Picnic at Lake Sutherland in Ramona

How’d you survive our super hot Labor Day weekend, my friends? I got heat sickness, but luckily it was short lived. Monday was SO MUCH cooler! Jake and I ended up taking a last minute trip out to Julian and discovered a cool picnic spot on the way back home.

Iced Hazelnut Coffee at Dunkin Donuts

But first… on the way up to Julian we stopped at Dunkin Donuts. Mostly it was for a bathroom break for me, but I was also able to partake in a nice hazelnut iced coffee. They added a little too much cream… but it still tasted good and it was what I was in the mood for that morning.

Sout Cream Donut at Dunkin Donuts

They also had sour cream donuts! Usually I see the sour cream donuts in chocolate form. This is sort of like a softer buttermilk donut if you’ve never tried it before. 

Pioneer Cemetery - Julian, CA

It was in the upper 70s by the time we reached Julian. We went for a stroll down Main Street and I popped into a few shops. Mostly we were just there to walk around and enjoy the little mountainside town. It’s always weird to be in Julian when it’s warm since I usually only think to go in the colder months. We walked down a little further and discovered the Pioneer Cemetery on the far side of town.

Pioneer Cemetery - Julian, CA

Pioneer Cemetery history. 

Maya at Pioneer Cemetery - Julian, CA

I wanted to explore the cemetery but a) I can’t really go up stairs yet due to my knee and b) no dogs were allowed! Maya gets separation anxiety so I didn’t want her to whine and whine while I poked around. Next time!

Apple Cider from Mom's Pie House - Julian, CA

After we finished our walk through Julian, we stopped at Mom’s Pie House on the way out. I got a little bottle of Apple Cider [$4] for our picnic and some treats for later in the evening. The apple cider was quite tasty! It was much less sweet than other ciders/juices we’ve had so we suspect there is only apples in this sucker.  

Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

On the way to Julian, I spied a sign that said “Lake Sutherland” and wondered if there really was a lake. Jake suggested we head this way for our picnic and it turned out to be a great spot! 

There’s a windy road that leads you down to the lake. You can take the road all the way over to check out Sutherland Dam that’s on the far side. We went over there but I didn’t take any photos over on that side. 

I’m sure that Lake Sutherland benefited from our heavy rainfall earlier this year. I saw photos online of Lake Sutherland a few years ago on Hidden San Diego’s website and it barely looked like a lake anymore. Their photos show the lake at 9% capacity and my photos show Lake Sutherland at 46% capacity. Quite a difference! 

Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

The lake stretches out around the bend here and you can see a bit more water on the right. 

Construction for the dam began in 1927 but was halted the following year due to a lack of funding and a disagreement over the water rights. The project was abandoned until 1952 with an increase in population and manufacturing demands. Construction resumed and the legal and technical rights had been resolved. Ramona gets access to the water in Lake Sutherland but the city of San Diego gets first choice on water access. The dam finally opened 27 years later in June of 1954. 

The lake, dam, and road are named for John P. Sutherland, who was in real estate and insurance and also grew fruits and grains in the area where the lake is now located. It is said one reason why Sutherland is the namesake is that he had taken part in preliminary studies for the dam. Another story from local author Darrell Beck from his book, On Memory’s Back Trail, states that the naming of the dam was due to a kind gesture on Sutherland’s part. A civil engineer named Post was caught in a rainstorm and stopped into Sutherland’s office to dry off and record some papers. Sutherland gave Post some dry clothes and built him a fire to warm him up and dry off. Sutherland refused any pay for helping out Post and Post filed the record as “Survey of Sutherland Dam Site” as a tribute to Sutherland’s kindness. (source: Ramona Patch)

Picnic Area at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

We drove through the open gate and followed the path. There’s a building where you can rent permits for fishing. We drove past that. On the right there’s a little picnic area and that’s where we stopped for lunch. You can see Lake Sutherland peeking through the trees. 

Maya at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

There’s a big area here for picnicking. There are grills, too, so you can make hot food. Dogs are supposed to be on leash at all times. You see Maya on the leash, right? (wink wink)

Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

It was so peaceful here. And so quiet. We could hear the birds and nature and not much else since no one else was around. 

Picnic Lunch at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

Our picnic lunch!

We had 2 leftover pieces of corn on the cob. I cut the corn off the cob and added a little bit of chopped onions. I made a little dressing which consisted of rice vinegar, olive oil, a spoonful of homemade pesto, salt, and pepper. I mixed it and tossed it together. I cut up a few cherry tomatoes on the side to mix in with my corn since Jake doesn’t like tomatoes. The pasta is simply cold bow tie pasta, some extra Parmesan cheese, and my homemade pesto mixed in. Our warped looking sandwich is from Cali Baguette in Mira Mesa. I bought two sandwiches that day – one we ate for breakfast and a second one with only meat inside. That way their butter spread wouldn’t make the bread all soggy. 

We packed everything into a styrofoam container and put ice packs inside to keep everything cool until lunchtime. 

Corn Salad and Pesto Pasta

A pretty simple but tasty picnic lunch!

Picnic Area at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

Here’s a better view of the picnic area. There were three picnic tables on this side and I think two or three on the other side of this area.

Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

All of these little benches(?) had been taken apart. There was a large pile of wood with the remnants. We were guessing maybe it was all benches but we weren’t really sure. 

Bunny Rabbit at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

We even spied a few bunnies in the area. I kept Maya on the leash so she wouldn’t chase after the bunnies.

Maya - Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

I think she was still looking for the bunnies in this photo.

Fishing and Boating Dock at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

After lunch we drove down to check out the docks at Lake Sutherland.

Dock at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

This dock is next to the boat launching ramp.

Sutherland Dam at Lake Sutherland - Ramona, CA

A little closeup of the dam. This is a pretty nice spot and it’s great to see it filled with water! We saw two people fishing on our way out and a couple of people in work trucks. We also talked to a couple of people on motorcycles who were out exploring like us. Otherwise…. so nice and quiet! 

Lake Sutherland Directions

Chicken Pot Pie

When we were at Mom’s Pie House, I noticed they had chicken pot pies on the menu. You can get a 9 inch family sized pie, or these smaller 5 inch “cutie” pot pies. I got three of these, one for me, one for Jake, and one for Jake’s mom. 

Chicken Pot Pie

They were so darling! I loved there’s a little chicken on top of the crust, too. The pie dough is the same as the ones they use for the sweet pies and it tasted wonderful. The filling had a good mix of vegetables and chicken inside. Jake wished it had a little bit more filling inside, but these were a hearty meal for dinner. The mini pies are $5.95 each. 

Cherry Apple Pie

For dessert I got an Apple Cherry Crumb pie [$15.95]. I wanted to try something a little bit different! Jake commented it tasted a bit like cherry applesauce. The bottom of the pie is a bit softer than I like it to be – I like it when it’s firmer and crispier. But the filling was quite good. We think we might prefer Julian Apple Pie after all. 

All in all it was a fun little trip to the countryside! 

Author: Mary

Mary is a San Diego native and has been a food blogger for 11+ years. She is an avid reader, a lover of puppies, and loves trying new food. Foods she loves: sweets, peanut butter, pasta, Triscuit crackers with cream cheese, and extra nuts on top of her sundaes. Food she dislikes: pickles, really spicy food, runny eggs, olives, and too much arugula.

2 Replies to “Picnic at Lake Sutherland in Ramona

    1. Jake’s pretty good about going off the beaten path and exploring. I don’t know if I would ventured down this road if he didn’t encourage it! I had no idea this lake was here, either, despite passing the sign for it many times over the years.

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