Mountain Empire, San Diego

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Coordinates: 32°39′49″N116°48′41″W / 32.66364°N 116.811408°W / 32.66364; -116.811408


Mountain Empire
Pine Valley Sign.jpg
Pine Valley in the Mountain Empire
CountySan Diego County

The Mountain Empire is a rural area in southeastern San Diego County, California. [1] The Mountain Empire subregion consists of the backcountry communities in southeastern San Diego County. [2] The area is also sometimes considered part of the East County region of San Diego County. [3]


The Mountain Empire occupies the largely hilly, rugged terrain of the Laguna Mountains and foothills between Interstate 8 and the U.S.-Mexico border east of Otay Mountain and west of Imperial County. Communities located just north of Interstate 8, such as Descanso, Guatay and Pine Valley, are generally included within the region, while those further north, such as Julian, are not. The Pacific Crest Trail has its southern terminus on the Mexican border near Campo. Portions of the Mountain Empire are located in the Descanso Ranger District of the Cleveland National Forest.

California State Route 94 and Interstate 8 are the primary highways through the region. Historic U.S. Route 80 also passes through the Mountain Empire, as does the now disused San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway.

Natural features in the region include Mount Laguna at 6,302 feet (1,921 m) in elevation, [4] eastern Barrett Lake reservoir, Campo Creek, Carrizo Gorge, Cottonwood Creek, Miller Creek, and Pine Valley Creek.


Census-designated places

Populations are as of the 2020 census:

Other unincorporated communities

Indian reservations

Federally recognized tribes and bands of the Kumeyaay people have Indian reservations with communities in the Mountain Empire region and southern Laguna Mountains. They include (populations as of 2020 census):

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department provides patrol and law enforcement services to the Mountain Empire region.


The region is served by the Mountain Empire Unified School District, which consists of six elementary schools and Mountain Empire High School.

The Mountain Empire Unified School District is geographically the largest school district in California, occupying over 600 square miles (1,600 km2). [5]


The Mountain Empire is served by countywide publications such as the San Diego Union-Tribune and the San Diego Reader. Regionally, it is served by East County Magazine.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kumeyaay</span> Kumeyaay Indians of Baja California, Mexico and Southern California, USA

The Kumeyaay, also known as Tipai-Ipai or by their historical Spanish name Diegueño, is a tribe of Indigenous peoples of the Americas who live at the northern border of Baja California in Mexico and the southern border of California in the United States. Their Kumeyaay language belongs to the Yuman–Cochimí language family.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cuyamaca, California</span>

Cuyamaca is a region of eastern San Diego County. It lies east of the Capitan Grande Indian Reservation in the western Laguna Mountains, north of Descanso and south of Julian. Named for the 1845 Rancho Cuyamaca Mexican land grant, the region is now dominated by the 26,000-acre (110 km2) Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Within the park is the prominent Cuyamaca Peak, the second-highest mountain in San Diego County at 6,512 feet (1,984.9 m).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laguna Mountains</span> Mountain range in San Diego County, California

The Laguna Mountains are a mountain range of the Peninsular Ranges System in eastern San Diego County, southern California. The mountains run in a northwest/southeast alignment for approximately 35 miles (56 km).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boulevard, California</span> Census-designated place in California, United States

Boulevard is a census-designated place (CDP) in the Mountain Empire area of southeastern San Diego County, California. At the 2010 census, it had a population of 315. The area is rural high desert along the Mexican border near the eastern extent of San Diego County.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Campo, California</span> Place in California, United States

Campo is an unincorporated community in the Mountain Empire area of southeastern San Diego County, California, United States. The population was 2,684 at the 2010 census. For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau has defined Campo as a census-designated place (CDP). The census definition of the area may not precisely correspond to local understanding of the area with the same name.

The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation is a federally recognized tribe of Mission Indians from Southern California, located in an unincorporated area of San Diego County just east of El Cajon. The Sycuan band are a Kumeyaay tribe, one of the four ethnic groups indigenous to San Diego County.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cuyamaca Rancho State Park</span> State park in California, United States

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a state park in Southern California, United States, located 40 miles (64 km) east of San Diego in the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains of the Peninsular Ranges. The park's 26,000 acres (11,000 ha) feature pine, fir, and oak forests, with meadows and streams that exist due to the relatively high elevation of the area compared to its surroundings. The park includes 6,512-foot (1,985 m) Cuyamaca Peak, the second-highest point in San Diego County.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mission Indians</span> Indigenous peoples who were forcibly relocated to missions in Southern California

Mission Indians are the indigenous peoples of California who lived in Southern California and were forcibly relocated from their traditional dwellings, villages, and homelands to live and work at 15 Franciscan missions in Southern California and the Asistencias and Estancias established between 1796 and 1823 in the Las Californias Province of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Campo Indian Reservation</span> Indian reservation in California, United States

The Campo Indian Reservation is home to the Campo Band of Diegueño Mission Indians, also known as the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, a federally recognized tribe of Kumeyaay people in the southern Laguna Mountains, in eastern San Diego County, California. The reservation was founded in 1893 and is 16,512 acres (66.82 km2).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Descanso, California</span> Place in California, United States

Descanso is a small unincorporated community in the Cuyamaca Mountains, within the Mountain Empire area of southeastern San Diego County, California. The community's name is a Spanish word meaning "rest from labor".

The Cuyamaca Mountains, locally the Cuyamacas, are a mountain range of the Peninsular Ranges System, in San Diego County, southern California. The mountain range runs roughly northwest to southeast. The Laguna Mountains are directly adjacent to the east, with Palomar Mountain and Hot Springs Mountain more distant to the north.

The Manzanita Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of the Manzanita Reservation is a federally recognized tribe of Kumeyaay Indians, who are sometimes known as part of the Mission Indians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Posta Band of Diegueño Mission Indians</span> Native Kumeyaay Indians in Southern California

The La Posta Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of the La Posta Reservation is a federally recognized tribe of the Kumeyaay Indians, who are sometimes known as Mission Indians.

The Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians, formerly known as the Cuyapaipe Community of Diegueño Mission Indians of the Cuyapaipe Reservation, is a federally recognized tribe of Kumeyaay Indians, who are sometimes known as Mission Indians, located in San Diego County, California. "Ewiiaapaayp" is Kumeyaay for "leaning rock," a prominent feature on the reservation.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">East County, San Diego</span> Region of the San Diego Metro Area in San Diego County

East County is a region of San Diego County, California, east of San Diego.

The Regions of the San Diego metropolitan area and San Diego County, as they cover the same area are:

Jacumba Valley is a valley in San Diego and Imperial Counties, California. Its head is at 32°37′00″N116°10′07″W Carrizo Creek has its source in Jacumba Valley, 1.2 miles north of the California-Mexico State boundary, at 32°38′09″N116°07′05″W at an elevation of 3,210 feet, on the west side of the divide between Jacumba Valley and the valley of upper Boulder Creek. Carrizo Creek flows west then north northwest through Jacumba Valley to its mouth at the head of Carrizo Gorge. Just south of the Jacumba and In-ko-pah Mountains, the terrain consists of large, flat desert plains and hills of granite boulders. The wider region, including the Jacumba Wilderness, which sits just east of the valley, has been greatly affected by the construction of the US/Mexico border and has become a site of great numbers of migrations along migrant paths.

Crestwood Summit is a highway pass through the Cuyamaca Mountains of southeastern San Diego County, California, traversed by Interstate 8. Its elevation is 4,190 feet (1,280 m) westbound, and 4,181 feet (1,274 m) eastbound. It is the highest point on Interstate 8.


  1. "SANDAG Profile Warehouse". San Diego Association of Governments: Subregional areas. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  2. "SANDAG Profile Warehouse". San Diego Association of Governments: Subregional areas. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  3. See, e.g., "Major Statistical Areas of the San Diego Region". San Diego Association of Governments. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
  4. Mount Laguna
  5. Aryan, Hala Ali. "Mountain Empire district has 5 running for 2 seats", San Diego Union-Tribune. 21 October 2004.