San Diego Self-Guided Driving Tour: Scenic Backroads
6 Ratings
Embark on a self-guided driving tour of San Diego's scenic backroads. Discover hidden attractions, visit the Palomar Observatory, explore Borrego Springs, and indulge in delicious apple pies in Julian.
Duration: 6 hours
Cancellation: 1 day learn more
  • Queen Califia’s Magical Circle - Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is an outdoor sculpture garden created by artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
  • Lake Wohlford - Enjoy a scenic overlook as you drive by Lake Wohlford.
  • Pauma Valley - Take in the spectacular views of Pauma Valley as we make our way to Palomar Mountain.
  • Palomar Observatory - Stop and visit the Palomar and Observatory and Museum, home to the famous 200-inch Hale Telescope.
  • East Grade Road - Enjoy spectacular views of San Diego County from Kica Mik Overlook. Downtown San Diego and the Pacific Ocean are visible on clear days.
  • Henshaw Scenic Vista Observation Site - Another viewpoint on Palomar’s East Grade Road provides breathtaking views of Lake Henshaw and the surrounding meadows.
  • Santa Ysabel Mission - Stop and visit out one of southern California’s famous mission churches, dating back to 1818.
  • Montezuma Valley Road - Enjoy stunning views of the harsh desert landscape and the Salton Sea from the Montezuma Valley Road Scenic Overlook.
  • Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center - Stop at the Anza Borrego State Park Visitors Center before deciding if you’ll take a short hike into Borrego Palm Canyon to see the fan palm oasis and seasonal creek. Be sure to keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, they blend in surprisingly well with the rocks!
  • Borrego Springs Serpent Sculpture - We’ll take you to the some of the most iconic metal sculptures in Borrego Springs. With more than 100 scattered across the desert, you could spend a whole day visiting them.
  • Julian - Explore the historic mining town of Julian, known today for its apple pies! We’ll tell you the best place to go for pie, plus we’ll point out several other local attractions worth visiting.
What's Included
  • App & Tour Download
  • Flexible Usage (unlimited access within 30-days)
  • Downloadable Content (pre-download tour to save data)
What's Not Included
  • A Smartphone
  • Admission to Attractions
  • Transportation
Additional Information

Discover some of San Diego’s distinctive and lesser-known sights by cruising along some of the finest byways in San Diego County. We shall ascend to the peak of Palomar Mountain where we’ll explore the Palomar Observatory and Museum. We’ll descend to the desert settlement of Borrego Springs, home to bighorn sheep and remarkable metal sculptures dispersed across the landscape. Lastly, we’ll navigate our way back via the historic mountain village of Julian, famous for its mouth-watering apple pies.

You’ll need to set aside a full day for this 152-mile journey. Although the drive can be wrapped up in 3 1/2 hours, we’ll be highlighting dozens of attractions and pit stops en route. We’ll also impart some of the abundant history of San Diego’s past.

Don’t let this unforgettable San Diego road trip pass you by!

Plaza Del Lago Center
Del Lago Boulevard
Use your favorite navigation app to make your way to the parking lot at the Plaza Del Lago shopping center, located at 3440 Del Lago Blvd, Escondido, CA 92029. Once you're there, open the Drives & Detours app and tap "Start Tour".
Cancellation Policy

For a full refund, cancel at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure time.

Customer Ratings
(6 Ratings)
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1 star
Mar 15, 2024
Beautiful top down drive - My wife and I had rented a convertible which turned out to be ideal for this drive. It's a long drive (especially if you attempt the whole thing) so we opted to skip the Palomar section and head straight for Borrego Springs. We had to re-launch the app after a long lunch break but otherwise it operated smoothly. The audio was timed well and the narrative was great - we learned quite a bit even though we used to live in San Diego. If you like taking the "scenic route" I would recommend it, we enjoyed it.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Jun 3, 2023
Great self guided tour experience. - It’s a cool product. You can see other tours. It took a bit to figure out but it was interesting to hear the history of the area and do it at my pace.
Review provided by Viator
Dec 20, 2023
The best sightseeing in North County San Diego!! - We had a very busy day of sightseeing in North County San Diego. Started out at Queen Califia's Magic Circle (what a beautiful Mosaic Sculpture Garden) in Escondido, followed by lunch at 'That Mexican Place' for delicious breakfast burritos! Then, off to the Palomar Observatory to see one of the oldest 200 inch telescopes still in use! Incredible!!.. Next off to Borrego Springs to see the Galleta Meadows crafted metal animal sculptures... WOW! this is fantastic! Then, a beautiful drive through the Anza Borrego Desert to the beautiful town of Julian for some delicious pie and ice cream!! what a great day of sightseeing!!!
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Dec 14, 2023
To do! Best activity of the week! - Really great for those who like to ride and discover. Our best outing of the week. Different attractions and landscapes. We made more stops than those suggested, in 8 hours, and did not complete the route due to lack of clarity. The optional trip to the observatory is worth the detour, the second less so. The apple pie is delicious and its village, Julian, is very pretty. No access fees in the visited portion. No need to purchase the adventure for more than one person. A full day! Do not miss.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Jan 31, 2024
A long trip - The auto app did not work, we were issued a full credit. The trip is long, which is mentioned in the description. We went ahead and did the trip following a review i had with us. The iron sculptures were ok. Julian was the highlight of the trip. I'm sure it would had been more interesting if we had the app.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Mar 5, 2024
Got stuck in the desert - I do not recommend this self-driving tour. It doesn't even start you in the right direction from the starting point. *You can't turn left out of the shopping plaza.) So many times the app glitched during the drive and kicked me out. Then, you have to scroll through to get to where you were. Many times there were no directions (spoken or written), so you had to figure out the way to go. These issues happened so much just halfway through the trip. I got stuck in Borrego Springs. No directions. Then my phone wouldn't bring up a map to go home. I spent 5 hours on the portion I did and wanted to finish, but this was an absolutely frustrating experience.
Review provided by Tripadvisor
Select Date and Tickets
up to 5 guests
April 2024