Exploring The Countryside
A Motor Tour Of Ramona
— Charlene Pulsonetti
Driving into Ramona on Highway 67 from the west, motorists are greeted by a view of the Ramona valley spreading out into the distance, its landscape quilted with grasslands and rocky hills.
Hidden around every bend of the road are curious sights and unique delights — so what better way to spend a day than by taking a trip through the historic valley by car, truck or motorcycle?
After passing Mount Woodson, which towers above on the driver’s side, make a left turn onto Archie Moore Road, which will soon become Highland Valley Road.
On the left is the Ramona Grasslands County Preserve — 3,521 acres of pristine grasslands and home to an array of animals. Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders can explore four miles of trails that weave through open plains and scrub brush-covered hills. Looking overhead, you may catch a glimpse of one of the valley’s wild raptor species, including golden eagles!
Continue down Highland Valley Road and you’ll meet up with Highway 67 once more, where you’ll take a left. On the driver’s side, you’ll see several cross streets where rows of mailboxes are crowded together — iconic and much-photographed landmarks as you enter Ramona proper.
While traveling east, you’ll begin to notice large-scale murals that artfully span the sides of buildings. Part of the Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Mural Project, these designs highlight the unique character and iconic landmarks of the town. In the fall of 2018, an additional 17 utility box mini-murals were added — see if you can find them all!
As you continue through the center of town on the thoroughfare designated as “Main Street,” Highway 67 becomes Highway 78 at 10th Street. It also marks where Old Town Ramona begins.
Block after block, charming shops serve the public from some of the town’s earliest and most historic structures. Stop by Ramona Chamber of Commerce at 1306 Main St., Ste. 103, and ask its friendly staff about current events, lodging and dining options.
Take a break and enjoy authentic ethnic cuisine, country-style cooking or farm-to-table fare, then take a walk to explore antique malls, galleries and unique shops.
Continuing east, make a right turn onto Third Street, which skirts town and is marked by winery signs. In about two miles, take a left onto Old Julian Highway. It’s time to slow down and enjoy the winding country roads that take you past pastures — and several of Ramona’s 30-plus wineries, where you can enjoy a glass while looking out across the impressive landscape.
About five miles down the road, look left — yes, those are camels! As residents of the Oasis Camel Dairy, they are just as much a part of the scenery as the horses, deer and turkey that roam the backcountry.
Take a sharp left turn back onto Highway 78, which will lead you past more wineries and the occasional farm stand, where eggs and homegrown fruits and vegetables may be purchased.
After eight miles, the road opens up — Mount Woodson, where you began, stands in the distance.
Depending upon the time of day, the marine layer from the coast sometimes looks like a wave building up in the distance. While much of San Diego remains in the fog layer, Ramona enjoys sunshine and clear nights — perfect for a relaxing afternoon at one of the local tasting rooms to sample local brews, ciders, spirits and wines.