The Desert View Tower is a truly unique piece of California history. This old stone tower was built when the first east to west road was coming through the area, and it even has original wood in it that is from that very road. Today you can stop and visit the tower and its corresponding boulder city, all while indulging in almost 100 years of California history. It is a fun stop for the whole family and a great view of the surrounding desert. Here is all the information.
- $4 to enter
- Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, seven days a week
- Information from my visit in 2016
Bert Vaughn of San Diego is the one who was credited as the builder of the tower, which was done when the new road was put in over the mountains. Back then, he owned the entire town of Jacumba and figured it was going to be used as a border crossing, which never happened. He had the tower built as a roadside attraction that would bring people in for the bar/restaurant he had on the property. The tower became a National Landmark in the 1980s, and it was eventually sold to Ben Schultz in 2002. The Boulder Park itself was carved in the ’30s by a man who was off work during the depression. You can still wander the park and see his work to this day.
When you arrive, the first thing you will visit is the tower, since this is where you will be paying your fee. The tower is four stories high and about 60 feet tall.
The bottom floor of the tower has a ton of knick-knacks for sale, ranging from old artifacts to politically charged bumper stickers; it is pretty unique. It made you want to keep walking around as you never knew what you would find.
When you head into the tower, you will see that each of its four floors serve as a museum for the different artifacts that have been collected over the years. I saw everything from art to stuffed sea turtles, truly eclectic, and not a lot of rhyme or reason.
When you finally make it to the top of the tower, you are greeted with fantastic views in every direction. The tower is well placed at the top of the hill for a beautiful vista of the desert and the highway below.
You can even choose to walk up the old rickety wooden steps and look out the top of the tower as well if you are interested.
The tower also has a 25 cent machine you can look through to see a more zoomed-in view of the area, I didn’t check it out myself, but I imagine kids would be excited about it. It was worth the climb and the $4 to take in the views, then I headed down to Boulder Park.
Right across from the tower is the famous Boulder Park, which was created by an unemployed engineer during the Great Depression.
This is a fantastic place for kids as you simply explore the rocks and look for the carved faces. They are all over, and so it can be fun to turn a corner and see a new one.
I am sure I didn’t even see them all as I was wandering around. My favorite was the 8-foot tall face at the top though; it was pretty crazy.
This is also a great place to get a good view of the tower with a few of the boulder sculptures below it as well.
After exploring, you can head back out to your car or back into the tower if you want to see more, but make sure to stop at the UFO guy before you leave.
Coyote’s UFO Retrieval Service
As you are driving out, you will see the UFO retrieval service on the right-hand side. I don’t know much about this myself, but it was a fun and silly stop. There are vans with the logo on it, trucks pulling UFOs, and a collection of couches to relax at.
In the back, there is even a makeshift bar that seems like it probably has a few patrons on specific weekends. It is a kooky stop that is worth seeing for a few minutes, especially since you are already there.
All in all, the Desert View Tower is one of the better roadside stops I have been to. It has a unique history and something for the whole family to explore. I suggest giving it a try if you are in the area.