5 Day Trips From San Diego That Will Cure Your Wanderlust

Do you want to get out of San Diego for the day? Are you looking for some adventure in your life, adventure that won’t cost you an arm and a leg?

Believe it or not, there are many easy to reach destinations that will make you feel like you’re a world away from San Diego.


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In under two hours you could be hiking to one of Southern California’s tallest peaks, exploring California’s remote desert region, visiting a gold rush town where time has stood still, or even drive to a totally different country!

Here are five day trip destinations from San Diego will cure your wanderlust!

If you’re seeking adventure, these day trips from San Diego will cure your wanderlust!

1. Temecula Valley

Temecula is an easy day trip from San Diego.

Temecula is Southern California’s wine country. There are nearly 50 wineries sprinkled across the Temecula Valley and almost as many different varietals of wine grown here.

This dreamy place is the perfect day trip destination for vino lovers, and much easier to visit than Napa or Sonoma! And since Temecula is less than an hour’s drive from San Diego, you’ll have plenty of time to tour a couple of different vineyards.

While you could tour the local vineyards on your own, a more fun way to explore the wineries is to join other wine lovers on this all-day wine tasting tour of Temecula that includes a deli style picnic lunch.

But Temecula isn’t just a place for oenophiles, there’s a range of activities here that will please almost anyone. You can ride hot-air balloons, spend the day golfing, taste locally-made olive oil, shop at boutique stores, and sample delicious farm-to-table fare.

If it’s your first time visiting Temecula, you should begin your day with a stroll through Old Town. Situated in the heart of the city, Old Town features wooden boardwalks and old west type store fronts. This is where you’ll find a range of specialty shops, restaurants, wine bars, and tap rooms.

2. Idyllwild

Idyllwild is a lovely town nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains. Unlike other nearby mountain towns, Idyllwild has been minimally developed therefore is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a quiet place to escape for a day.

The mile-high paradise is a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbing and horse riding. Two distinct rock formations known as Tahquitz Peak and Suicide Rock are the best spots to go hiking and climbing here.

Ambitious hikers can hike to San Jacinto’s peak on the Deer Springs Trail. It’s one of the toughest but most beautiful hikes in Southern California. On this hike you’ll climb over 5,000-feet through a forest that will make you feel like you’re in Yosemite National Park.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an outdoorsy person to enjoy Idyllwild, the downtown area offers a selection of eclectic shops where you can find gourmet food, handmade jewelry, and mountain-inspired artwork.

There are also some great restaurants here where you can take in that fresh pine air from an outdoor patio. At night, listen to some live music before you end the day. Unless of course you choose to stay for the night, which in that case you’ll want to check out some of the cute accommodations available here.

Our favorite place we’ve stayed in Idyllwild is this cozy A-frame cabin in the woods. You can read a review on our stay at the Idyllcreek Cabin here.

3. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is home to a rugged landscape formed by the erosion of uplifted mountains in the Colorado Desert region of Southern California.

The park is well-known for its spectacular spring bloom. Every year thousands of visitors descend upon the park to see desert wildflowers blossoming in March and April.

But there are many other natural wonders here that make this destination worthy of visiting at any time of the year. You can explore slot canyons, hike to a palm tree oasis, and gaze out over strikingly beautiful badlands.

Another popular attraction at the park are the massive metal sculptures that are scattered througout Galleta Meadows. These larger than life metal beasts which include serpents, horses, and elephants to name a few can be found near Borrego Springs.

At 585,930 acres, this is the largest state park in California and the third largest state park in the United States. Because the park is so big, you might want to consider turning your day trip into a weekend getaway from San Diego. One of the coolest things about the park is that it offers free dispersed camping which means you can stay anywhere inside the park!

However if camping is not your style, there are several hotels nearby such as the Borrego Valley Inn, an upscale desert retreat that has two swimming pools to help you cool off in the summer-time heat.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is approximately a two-hour drive northeast from San Diego. Borrego Palm Canyon is the site of the park’s headquarters and where you can pick up information booklets and maps from the visitor center.

4. Julian

An easy day trip from San Diego is Julian, a historic town in the Cuyamaca Mountains.
Photo by Deidre Woollard

Just one hour east of San Diego is Julian, a historic town situated in the Cuyamaca mountains. In Julian you can take a step back in time to the 1870s when this mountain town was first settled.

Julian began as a mining camp when a cattleman named Fred Coleman found placer gold at Coleman Creek in 1869. It led to San Diego’s first and only gold rush, lasting from 1870 to 1900.

Although Julian’s gold rush era is long gone, the town’s past has not been forgotten. The entire township of Julian is now a designated historical district complete with streets that are lined with pioneer store fronts.

You can experience Julian’s pioneer days at Eagle Mining Company where you can learn about panning for gold and how the whole extraction process works.

While Julian’s image as a frontier town is what draws most visitors, there are other attractions here that make this place worth visiting on a day trip. For example, you can spend the day at a winery, go hiking, hang out at the lake, and even visit wolves at the California Wolf Center.

Julian is a year-round destination; winter for crisp weather, spring for seeing wildflowers, summer for hiking, and best of all is autumn for Julian’s famous apple harvest! A visit during the fall season means

5. Ensenada

Ensenada is an exotic day trip destination from San Diego.

Day trips from San Diego aren’t just limited to domestic travel, you can visit international destinations too! Mexico is just a hop, skip and a jump away. You can easily cross into Mexico’s beautiful Baja Peninsula in about thirty minutes.

If an exotic coastal destination sounds appealing to you, look no further than Ensenada. Positioned along the coast, Ensenada is a terrific place to take a mini beach vacation.

Here you can enjoy sunbathing, surfing, and deep sea fishing. Once you’re done soaking up the sunshine and salty air, head to downtown Ensenada where you can shop ’til you drop and indulge in all the tacos you can eat!

Best Day Trips & Group Led Tours From San Diego

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