Rancho Cuyamaca State Park - Annual Trip

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Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

CA-79 & Milk Ranch Rd · Julian, CA

How to find us

Take I-8 East from San Diego past Alpine to the 79 exit to Julian. Head north to the turn (turn to stay on 79) and park at Milk Ranch Rd / Los Vaqueros Trail. We'll shuttle to/from the State Park at Paso Picacho Camp. Alt route: S from Julian

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PLANT KNOWLEDGE: Novice +, Professionals always welcome!
ACCESS: Open to all, no charge
$5 parking fee if using State Park lots
[SEVERE WEATHER CANCELS EVENT - Temps over 95F (35C) or Storm Warnings]

Every year, CNPS-SD heads up Milk Ranch Rd between Cuyamaca and Middle Peaks from the swampy grasslands at the lake up through Ceanothus chaparral and into the mixed oak / yellow pine forest of the mountain. This year, we'll check the fire recovery growth and methods of restoration used by the State Park again, documenting a bit as we head from the viewpoint saddle to Azalea Springs. Down we'll head to the Western azaleas and shady streamline trail to end up at the State Park facilities. This trip is always a little different with flowers and wildlife along the trail so I can't tell you exactly what to expect except:

Fairy lantern mariposa (Calochortus albus), Humboldt lily (Lilium humblodtii ocellatum), Velvety false lupine (Thermopsis californica semota) and Broad leaf lotus (Hosackia crassifolia) are all found along the Fire Road to Cuyamaca Peak near Azalea Springs. The trip is a gentle climb with breaks with shade of Black oaks (Quercus kelloggii), Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), and Jeffery Pine (Pinus jefferyi). This year should be amazing with early summer flowers and plenty of new growth among the chaparral and woodlands.

Come prepared with a flexible schedule as length of the trip may extend a bit past time if we deviate from the trail. Bring any gear, lunch, snacks, and water suited to your plans for the day. There's an excellent place on the trail to have lunch, so please bring yourself some food / snacks. iNaturalist app (join the SD Plant Atlas Group) is highly recommended as are any guides, lenses, and cameras. Always prepare for the weather beforehand. Rattlesnakes, ticks, and slippery conditions are very likely.

CARPOOL: Carpool will be available for anyone who might find it convenient, especially anyone using public transit. Arrive between 7:30 and 7:40AM at the Fashion Valley Transit Center Parking Lot (West side parking area of the Fashion Valley Mall near Fashion Valley Rd). Look for a black Toyota Tundra OR Dark Gray Rav4. Spaces may fill up, so please be prepared to drive. Carpool participants should expect to return around 3 to 3:30 PM. Parking is free for 24 hrs and has roving security at Fashion Valley Transit Center, however risks are the same as parking anywhere on the street. Message the group for possible alternatives.

Once we're all at the "Los Vaqueros Trailhead", we'll select a few cars to go park at the State Park to shuttle us all back to the original Trailhead. Once we return, we're a go.