Start, central San Diego.

  • East on I-94, continue on it past Jamul, Dulzura, Tecate, Campo until it joins up with I-8 at Mountain Springs. Up to Ocotillo Wells and road S2 (imperial HIghway) through the Anza Borrego Desert.


  • Right on 78 towards Borrego, left on S3, left on Palm Canyon then major twistie roads. Through Ranchita. Back to S2.


  • South on S2 to 78, the west on 78. Through Banner, Kentwood, Whispering Pines and into Juilan for a lunch stop and apple pie. Mmm.... pie.


  • Leave Julian west on 78 to Santa Ysabel. North on 79. 


  • Left on 76 at the lake. At the lake, right on E Grade Road, turns into S Grade Road and connects back to 76.


  • 76 through Rincon, Pauma Valley, and Palomar Mountain and back to I-15. Alternate road would be south to Valley Center from Rincon and then out Woodsvalley Road to Valley Center and back south to Escondido.

Total trip is 243 miles. Total elevation changes are over 49,000 feet.

Palomar Mountain Loop

Palomar Mountain offers a scenic lookout and one of the nation's best observatories. Your trip begins on Highway 76 at Lake Henshaw. Continue on 76 to the East Grade Road, which takes you up Palomar Mountain to the famed Palomar Observatory. Take a pit stop at the shops and restaurant where East Grade Road intersects the South Grade Road. Then head down the steep, winding west side of the mountain (stop for photos at the scenic turnouts). Count on an hour for the drive alone.

North County Scenic ROute

Start in Escondido around mid-morning and drive through Ramona on Highway 78. Be sure to stop at Dudley's Bakery in Santa Ysabel where Highways 78 and 79 meet. Head north on Highway 79 for about 10 miles until you reach Highway 76. Turn left on 76 and watch for the East Grade Road turn-off to Palomar Mountain. It will take about an hour to go up and down the mountain. If you prefer, take Highway 76 through Pala and Pauma for a very scenic, leisurely winding road trip back to Interstate 15, which will take you south to Escondido again.