January 24, 2018 (Alpine) -- Viejas Casino & Resort has announced Antonio Votta as Executive Chef of Willows Hotel & Spa’s new restaurants, Locale and Ginger Noodle Bar. His focus in this new role will be highlighting the very best locally sourced bounties for the farm-to-table inspired menus.

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