Enjoy hiking and comfort food in this small-town ranching hideaway northeast of San Diego

Debbie K. Hardin

Rustic old west style meets turn-of-the-century charm in Ramona,at the foot of San Diego County's Cuyamaca Mountains.

Large horse and pony ranches ― and one of the only cameldairies in the country (that's right, we said camel dairies)― still dot the outlying hills, while in town, friendlyantiques shops and family restaurants are the order of the day.

Spend the cool morning hours hiking nearby Mt. Woodson, which isplenty green this month, before heading for the pleasinglyuncrowded sidewalks of Main Street.


Ramona is about 35 miles northeast of downtown San Diego. FromI-8 east to I-15 north, exit east on Scripps-Poway Pkwy. andcontinue on State 67 north to Ramona.


March is an excellent time to tackle the Mt. Woodson East Trailfor panoramic views of the Cuyamaca Mountains in full spring glory.Pick up the marked trailhead 5 miles southwest of town along State67, just a few yards from the forest-fire-station sign. Aquarter-mile dirt pathway meanders through an oak grove beforejoining the main asphalt trail to the summit. Climb past Californiabuckwheat and manzanita and around smooth boulders the size ofSUVs. The moderate-to-strenuous, out-and-back trail to the top is3.6 miles and gains more than 1,000 feet in elevation ― buteven a half-mile up-and-back jaunt will reward you withunparalleled views.


Guy B. Woodward Museum The centerpiece of Old Town Ramona,with a picturesque collection of 19th-century pioneer structuresset amid cactus, blooming citrus trees, and roses. Peek into thetown's original one-room jail or a real cowboy bunkhouse. INFO: 1-4Thu-Sun; $3; 645 Main St.; 760/789-7644.


Squash Blossom Trading Co. An antiques store with colorfulNative American and Mexican folk art. Pick up whimsical vintagepostcards or chunky hand-carved furniture. INFO: 738 Main St.;760/788-2353.

Original Old Town Ramona Candy Company The fun candy shop atthe front of the antiques mall has huge wooden barrels overflowingwith nostalgic treats like Abba Zabba, Necco wafers, and wax lips.INFO: 734 Main St.; 760/789-0574.


La Cocina Come early to claim a lunch table inside the cozyMexican cafe, and try authentic favorites like the juicyshredded-beef flautas, menudo, and albóndigas soup. INFO: $;681 Main St.; 760/789-8332. Packards Relax on the outdoor patiowith oversize lemon-poppy seed scones and lattes at the quaint gasstation-turned-coffee shop. INFO: 680 Main St.; 760/789-4262.

Ramona Cafe A homey spot serving up huge plates of comfortfood like meat loaf, burgers, and chicken-fried steak. Try thefamous cinnamon rolls. INFO: $; 628 Main St.; 760/789-8656.

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