Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is located in California’s San Diego County. Split between a Mediterranean climate and a semi-arid environment, San Diego’s weather is mild all year. Visitors to Cuyamaca Ranch State Park can expect temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. There is seldom need for more than a light sweatshirt or jacket even during the winter season.
Camping is the main draw at Cuyamaca. If one is planning a vacation between March and November, plan ahead and make reservations. Family sites go quickly during the summer months. These sites are for those who prefer roughing it. Picnic tables and fire rings dot each site with disability accessible restrooms and running water nearby. For those who must have their hot showers, bring a roll of quarters. Hot water costs twenty-five cents per two-minute shower. Recreational vehicles are not currently allowed. However, once the group site reopens, one can hook up one’s recreational vehicle or bring groups of ten to twenty people for corporate, school or church functions.
A specialty camp at Cuyamaca Ranch State Park serves those with equestrian experience. Called Los Vaqueros, Spanish for “the cowboys”, this campground come equipped with corrals, picnic tables, running water, restrooms including those craved-for hot showers. This site can accommodate up to 80 people and 45 horses. Trails have been set aside for equestrians so there should be no conflict with hikers.
For those who hate sleeping on the ground, cabins are available for rent. They are rustic, and require visitors to bring bedding and mattress pads. But each cabin sleeps four, comes with a wood stove, barbeque, fire ring and picnic table. There is even space for a small tent nearby to allow for overflow sleeping. Restrooms with running water and pay showers are within walking distance of each cabin.
The last sort of campsite one may choose at Cuyamaca Ranch State Park is for those who want a more “Survivor-man” type of experience. There are a few family-size trail campsites which sleep from eight to sixteen people. Only open select seasons due to limited water supply, the park recommends visitors bring water purification tablets. The sites come with pit toilets, but little else in the way of creature comforts.
Once one has chosen the sort of campsite one wishes to visit, one must look at available activities. Without recreational vehicles, this is going to be an electronics-free vacation. Visitors can join a guided hike led by trained rangers every weekend, or strike out on their own following one of the many mapped trails throughout the park. Maps for hikers and equestrians are available at the park headquarters. Campfire programs including informational talks, scary stories and sing-a-longs are available every Saturday and some weekday evenings during the summer. Schedules are also available at park headquarters. For the historians in the group, stop by the Visitor’s Center. It houses a museum that provides a great deal of historical detail about the park and surrounding areas.
Dogs are allowed to come along, but must be kept on a leash at all times. They are restricted from access to wilderness trails, sine their scent alone can cause wildlife to avoid natural habitats. Dogs who are not closely guarded may pick up poison oak or ticks which can make a visit quite uncomfortable for all. Poison oak is a three–leaved plant whose oils cause skin irritation for any who come into contact with it. It can be washed off gently with soap and water, but it is best to avoid it entirely. Ticks drop off wild animals and wait in tall grass or bushes for the next live being to pass by. They burrow under the skin of pets and people. They can be removed gently with tweezers but can carry disease so check over everyone every night.
Cuyamaca Ranch State Park is a rustic throw-back to an earlier age. It is a warm-weather park that allows visitors to experience life before running water, when the wilderness sat right outside one’s door step or tent flap. Choosing the right accommodations allows one’s group to learn new survival skills, hone old ones, trek through the back country on foot or horseback or revel in beautiful surroundings.