Inaja Memorial Park

Start of the Inaja Nature Trail, Cleveland National Forest

Julian is one of the most popular destinations in all of San Diego County for a number of reasons – in the winter; it is one of the few spots in the county that receives regular snowfall. In the fall, it is also one of the few spots in the county that allows apple picking. Year-round, however, it is popular for its distinctive – and tasty pies. While there are a number of trails one can select in the area in an attempt to mitigate the damage from pie and donut consumption in town, the easiest and most family-friendly with the best view is at Inaja Memorial Park, which is located some six miles to the east of Julian.

Great views are plentiful along the Inaja Nature Trail

Inaja Memorial Park is located two miles to the East of the town of Santa Ysabel on Highway 79, and is named for the eleven firefighters who died in 1956 fighting the Inaja Fire. As a result of their deaths, a task force was commissioned by the Forest Service Chief, Richard McArdle which developed ten standard firefighting orders that were to be applied to all fire situations, and changed the way modern wildfires were fought. The park is situated high above the Santa Ysabel Valley, and has great views of both it and the San Diego River Canyon.

Viewpoint, Inaja Nature Trail

From the parking area off Highway 79, there is first a picnic/rest area, and the entrance to the Inaja Trail, which winds up, and around a promontory that provides great three hundred and sixty degree views of the area. The trail is well-marked, and maintained, and although it has some uphill (with around a hundred feet of total elevation gain), it is accessible to all skill levels of hikers. The total distance of the trail is a half mile, and there are multiple spots along the loop where a hiker can obtain stunning views of the area, especially from the observation point at the top.

Tips: On a clear day, the viewpoint at the top of the loop is a great spot to watch the sun set over the Santa Ysabel Valley.   

The overlook on the Inaja Nature Trail has a great viewfinder for the local mountains.