Robert Arends

Sun, Surf, Sand…and Snow! in San Diego

San Diego for the Holidays - Top Things to Do
From sand to snow - in San Diego!

From sand to snow – in San Diego!

It’s winter in San Diego – clear blue skies, sunshine, sparkling beaches for miles and temperatures today…wait for it…in the 80s! Just another beautiful day in paradise!

Sure we’ve got the perfect year-round climate. But did you know a few times each winter when it rains here, something magical and unexpected happens in San Diego’s East County region. A frosty blanket of snow covers the mountains, usually above four or 5,000 feet.

If you find yourself in San Diego during one of our winter storms, following is a quick guide to a few fun places in East County for sledding, snowballs and making snowmen:


Wintertime in Julian.

Wintertime in Julian.

The historic Gold Rush mountain town of Julian has numerous hills to sled down, including William Heise Park. Afterward, enjoy a piece of famous homemade apple pie with piping hot apple cider or cocoa. Nearby Mt. Cuyamaca/Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is another great spot for winter whimsy.

Sunrise Highway

Sledding on Mount Laguna, off the Sunrise Highway.

Sledding on Mount Laguna, off the Sunrise Highway.

Sunrise Highway (County Route S1) and the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area are popular with local families, featuring several sledding spots just off the road. Pick up your “Adventure Permit” for $5 at Laguna Mountain Lodge and directions to the best sledding areas. Word to the wise: Park your car completely off the road so as not to block traffic and don’t sled on private property (look for posted signs).

Palomar Mountain

Saucer sledding on Mount Laguna.

Saucer sledding on Mount Laguna.

Palomar Mountain, home of the world-famous Palomar Observatory, is another winter wonderland worth exploring, especially the meadows and hills of Palomar Mountain State Park. On the drive up, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and San Diego’s backcountry below will take your breath away!

Winter tip – Snow Sledding San Diego-style

If you don’t have a sled or saucer, no problem. A boogie board with a slick plastic bottom makes for a great sled alternative. Inner tubes too! 🙂

From the coast to majestic inland mountains, San Diego can be a surprising winter wonderland.

See you in East County!

Robert Arends

Stellar Finds at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego’s East County

Palomar Observatory
View from Mt. Palomar

Spectacular views from high atop Mt. Palomar.

Fall is here and there’s no better time to visit scenic East County where the trees are starting to change into a kaleidoscope of autumn colors – a real treat for leaf peepers! Over the weekend I trekked to East County’s legendary Palomar Observatory to do some exploring and I’ve got to say, it was out of this world! (pun intended)

Half The Fun is Getting to the Palomar Observatory

Palomar Observatory

Palomar Observatory amongst the changing leaves.

The drive there was half the fun. Take Highway 78 east from Ramona – where you’ll pass some excellent local wineries offering tastings – then fuel up with a quick bite of scrumptious apple pie at Dudley’s Bakery in Santa Ysabel. Just past the bakery, head north on Highway 79, then west on Highway 76 toward Lake Henshaw. After La Jolla Indian Reservation, turn right on South Grade Rd./S6 which begins a wonderfully winding adventure up Mt. Palomar with panoramic overlooks at every turn. You can see as far as the Pacific!

Atop the mountain, continue straight on Canfield Rd. and follow the signs to Palomar Observatory. Forests and fern meadows abound; don’t be surprised if you spot flocks of wild turkeys on the roadside! (Mmm…Thanksgiving! 😉 )

What To Do Once You’re There

Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda galaxy at the Palomar Observatory museum.

Seeing the observatory’s giant Art Deco-style white dome for the first time is jaw-dropping! Inside, a colossal 7-story Hale Telescope points toward the heavens. Tours are available Saturdays/Sundays at 11:00 AM and 1:30 PM at the low price of $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children under 12 are free. Be sure to explore the free museum, spotlighting Palomar’s stellar discoveries, including the first brown dwarf and a planetoid called Sedna. My favorite cosmic find was a massive photo (above) of the twinkling Andromeda galaxy gracing the back wall.

Did You Know…

Palomar Observatory Dome

7-story dome at Palomar Observatory

Palomar Observatory houses the 8th largest telescope in the U.S. and weighing in at 14 ½ tons, the telescope’s main mirror is one of the heaviest pieces of glass in the world!

On The Way Back

Lake Henshaw Vista Point

Do a little birding at the Lake Henshaw Vista Point

Head down Mt. Palomar on East Grade Rd./S7.  At the 1.8 mile marker, stop at Henshaw Vista Point for breathtaking views of Lake Henshaw. Keep your eyes peeled for hawks and eagles soaring high above Santa Ysabel Valley. If you close your eyes, you can imagine you too have taken flight over San Diego’s East County…Will wonders never cease! 🙂

> Discover More of San Diego’s East County

Have you been to the Palomar Observatory? What was your favorite thing there? Let me and others know in the comments below.