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East County refers to the communities in the eastern part of San Diego County in Southern California, namely those of Alpine, El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee and Spring Valley. Unlike the coastal western portion of the county, which is famed for its sun and beaches and sits at a very low elevation, the eastern part is more rural and diverse, with mountains, lake, and canyons.
El Cajon, with more than 100,000 residents, is the largest city in East County and as such is home to the most amenities in the region, including many businesses, the Grossmont Hospital and the Scripps Hospital East County, and several higher education institutions, like Grossmont College, Cuyamaca College and the San Diego Christian College. La Mesa and Santee are the area's second cities, with a population of around 55,000 each.
The area is home to the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, plus countless smaller local and community park,s and it is home to several Native American tribes. Both the Ewiiaapaayp Band and Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Native Americans have their headquarters in Alpine, and there are several Native American-owned and operated casinos in the region. The year-round temperate climate makes the region a favorite among golfers, and dozens of courses line the region. The San Diego Trolley has its eastern terminus in Santee, which also features a large shopping area for departing passengers to explore.
There are countless events and festivals held throughout the year in the region, from an annual rodeo to "Back to the '50s" car show and an Oktoberfest to several varieties of winter holiday celebrations. Though having a quite different feel from western San Diego County, most East County areas are situated well within just a few miles of major freeways or interstates, ensuring downtown San Diego and some of the world's best beaches, are only minutes away by car.