In the heart of San Diego county is one of Southern California's most pristine & bio-diverse ecosystems, known as the backcountry region of the Central Mountains. This precious habitat is the last environmental haven of its kind in a county that has grown to become the 5th largest in all of the Unites States. Nowhere else in San Diego can you still find unspoiled nature, rare wildlife & the solitude of mountain forests to this degree.

The region consists of over 200,000 acres of rural & pristine territory - an interconnected network of state & county parks, federal forest, as well as historic, eco-logical & archeological preserves. A population of about 3,000 people call the backcountry home. They are for the most part a tight-knit & proud historic community dedicated to small town values, sustainable development, & environmental conservation.

There has been a consorted effort by many individuals & organizations, spanning many generations, which have devoted their lives towards preserving this environment intact. They laid down the framework for the region's current conservation model through a network of parks, protectorates & preserves. These designations have prevented any sort of mass or industrial development from taking place, but they also pose unique economic challenges as tourism demand continues to grow. 

Tourism development & economic growth in general have represented serious challenges throughout the years. As a rural mountain destination under so many development constraints, there are only so many visitors that our current infrastructure can comfortably & safely withstand.

A single lane windy road connects most of the backcountry, which can easily become congested & poses serious safety concerns, especially during snow season. As first responders, our volunteer fire department come under a lot of pressure with an influx of too many visitors. The degradation of our environment as a result of littering & careless behavior by tourists is another growing concern.

These challenges require dynamic & forward thinking strategies in regards to tourism development in the Central Mountain regions. It is our communities obligation to carry on the heritage & tradition of conservation - maintaining the integrity of the National Forests & State Parks, the retention & enhancement of the rural character of the central mountain communities, & the preservation of the natural environment & habitat.


"Within the Central Mountain Subregion, we preserve and respect our venerable and historic structures in the form of lodges, halls and restaurants, churches and residences, barns, and bridges. Our compact utilitarian commercial cores represent a very small percentage of our overall land use and provide essential local services for area residents and visitors. Limited pockets of residential development spread outward from our village centers to areas where they fit well within their surroundings. The lack of tract housing developments and larger commercial centers further defines and enhances the unique character of our backcountry communities. It is the combination of 52 factors that contribute to our quaint rural ambiance and charm.

Because of limited infrastructure and limited natural resources like groundwater, any further growth must be carefully managed. Any growth must also compliment our natural rural landscape and adhere to our community character. Our communities are gateways to recreational opportunities. We place an extremely high value on recreational opportunities provided by open space and community trails which offer pedestrians, equestrians, and mountain bikers access to federal, State and County Parks. As committed backcountry stewards, we believe in the preservation of clean air and dark skies, mature woodlands and open spaces, natural resources, and water quality. These core values are reflected in our rural lifestyles and make up some of the essential components of our community character.

The Central Mountain Subregion is perhaps one of the few remaining areas within the County that still offers visitors a chance to escape their fast-paced urban lifestyle and recall with nostalgia, the essence of life in a small mountain village. As nearby suburban populations continue to increase, it is of the utmost importance that the natural beauty of our local rural landscapes and vital character of our small villages be treasured and preserved for future generations."

Central Mountain Subregional Plan - San Diego County General Plan download here.



Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism is the concept of visiting a place as a tourist and trying to make only a positive impact on the environment, society & economy. It's a global tourism trend based on balancing economic growth with resource management & preservation. There are many successful examples of sustainable tourism models all around the world such as; eco-tourism, agri-tourism, health & wellness tourism & volunteer tourism to name a few.


“Sustainable tourism is simply about good business practice – protecting the resources the industry depends on to ensure companies can continue selling holidays and destinations continue to thrive, long into the future.”

Sue Hurdle, Chief Executive, The Travel Foundation


Sustainable tourism models are dedicated to conservation & understanding of the cultural, historical & environmental heritage of a destination.

In recent years, new tourism models have emerged as alternatives to mass tourism. Mass tourism usually refers to large numbers of people seeking to spend their holidays in popular resort- style destinations. It's been widely criticized for the negative effects brought by its uncontrolled development, with visitors concentrated in very high density over seasonal periods of time. Over the last few decades, we've witnessed many pristine locations all over the that have been devastated as a result of unsustainable tourism development. 

"This tourism model in some cases is known for exploiting sensitive natural resources, neglecting participation of the local communities & defined as not being a “genuine” way of traveling and experiencing a place"

David A. Fennell  - Eco-tourism 2008

In 2001, the UNWTO identified “experiential” tourism (which encompasses ecotourism, nature, heritage, cultural, soft adventure tourism, rural and community tourism) as among the sectors expected to grow most quickly during the coming two decades. Environmental protection & conservation is a key factor behind the rapid growth of sustainable tourism.

Environmentally conscious travelers & industry stakeholders have become conscious about the fallout on the environment from reckless development of tourism destinations. With most tourists wanting to escape their day to day hectic schedules during vacations, experiential tourism offers the opportunity to unwind in places untouched by commercialization, visiting unexplored areas, mingling with the local population & learning about their culture.

"Experiential tourism involves active participation by travelers in the experience and promotes activities that draw people outdoors, and into cultures and communities. In this sense it is very personal and individual. Essentially, experiential tourists seek memorable experiences.”

William L. Smith

“...there is increasing recognition among both travel professionals and consumers of the importance of responsible travel – travel that minimizes negative impacts, brings economic benefits to host communities, and preserves the cultural and natural resources of the destinations. There is strong evidence that responsible travel is also good for the bottom line.”

Transforming the Way the World Travels - The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends and Statistics - CREST



  • According to a 2012-2013 TripAdvisor survey, 79% of travelers globally “think that it’s important that accommodation providers have eco-friendly practices.
  • According to the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) 2012 Tourism in the Green Economy Report, “Tourist choices are increasingly influenced by sustainability considerations. Ecotourism, nature, heritage & cultural are predicted to grow rapidly over the next two decades, and global spending on ecotourism is expected to increase at a higher rate than the tourism industry as a whole.
  • 7% of business travelers prefer staying in a green-certified hotel, according to Timetric’s Global Business Traveler Survey 2013.
  • 95% of business travelers surveyed believe the hotel industry should be undertaking ‘green’ initiatives, and sustainability will become a defining issue for the hospitality industry in 2015 and beyond, according to Deloitte’s Hospitality 2015 report.


The San Diego Backcountry Visitors Bureau is dedicated to positioning the Central Mountain region as a leading destination for sustainable tourism in Southern California. Julian and the Central Mountain Regions represent the ideal destination for these type of tourism models, which will ensure the proper balance between tourism growth & conservation. 

We have a unique opportunity to be the first destination in San Diego to set trends for sustainable tourism development.

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out how you can get involved.


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