Beyond the quaint mountain towns and historic gold mining districts, San Diego County’s mountains contain some of its most surprising landscapes. These mountains, known as the Peninsular Ranges due to their association with the Baja Peninsula, rise gently from the inland valleys, attaining heights sufficient to support coniferous forests. The higher peaks offer commanding views across much of Southern California. On the mountains’ eastern boundaries, the terrain falls away spectacularly into the arid expanses of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Few visitors expect to encounter lush meadows graced by a parade of wildlife or trickling streams under the cool shade of pines and oaks. Yet, you’ll find all of that and more an hour’s drive from San Diego.
LOWER DOANE & FRENCH VALLEY, PALOMAR MOUNTAIN STATE PARK
Difficulty: Easy – 3 miles
Fee: $8* fee for cehicles
Hours: Dawn to Dusk
A trail for inspiration, this easy loop travels through a forest reminiscent of California’s central coast. You’ll visit an old stone gauging site and travel through the habitat of a rare endemic banana slug before crossing a sprawling meadow graced by towering Ponderosa pines.