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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 destinations 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!


Mountains and Gold Rush Region

San Diego's Mountain and Gold Rush Region (Gold Rush Region, Julian)

Mount Laguna: A place for all seasons (Laguna Mountain Lodge and Blue Jay Lodge, Mount Laguna)

Orchard Hill Country Inn:  Elegant and exclusive (Orchard Hill Country Inn, Julian)

Historic Haven: Julian Gold Rush Hotel (Julian Gold Rush Hotel, Julian)

What’s Up At Wikkup?  (Wikiup Bed and Breakfast, Julian)

A Jewel in the wilderness: Heise County Park (Heise Cuonty Park, Julian--cabins and campgrounds)

Stars lined up for perfect mountaintop camping (Burnt Rancheria campground, Mount Laguna)

Ramona Wine Region

Ramona wine region also has parks, preserves and historic sites to explore (Ramona)

Starry Night Inn: A winery vacation In Ramona (Starry Night Inn, Ramona)

A salute to reds, white and brews  (Ramona)

Marinade on Main: farm to table fresh cuisine (Ramona)

Rivers and Lakes Region

San Diego's river and lakes region: outdoor adventures and more (Lakeside, Santee and Barona)

Comfortable cabins at Santee Lakes--including floating lodging (cabins and camping at Santee Lakes, Santee)

Barona Resort: Vacation in the heart of Lakeside (Barona Resort, Barona Native American reservation, Lakeside)

Lake Jennings Tipi camping provides fun getaway (Tipi camping at Lake Jennings, Lakeside)

Desert Region

The beauty of Borrego (activities and attractions in Borrego Springs)

Day tripping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park activities and attractions)

La Casa del Zorro: First and finest in the desert (La Casa del Zorro Resort & Spa, Borrego Springs)

Borrego Valley Inn and Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort: Weekend getaways for stargazing couples and families (Borrego Springs)

The Patio Group to manage famed La Casa Del Zorro Resort & Spa in Borrego Springs (La Casa del Zorro Resort & Spa, Borrego Springs)

Alpine-Mountain Empire Region (Southeast San Diego County)

Alpine Mountain Empire:  San Diego's Southeast region (Alpine)

Ayres Lodge Alpine: Gateway to San Diego's beautiful Backcountry (Ayres Lodge, Alpine)

Viejas celebrates grand opening of The Willows Hotel and Spa (The Willows, Viejas Native American reservation,Alpine)

Sycuan tops off high-rise resort Hotel (Sycuan Casino & Resort, Sycuan Reservation, Dehesa)

Cabins, camping and fishing are lures at Lake Morena County Park, gateway to Pacific Crest Trail (Lake Morena County Park and Campo attractions)

Healing waters at Jacumba Hot Springs Resort (Jacumba Hot Springs Resort, Jacumba Hot Springs)

High desert mountain yoga retreat (Desert View Tower, Jacumba Hot Springs)

Historic HIghway 94

Historic Highway 94:  traveling through time (Highway 94)

Enjoy a country stay at the Dulzura Winery guest house on historic Clark Ranch (Dulzura Winery Guest House, Dulzura and attractions on Highway 94)

Vineyard Hacienda: A secluded retreat along historic Highway 94 (Spring Valley)

Centennial Cities Region

Marriott Hotel, cornerstone of El Cajon's downtown redevelopment, celebrates grand opening (Marriott Hotel, El Cajon)

La Mesa: East County's emerging restaurant row (Holiday Inn, La Mesa)


Northeast San Diego County

Valley Center's tribal casino resorts:  Getaway retreats in San Diego's northeast county (Harrah's Rincon and Valley View casino resorts, Valley Center)

Soothe away your cares at Keys Creek Lavender Farm (Yurts and cottages at Key's Creek Lavender Farm, Valley Center)

Bailey's Palomar Resort: A historic haven on Palomar Mountain (Bailey's Palomar Resort, Palomar Mountain)

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the County of San Diego for providing a Community Enhancement Grant to support our “Backcountry Hidden Pleasures” weekend getaways coverage.

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