Descanso is a small census-designated place in the Mountain Empire area of southeastern San Diego County, California and part of California's 52nd congressional district. Descanso is located east of Alpine and west of Pine Valley. The population was 1,423 at the 2010 census.
The community's name is a Spanish word meaning a place of rest. 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.