Julian, CA 92036
Hike: there are many hiking trails on this land Level: Each hike varies in level
Dog-Friendly: Yes Kid-Friendly: Yes
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a state park in California, 40 miles east of San Diego in the Laguna Mountains of the Peninsular Ranges. The park’s 26,000 acres (11,000 ha) feature pine, fir, and oak forests, with meadows and streams that exist due to the relatively high elevation of the area compared to its surroundings. The park includes 6,512-foot (1,985 m) Cuyamaca Peak, the second-highest point in San Diego County.
Park amenities include trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, as well as campgrounds for family, group, equestrian, and primitive trail camping; as well as an exhibit at a former gold mine, the Stonewall Mine.
Wildlife in the area includes mountain lions, which have been known to attack humans, and park literature emphasizes avoiding encounters with them. Numerous other species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians are known to reside within the park.
The park was closed for several months due to massive damage incurred in the 2003 Cedar Fire. Although much of the forest was burned, the park has since been reopened and the fire ecology regenerating native plants are re-growing and returning.
Indigenous peoples in the area date back a minimum of 7000 years. Traces of their ancient and pre-contact civilizations are within the park, which is a Cuyamaca complex archeological site. Early bedrock mortars mark the sites of summer camps and villages. Even the name “Cuyamaca” is a Spanish version of the name the native Kumeyaay peoples used for this place. In water-short Southern California, the Indians called the area Ah-Ha Kwe-Ah Mac, meaning “the place where it rains.”
Kumeyaay peoples’ traditional lands range from San Diego east through the Cuyamaca and the Laguna Mountains through present day Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to beyond the Salton Sea in the east, and south beyond present day Ensenada, Baja California on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. A typical band’s typical range was a 20-mile (30 km) radius from their winter home. Today thirteen federally recognized Kumeyaay tribes are in San Diego County.
The park is located on the 1845 Rancho Cuyamaca Mexican land grant. With the discovery of gold in Julian in 1869, the Spanish, Mexican, and American governments and settlers changed the Kumeyaay’s way of life forever. Disease spread through the Kumeyaay, traditional ways of life were destroyed, and promises broken as the Indians were expelled in 1875 from ancestral lands and taxed without representation. Currently there are about 20,000 Kumeyaay descendants in San Diego County, 10% of whom live on the 18 reservations which range from 6.3 to 122,000 acres.
The Stonewall Mine opened in 1870 and started the boomtown of Cuyamaca City. Peak production at the mine occurred between 1886 and 1891 while employing over 200 workers. In 1889 Cuyamaca Dam was completed and in 1892 Stonewall Mine was permanently sealed after large losses.
In 1923 Ralph Dyar bought the Cuyamaca Rancho and built a summer home. In 1933 he sold his property to the state, thereby creating Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Now the park is over 26,000 acres (105 km2) of protected wildlife habitat, watershed, archeological sites, botanical reserve, and recreational land with roughly half of the park classified as wilderness area.