Among the Pines in Pine Valley, CA

As someone who has primarily lived in suburbia, I find myself escaping to small-town USA when I am in need of a change in scenery. Most San Diegans head to Julian, Palomar, or Cleveland National Forest for a quick getaway. We San Diegans seem to be especially fond of quiet mountain villages. Speaking of which, Pine Valley is San Diego’s best-kept secret.

When to Visit

Pine Valley is most enjoyable in the late spring and fall. The summer and winter months bring extreme temperatures; dress in layers. Heatwaves and icy downpours are no fun!

How to Get There

The mountain town is a short 45-minute drive from central San Diego. Take the Interstate 8 East, exit on Pine Valley Road, and turn left.

Where to Stay

Pine Valley Inn and Laguna Mountain Lodge are the main accommodations in the area. Alternatively, there are several Airbnb listings to choose from. Look no further than reserving this guest cabin if you are the “glamping” type. The owners happen to be the trail guides for San Diego Horse Trail Riding (see below). More of a tent or RV person? There are plenty of campgrounds to suit your needs.

Things to Do

The rolling hills, open plains, and dense woodlands are perfect for the avid outdoorsman. Pine Valley is paradise for those who enjoy camping, hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and horseback riding. Experiencing the backcountry on horseback with San Diego Horse Trail Riding is a must. Cynthia and Christina are the REAL DEAL and are more than happy to take you on an adventure. When it’s time to unwind, stroll the downtown streets and peruse the unique shops. Parents will appreciate letting the kids burn off energy at Pine Valley County Park. The welcoming community has something for everyone to partake in.

What to Eat

There are a few local establishments that offer your standard American fare. Major’s Diner is an authentic diner that has been in operation since 1961. Calvin’s Restaurant is a family-owned establishment that serves delicious sandwiches and salads. If you are in need of fast food, Frosty Burger is a practical option. Pine Valley Store is the place to stock up on snacks, necessities, and supplies. Go on, pack a picnic and relax under the nearest oak tree.

Beyond Pine Valley

If you have the time, it is worth your while to visit the equally quaint destinations outside of the valley. Stop in to Alpine and take a tour of the Lions Tigers & Bears animal sanctuary. Get your thrills by navigating the winding roads on a joyride to Mount Laguna. Or, immerse yourself in word-class fishing, boating, and hiking at Lake Cuyamaca and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

Escaping to quiet mountain villages is a literal breath of fresh air. The elevation and being surrounded by nature does something for the soul. Pine Valley is certainly worth the drive for a day trip or a vacation. Have you been there? Please post a comment!

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