There's a small town about fifteen miles east of Ramona, California that I've been visiting for more than two decades called Santa Ysabel. The area was formally part of the Mission Rancho system and still contains a mission chapel in the area that serves the community and the local Santa Ysabel reservation of Kumeyaay people known as the Iipay. For all the time I've been traveling to the area, I've never seen the population on the town's official sign say more than 400, but I think there's really more people that live in the area.
The town has one official center at the intersection of State Highway 78 and 79. Most people pass through there on the way to Julian, about seven miles away uphill. Here, there are several shops and stores as well as a gas station, artisans, a few houses and, I think, one apartment building.The Julian Pie Company has a store there and popular stores include Dudley's bread,
Don's Market, and the Santa Ysabel General Store which also serves as a small historical center. There is a full-service restaurant that used to be called Apple Country, but is now under new ownership and may be changing the name and menu. Other amenities may be found at the recently built Santa Ysabel Casino just north of the town center on Highway 79 where they tout craft beers and a restaurant.
The area of Santa Ysabel is actually very large and extends for miles from the town center. Much of the area is used for cattle ranching, but there are people in the area who raise sheep and horses. There are also quite a few hiking trails in the area that are mostly unknown to outsiders. The biggest trail system, put in to place fairly recently, is the Santa Ysabel Preserve. There are two areas to easily access it. The main area is just off of Highway 79 north of the town center, but also can be accessed north of Julian on Farmer Road.
The other access area, which has a parking lot and horse staging area, is west of the town center on Highway 78. Be aware that the trail passes through many cattle ranching pastures that are still frequently used and free-ranging cattle may be encountered on the trails. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day during summer months. Winter hours are more restricted. There is also another, lesser-known smaller, trail system at the end of Mesa Grande Road which may be difficult to find.
The best time to visit Santa Ysabel is near the weekend due to the fact that several businesses are only open on the weekend, usually from Friday-Sunday, though a Dudley's bread is also open on Thursday. Don's Market and the Julian Pie Company are open 7 days a week.
Here are some helpful links for more information: