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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.

Here, you can find relaxing high-desert accommodations with two pools and spa fed by hot mineral springs, all at affordable rates.

New owners in the past several years have refurbished all rooms in a southwestern motif, with rates ranging from $99 to $159 a night.  Choose from queen double, king deluxe or a king corner suite. A festive touch is the fiesta-style bath sink.

Spa services include a detox or hot stone massage, body wraps, reflexology and couple’s massages. 

An on-site restaurant serves up satisfying fare from healthy salads to barbecue and Mexican dishes. The Raven’s Nest Bar replaces an old cantina, offering live music and exotic drinks among other options.

At night, you can see a spangle of stars overhead in the clear skies far from city lights.

Jacumba Hot Springs is a sleepy high desert town where you can while away time strolling around Lake Jacumba, more of a large pond that attracts numerous migratory songbirds and waterfowl. In spring, if you’re lucky you may spot a Lazuli bunting or year-round, the rare tri-colored blackbirds.

Jacumba’s desert denizens reflect the pioneering spirit of life in the furthest east outpost in East County. Where else will you find a community center and library where the public art focal point is a 20-foot-tall rattlesnake sculpture? 

A good time to visit is in May, when the Jacumba Blues Fest brings musicians from across the region. Find a schedule at the fest’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jacumbabluesfest/.

The Jacumba Hikers and Walkers organize weekly outings including some challenging hikes to rugged locations such as the Carrizo Gorge and desert peaks.  You can get more information at https://www.facebook.com/groups/155499391299162/about/.

No visit to Jacumba would be complete without a stop at the Desert View Tower, a California Historic Monument and waystation for travelers for more than a century.

You can climb the tower for panoramic views of the Anza-Borrego Desert below and catch a glimpse of wind turbines at the Ocotillo wind farm.

The Desert View Tower includes a gift store with unique items such as gemstones and minerals, historical books, Mexican tiles, scorpion candies, and more. I picked up a pair of onyx horsehead bookends on my last trip. 

The tower is also home to the Boulder Park Mystery Caves that you can explore to see some unusual stone-carved creates, plus a yoga retreat.

Jacumba also has a Chinese Castle that occasionally opens for public tours.

Also watch for of the quirkiest desert roadside sights anywhere- Coyote’s Flying Saucer Repair next to the Desert View Tower, where you just may see some mock space aliens in their spacecraft beside Interstate 8.

Important information:

Jacumba Hot Springs Resort & Spa

44500 Olde Highway 80

Jacumba Hot Springs, CA

(619) 766-4333



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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