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mountain/desert views

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Wausau, Wisconsin
posts: 16
reviews: 5
mountain/desert views

We plan to go thru Ramona (visit a winery) and Julian maybe on out way to see desert and mountains (Anza?) but I have no clue how much desert and mountains I will have already seen by that point or how much I really want/need to see - we are not hikers or campers - just kind of want to see a bit of desert and some mountains - my wife can't deal with heights if there are "scary near the edge of a cliff" roads - any suggestions/thoughts? Thank you

San Diego...
posts: 7,965
reviews: 29
1. Re: mountain/desert views

In my opinion the drive through Ramona is not particularly scenic or interesting. Instead I would drive a different route, taking Interstate 8 east to Sunrise Highway (S1). Turn left onto Sunrise Highway to go through the forested Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, and as you are going north along Sunrise Highway you will have views of the desert on your right, 5,000 feet below the highway. If it’s a clear day you will be able to see the Salton Sea in the distance and if it’s really clear you can see all the way to mountains in Arizona. But no matter what the conditions you will have fine views of the desert immediately east of the highway. In my opinion there are no scary “edge of the cliff” points. I don’t recall any cliffs at all, the mountains slope down from the roadway, but over a long distance, not a cliff. Personally I do not think it is scary even though you do have sweeping views.

There is a platform viewpoint along the way seen at this page: http://byways.org/stories/56870 although stopping anywhere along Sunrise Highway requires the National Forest Adventure Pass, which you can buy for $5 at the store at Laguna Mountain Lodge if you plan to park on the highway. There are a couple of viewpoints where it is not required, though. After the Desert View Picnic area, there is a small side-road that winds up to a dirt turnout, with a nice view of the deserts. That road has some potholes though so be careful driving up it. Also, after you join Highway 79 towards Julian, there is a view point owned by the state of California and there is no fee to park there. It has almost the same views though it is slighly lower in elevation.

You can eat lunch and/or buy apple pie in Julian. I think the best pie is at Apple Alley Bakery, but there are many places to get pie there. There is a small train ride to a gold mine and tours of old gold mines. More information is at http://julianca.com There are some small wineries in the Julian area you could visit if those interst you.

From Julian down to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is about another hour drive, east on Highway 78 down the Banner Grade then to Borrego Springs Road north. Along Borrego Springs Road there are a lot of metal sculptures of animals. desertusa.com/dusablog/metal-sculptures-draw… Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has no entry fee, and there is a visitor center there. See desertusa.com/anza_borrego/du-abpmain.html and http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_ID=638 for more information.

To return to San Diego you have a choice of several routes. You could return by retracing the route you took out there, or at Julian you could continue on 78 west through Ramona and then to Interstate 15 south to San Diego, if you still wanted to visit a winery in Ramona. Or you could go south from Julian on Highway 79 past Lake Cuyamaca and through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, then to Interstate 8 west to San Diego. Or, you could drive Imperial Highway (S2) south to the town of Ocotillo, and get on Interstate 8 west from there. That last route would be longer, but would involve less curvy, winding roads and more Interstate driving.

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
posts: 42,733
reviews: 59
2. Re: mountain/desert views

bw-- You are very knowledgeable about scenic drives however for those of us like Ken's wife who do not like "scary edges" on mountain roads I would not suggest driving on Sunrise Highway!! I did it once and will not do it again myself!!

Wausau, Wisconsin
posts: 16
reviews: 5
3. Re: mountain/desert views

Thanks to both of you for your opinions/thoughts!

La Jolla, California
Destination Expert
for La Jolla
posts: 2,220
reviews: 57
4. Re: mountain/desert views

Ken K, when will you be doing this trip? If soon, you may be in for a treat in the desert. We have had some good rains, so there will be wildflowers by the end of January/mid February.

I also like to put my two cents in about "scary edges." I am a real wimp when it comes to mountain roads, but I do agree with bw that our local mountains are not scary. I drive through them regularly, and I don't have a problem with them. Of course we all have different ideas of "scary" as Riff M pointed out, but to me (as a wimp) it does not compare to some roads I've traveled.

San Diego...
posts: 7,965
reviews: 29
5. Re: mountain/desert views

I don't think there is a cliff edge anywhere on Sunrise Highway. There is always a slope, not a cliff. However, you are up pretty high up. The highest point on Sunrise Highway is about 6,000 feet, and the desert floor varies between sea level and 1,000 feet. So there is a 5,000 foot difference in elevation, but it's not a dramatic dropoff or cliff like the Grand Canyon. It slopes down. But if this is too much for you, then take an alternate route.

Wausau, Wisconsin
posts: 16
reviews: 5
6. Re: mountain/desert views

Thank you

7. Re: mountain/desert views

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