Rancho Guejito is a true hidden gem, quietly sitting as both the largest and oldest business in San Diego County! Established in 1845, it is spread out over 22,000 acres; a footprint slightly smaller than the size of the entire city of Escondido. This article is specifically covering the rancho has a whole, but please note that they have a lovely winery open to the public on the weekends as well!
We got the opportunity to tour the property by helicopter and although I was a little freaked out at the idea, I was NOT going to pass this opportunity up! The ranch begins right after Safari Park and ends at the base of Palomar Mountain. It is MASSIVE!
Viewing the land from this perspective was spectacular. We got to witness what San Diego looked like thousands of years ago before development took hold.
Much of the land at Rancho Guejito still sits in a pristine, untouched condition. The ranch is diverse in landscape with creeks, waterfalls, valleys and mountains.
After getting dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere, we were greeted by the ranch’s COO/General Counsel Hank Rupp who gave us an off-roading tour of the property. Let’s just say it was quite an adventure!
The Rancho was a frequent meeting place for the Kumeyaay and Cupeño tribes and at least one village site has been found on the property.
Archaeologist Steve Freers has had many remarkable findings which include pictographs, artifacts & discoveries from both the tribes and early settlers of the property.
There are multiple historic ruins including the Maxcy Winery, which was the original winery on the property. Maxcy ran his vineyard from 1852-1910, growing mission grapes to make his wine.
Unfortunately, many of the historic buildings on the rancho, including the winery, were destroyed in the Witch Creek Fire that devastated the region in 2007.
Maxcy Adobe from 1940
Rancho Guejito has been primarily a cattle ranch since the mid-1800’s. They sell amazing meat boxes through their website which I highly recommend. If you are going to choose to eat meat, I passionately believe that it should be done in a humane way.
All of life is precious and once you see behind-the-scenes of how the animals are usually treated, it is truly horrifying. Not at Rancho Guejito though.
As COO Hank told me, “If tomorrow you woke up a cow, you would want to be a Rancho Guejito cow”. They live free-range, happily grazing and hanging out with their friends until the end.
I know we all have our own opinions on meat and whether you should eat it or not. For those that do consume beef, I cannot recommend this company enough. I myself started eating meat again recently after being pescatarian for the past 20 years. I chose to do so to help with gut issues + the high protein requirements while pregnant and nursing.
I hadn’t been able to eat beef though until I tried Rancho Guejito’s. I would occasionally do a little taste of beef and always say “nope!”. This is the best steak I have ever had in my life though. The flavor of the meat is truly reflective of the treatment of the cows!
If you can afford it, pay the little extra for the best meat ever and know you’re supporting a great company who treats their cows humanely. Learn more about their meat boxes here.
Here are a few important facts I learned while visiting the ranch about meat:
Beyond beef, they also wholesale citrus and avocados to vendors such as Whole foods.
You may be wondering why this rancho is the sole surviving property of its kind of the original land grants. That is because of the tenacity of its owner and their desire to preserve the land. The pressure to develop land in California has been repeatedly applied to Rancho Guejito.
They continue to be the subject of periodic misinformation campaigns that result either in lawsuits over minor work done on the property, or attempts to acquire the property through the condemnation and eminent domain process. In every case, the owners have beaten back those actions.
Rancho Guejito truly needs a book of its own (which I was told is in the making). This article I have written is only scraping the surface of such a multi-faceted property. Each landowner brought its own stories and flair to the property and bits and pieces of their legacy lives on through ruins and stories.
Getting to tour such an important piece of land by helicopter will always be ingrained in my memory. It was such a special experience!
We got to have lunch at the Main Hacienda which was phenomenal ( I will be including photos of the exterior below and please note you can tour it yourself through their Rove the Ranch tour).
All in all, Rancho Guejito completely stole my heart and I hope more than anything that it stays protected until the end of time!