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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.

The Blue Jay Lodge has lodge rooms and romantic cabins with wood-burning fireplaces, four-poster queen beds and a restaurant on-site. 

Laguna Mountain Lodge has a choice of motel rooms or cozy cabins in several sizes with fireplaces, barbecues and cooking facilities; it also has a store onsite with food and gift items such as Native American crafts and jewelry.

Note: food supplies at the store may run short during “snow jam” season when tourists flock to the mountain, so it’s a good idea to bring a few essentials.

The popular Pine House Café nearby traces its roots to World War II.   The café has live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

There are also campgrounds available on federal forest lands, as well as hiking trials including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through Mount Laguna. For information on options throughout  the vast Cleveland National Forest, see

The Laguna Mountain Volunteer Association hosts various events including a Laguna Mountain Living History event held each June.  For up to date event info, check their Facebook page.

Whatever the season, there's a reason to visit Mount Laguna, stayover and enjoy the beauty of our backcountry.

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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