Desert View Tower, A roadside attraction in Jacumba, California

Located alongside Interstate 8 about 90 miles east of San Diego, and 40 miles west of El Centro, is a roadside attraction known as Desert View Tower. The Desert View tower lookout was built in the early 20s by Bert Vaughn, the man who owned the town of Jacumba at the time. The Tower made of stone stands some 70-foot-high and was built in memory of the area’s pre-highway days, when the journey between Yuma and the Pacific Ocean took an arduous month to cross.

Desert View Tower in Jacambu by

Over the decades, the Tower has enjoyed periods of prosperity and complete neglect, managed by a succession of owners. The gift shop was added around the base of the Tower in 1950, during one of the boom times.  Today, the $2 combo ticket ($1 for kids) admits one to the three-floor “museum,” view from the hurricane deck, and Boulder Park. It’s not much of a museum, but the views are worth the admission, while Boulder Park is probably the real attraction. A jumble of rocks weathered by wind into caves and craggy walkways with witchback paths, visitors will find friendly-looking precipices and outcroppings around every corner.

Map to Desert View Tower in Jacumba

San Diego is like a second home to me, I’ve lived there a couple of times and my two sisters also reside in the county. The Phoenix area has also been my home off/on most of my life, so I would estimate I’ve made the trip along I-8 well over 100 times. I had always been fascinated by the moon-like terrain around Jacumba, it’s like a sea of mountainous granite boulders. When heading west toward San Diego, Jacumba and the Desert View Tower are at the start to the Peninsular Mountain Range, which begins the ascent toward San Diego. The Desert View Tower and Boulder park are located on the right hand side of the freeway where drivers will find an exit near the top of the hill.

Desert View Tower is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Just before you reach the Tower, you’ll see a collection of oddities, such as the flying saucer shown below. Apparently one of the residents of the area has a fascination with aliens, or just a good sense of humor and generosity to craft such a display for passersby like me to capture a photo.

Just east of the Desert View Tower, toward El Centro is a wind farm with massive turbines as far as the eye can see.

Wind turbine by

If you’ve ever been to the Desert View Tower, leave a comment below and share your experience.

Mike Shubic

Mike Shubic is a seasoned road trip travel video blogger, traversing the byways of the world looking for those hidden gems of the road. From unique destinations, unexpected discoveries, creative cuisine, intriguing inns to exciting attractions…the road is his page. The experiences are his ink. And every 300 miles, a new chapter begins. Whether you live vicariously or by example, Mike will do the exploring so you can have an adventure.


  1. Hi Mike,

    I was born in El Centro in 1959, moved to San Diego County around 1964 or so. Both sets of Grandparents lived in Imperial Valley so we must have made the trip between San Diego and El Centro at least a hundred times for holidays and visits. We passed the Desert View Tower a zillion times before mom convinced dad that we should stop and see it – probably about 1969ish. I remember the view from the top. Also, for some reason, I remember a North Vietnam flag and 122mm rocket captured in the war. There was a picture of the World’s Tallest Man and one of his gigantic shoes on display that have stuck with me all these years. Thanks for the memory and the reminder of the “moonscape boulders” going up the highway to San Diego.

    1. Hey Dan, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your experience. I can’t tell you how many times I too passed it up before stopping for the first time. Neat area to explore. All the best, Mike

  2. I keep meaning to stop by here as I drive by once in a while, after reading this I think I will make a point of it next time.

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