Off the Beaten Path—Valley Center, North San Diego Country
When you think of Valley Center in the North County of San Diego, you think of casinos!! After all, this is where Harrah’s, Pauma, Valley View, and Pala all call home. The hotels and casinos stand out like sore thumbs against the picturesque countryside in this serene valley.
After staying at one of the casinos for the weekend, we decided that on our way home we would take a few minutes and explore some of the “off the beaten path” roads in the area.
Valley Center is 27 square miles of rural land, agriculture, and a few homes here and there. It is also home to Bates Nut Farm, Palomar Observatory, Lakes Wohlford and Henshaw, and a 18-hole golf course.
It sits about forty miles north of San Diego and can be accessed a few different ways but most notably 76 Freeway off of Interstate 15.
The hills, fields, and countryside always remind me of a valley I knew in Hawaii, minus the waterfalls, palm trees, the rich green countryside, but other than that…
However, after much rain in the winter, the hills and meadows were filled with the most vibrant green that challenged anything I have seen in Hawaii, if I squinted I could almost see the Wailua Valley on Kauai, well almost.
Cruising on the 76 Freeway we saw a road that headed into the hills so we decided to explore this first.
Cole Grade Road takes you high into the hills for a bird’s eye view of the valley below. Around about the fourth bend of the winding road we were greeted by a field of bright yellowish orange flowers. In fact some of the surrounding hills were starting to show signs of early spring foliage although we were still in February.
In about a month this area should be overflowing with color. I will definitely be coming back for a weekend drive with camera in hand.
After snapping a few shots from above, we headed back down to the valley floor. The trees were filled with oranges and judging by the amount on the ground, it must be time to pick.
We decided to check out another road that was headed up in to hills on the other side of Freeway 76. Homes were scattered about amongst orange orchards and the view showed us the other side of the valley. In one spot, you could see the 21 story Harrah’s hotel in the distance. This one hotel couldn’t take away from the beauty of this area; it’s a great place for a Sunday drive or to snap some photos.
Dotted along the way, there are fruit stands filled with plenty of delicious oranges, strawberries, and avocados.
Abandoned buildings give the area a sort of nostalgic look and I always wonder what they were, why are they there?
The sun was now beaming down on the valley making all of the colors even more vibrant. At the last fruit stand we stopped to buy some of those fresh oranges and snap a few photos of the vivid meadow and hills.
As we made our way back to Interstate 15, we passed by Rice Canyon Road which I know from experience takes you along a nice drive all the way to Temecula. In parts, the trees hang over the road giving it a perfect countryside setting.
That excursion will be for next time, I was just happy exploring this little neck of the woods. I wonder how many people take the time to look around or is their mind set on getting to the tables and the slot machines.
For me, I wasn’t thrilled with my results at the casino as I was leaving, however, being out in nature, in this colorful valley with flowers starting to bloom, fruit stands, orange groves, it all eased my mind. Luckily for me, my little Hawaii…er…Valley Center is just about an hour from where I live,
Take time to explore, forget your worries, and go off the beaten path like we did in Valley Center of all places, and by the way… the oranges were delicious!
Story and photos: Debbie Colwell