Fires in the Mountains: A Civilian Conservation Corps Heritage Adventure in Southern California Mountain Parks
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park Tour
Palomar Mountain State Park Tour
Mount San Jacinto State Park Tour
This tour and the other California State Park CCC Heritage Adventures feature park buildings, roads, bridges, and other park improvements built by the men of the Civilian Conservation Corps. These remaining physical features give only a partial picture of the work of the CCC in California State Parks. The CCC companies stationed at state parks did much more than build and improve park infrastructure. They planted, weeded, cut brush and thinned trees, eradicated insect pests, and helped in search-and-rescue efforts. But all these tasks were dropped when their most important work called: firefighting.
Fighting fires was an especially big job in the southern California mountain parks. Not only was the area as fire-prone then as it is now, but southern California was tinder-dry due to a drought that began in 1928 and lasted until 1937. It was the longest, most severe drought in the state’s history.
Two of the three parks on this Heritage Adventure have been recently hit by large fires. At Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Palomar Mountain State Park, you will see the effects of recent wildfires. In both parks, some CCC-built structures were destroyed. Thankfully, firefighters—using both the same dangerous, dirty, exhausting hand techniques used by the CCC boys and the most modern methods—were able to save many more.
Location: Mountains of eastern San Diego and central Riverside counties
Tour Length: About 135 miles (without suggested side-trips)
Tour Time: One and one-half days (without suggested side-trips)
Suggested Order: This will depend on your starting point. The geographic order from south to north is Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Palomar Mountain State Park, and then Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Cuyamaca and Palomar are close enough to each other to visit both in one day, or set aside one day for each, leaving time to linger or take the suggested side-trips. Schedule at least a half day for the drive and tour of Mt. San Jacinto State Park's Idyllwild area. This section of the park is small, so the tour itself is short.
Google Map and Directions: Cuyamaca to Palomar; Palomar to Mt. San Jacinto
To discover more about the Civilian Conservation Corps and the 75th anniversary of the Corps, click here.
More About Life in the CCC
Mount San Jacinto State Park and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park were two of twelve California state parks featured in Land of the Giants, a 1935 film produced by the National Park Service. The 24-minute film highlights the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in California state parks. To view it online, click here.