Location of Descanso in San Diego County, California.
Location of Descanso in San Diego County, California.
Descanso is located in San Diego County, California
Location within San Diego County
Descanso is located in California
Location within California
Descanso is located in the United States
Location within the United States
Coordinates: 32°51′10″N 116°36′57″W / 32.85278°N 116.61583°W / 32.85278; -116.61583Coordinates: 32°51′10″N 116°36′57″W / 32.85278°N 116.61583°W / 32.85278; -116.61583
Country United States
State California
County San Diego
 • Total19.16 sq mi (49.61 km2)
 • Land19.16 sq mi (49.61 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
Elevation3,573 ft (1,089 m)
 • Total1,499
 • Density78.25/sq mi (30.21/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)619
FIPS code06-18940
GNIS feature ID2582992
U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Descanso, California

Descanso (Spanish for "Rest"; Kumeyaay: Wataay)[3] 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".[4]

The population was 1,423 at the 2010 census. For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau as designated Descanso as a census-designated place. It is in California's 50th congressional district.

Descanso is located east of Alpine and west of Pine Valley. At a 3,450 feet (1,050 m) elevation, it is located at the south entrance to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and also borders Cleveland National Forest to the west and east.

The area was heavily threatened by the 2003 Cedar Fire. The community consists of many small ranches and newer homes of San Diego commuters. Horseback riding and hiking are frequent pastimes due to the proximity to San Diego's back-country recreation areas. It is approximately a 50-minute commute from downtown San Diego. The majority of residents generally commute to San Diego as the local job market is limited. Community radio station KNSJ operates out of Descanso.

The Descanso Fire Station of the United States Forest Service is home to the Laguna Hotshots. Descanso is home to many firefighters, and many local teenagers join either the Forest Service or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (which also provides direct fire and EMS protection to the community).

The ZIP Code is 91916 and the community is inside area code 619.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP covers an area of 19.2 square miles (49.8 km2), all of it land.


According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Descanso has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csa" on climate maps.[5]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[6]

The 2010 United States Census[7] reported that Descanso had a population of 1,423. The population density was 74.1 people per square mile (28.6/km2). The racial makeup of Descanso was 1,290 (90.7%) White, 5 (0.4%) African American, 29 (2.0%) Native American, 16 (1.1%) Asian, 9 (0.6%) Pacific Islander, 46 (3.2%) from other races, and 28 (2.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 150 persons (10.5%).

The Census reported that 1,423 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 585 households, out of which 152 (26.0%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 326 (55.7%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 44 (7.5%) had a female householder with no husband present, 27 (4.6%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 33 (5.6%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 7 (1.2%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 140 households (23.9%) were made up of individuals, and 54 (9.2%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.43. There were 397 families (67.9% of all households); the average family size was 2.82.

The population was spread out, with 256 people (18.0%) under the age of 18, 108 people (7.6%) aged 18 to 24, 260 people (18.3%) aged 25 to 44, 604 people (42.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 195 people (13.7%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.0 males.

There were 696 housing units at an average density of 36.2 per square mile (14.0/km2), of which 440 (75.2%) were owner-occupied, and 145 (24.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 9.4%. 1,086 people (76.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 337 people (23.7%) lived in rental housing units.

Local attractions

Local attractions include:

Local churches


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  2. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Descanso, California
  3. ^ Ted Couro and Christina Hutcheson (1973), Dictionary of Mesa Grande Diegueño, Malki Museum Press, Morongo Indian Reservation, Banning, California
  4. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 104.
  5. ^ Climate Summary for Descanso, California
  6. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  7. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Descanso CDP". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.