The long-gone Willows Resort was promoted in this great brochure preserved at UC San Diego’s digital collection, showing off what was a long-running vacation spot on U.S. 80 east of Alpine.

Love that 1920s artwork, the cars and the people shown in what was the spa of its day, when folks and families wanted to get back to nature and their simple roots. Even in those days, it was close enough for a weekend visit or a day trip from San Diego.

“The Willows is an all-year-round mountain resort at an elevation of 2,200 feet, thirty-three miles from San Diego, on the paved State highway from San Diego to the Imperial Valley,” reads the brochure.

“The Willows is not a hotel, but a place for folks who seek restful recreation, solid comfort, modern conveniences and good wholesome food.”

Map to The Willows, east of Alpine. Courtesy UC San Diego Library Digital Collections.
Map to The Willows, east of Alpine. Courtesy UC San Diego Library Digital Collections.

Travelers on Interstate 8 probably know the place… it’s namesake road, once the “paved State highway,” is Willows Road. The two Willows Road exits off of Interstate 8 east of Alpine are today known as the location of the big Viejas Casino and Resort, run by the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians.

By the time the casino opened, the resort was a shadow of its former self, chopped off by Interstate 8 on the south end. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe its remains are now the Alpine Springs RV Park, just southeast of the casino. It’s along my Towering Old Highway chapter in Joyrides Around San Diego.

Back in the 20s, it was still run by its original family.

“For many years, the Walker family have kept open house, developing the resort from their own home, and continually enlarging and adding to it, to meet the demands of its increasing popularity,” the brochure says.

A couple of articles out there document the history… an Alpine Historical Society article and the obituary of Donald Walker, one of the family members.


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