Best Things to Do in Julian California
Julian California is a quaint mountain town known for its apple pie, wineries, and apple orchards. But Julian is so much more than that. It was established in the 1870s when the gold rush started. People flocked here back then in search of gold and that’s when the first mine was established. After that, James Madison planted a flock of Apple trees and that is why today Julian is famous for their apple pies.
Julian is located in the Cuyamaca mountains in San Diego county. It is approximately one hour from downtown San Diego. Which makes for the perfect day trip! Visitors can also enjoy beautiful hikes, fresh mountain air, and small-town charm. Below I’m listing the best things to do in Julian to make your visit flawless.
Indulge in the famous Julian Apple Pie
If you go to Julian and don’t try the famous Apple Pie you are simply doing it wrong. It’s their claim to fame so make sure to pick up a slice or an entire pie to bring home. The most famous pie shops are Mom’s pies and Julian Pie Company. You can’t go wrong with either! For a locals tip, if the Mom’s Pie shop on the main street is busy, take a quick 10-minute drive outside of the main street to visit their second location. It’s always way less busy and has more of the famous pies in stock.
Tour an old Gold Mine
As I wrote earlier the reason why Julian was discovered is because of the Gold Rush in the 1870s. You can visit a small piece of history by touring a gold mine in Julian. There are a few locations that offer tours. Eagle Mining Co is located just off Main Street and the tours last 1 hour while you learn about old mining practices and history. Another option for a mining tour is Julian Mining Company.
Explore Main Street
Main Street is a quaint street located in the center of Julian town. It houses shops, restaurants, breweries, and antique stores. Plan to spend at least an hour exploring this little gem. Stop into Miner’s Diner, a retro-inspired diner for delicious home-cooked meals and retro artifacts lining the walls. There is even a small toy train that chugs around the perimeter of the restaurant. Finally, the library and post office located before Main Street are adorable buildings to visit as they remind me of a Wes Anderson film.
Visit a Julian Winery
Julian’s terrain is mountainous and dry which makes for the perfect environment for winemaking. Because of this, there are quite a few wineries to check out in Julian. Our favorite is Volcan Mountain Winery. It opened in 2015 and is set at the base of Volcan Mountain. With a tasting room, orchard, and vineyard this picturesque place is a great way to spend an afternoon. They encourage you to bring your own food and picnic on the grounds. Finally, make sure to try the apple cider.
other wineries to visit:
- Menghini Winery: nestled in the foothills of Volcan Mountain this winery is the 2nd oldest winery in San Diego. It’s surrounded by apple orchards and also allows you to bring your own provisions for a picnic on the grounds.
- Storum Ranch Cider & Wine: Opened its first tasting room in 2021, Storum is surrounded by an apple orchard of over 3000 trees in over 60 different varieties, along with 300 grape vines, and gorgeous mountain views.
- Blue Door Winery: Located in Downtown Julian, this winery is housed in an old livery stable and offers tastings 12 pm – 5 pm every day.
Visit a Brewery
Julian Beer Co is a laid-back brewery located on Main street. They have indoor and outdoor seating and specialize in delicious BBQ favorites, pizza, and handcrafted beers. There is also live music here some days and this spot is dog-friendly.
Check out Julian Pioneer Museum
Visit the Julian Pioneer Museum for a stroll back through history. This quaint museum offers artifacts from pioneer life. Showcasing pieces that paint the town’s history. It’s housed in an old blacksmith building from the 1860s. Finally, they are open Friday to Sunday 10 am to 4 pm.
Take a Hike
Three Sisters Falls: This hike is 4.1 miles out and back and leads to three cascading waterfalls and a swimming area. It is not for the faint of heart and can be quite treacherous. The trail offers no shade so don’t plan on doing this hike during a high-heat day. The three sisters’ falls hike takes roughly 2 hours to complete. Finally, to reach the trailhead you need to drive on a dirt road for a bit and parking is limited.
William Heise County Park: Situated 4200 feet above sea level this 900-acre park is located in the Laguna Mountain range. With beautiful forests of oak, cedar, and pine trees, and endless meadows. There are over 11 miles of scenic hiking trails as well as camping and ranger lead activities. Parking costs $3. You can learn more by visiting the William Heise County website.
Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve: Volcan mountain wilderness offers 2900 acres of preserve and forest. You can hike to the summit of Volcan Mountain for sweeping views of the sea and surrounding mountains. The main trail is located on Farmers Road and is a 5-mile roundtrip hike.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park: This state park offers beautiful hiking and camping in an oak woodland forest. There are over 100 miles of trails that accommodate not only hikers but bikers and equestrians as well. The most popular hikes start from the Paso Picacho campground. Stonewall peak is 2 miles and Cuyamaca peak is a 3.5-mile hike. Both offer breathtaking views of the desert and Lake Cuyamaca.
Visit the California Wolf Center
Did you know Julian has a wolf center dedicated to rehabilitating wolves to their natural environment? Well, now you do! It’s called the California Wolf Center and it’s located in Julian. They aim to advance human-wolf coexistence and help save the Mexican gray wolf species by breeding wolves. You can take a tour of the grounds and learn all about this organization and the great things they are doing.
Go Apple Picking (seasonal)
During the fall season (September + October) you can go apple picking in Julian. It’s the perfect fall activity for everyone to enjoy. Although most of the time the temperatures can still be very warm during these months, so leave the sweaters and boots at home. Finally, there are many orchards that offer this service. Below I’m sharing the top orchards to visit:
Volcan Valley Apple Farm: The best u-pick farm in my opinion with over 8,000 trellis-grown apple trees and 6 different varieties of apples. They are open Friday – Sunday during the fall season. The cost is $15 per bag which holds 6 lbs with no entry fee. Children under 5 are free.
Peacefield Orchard: situated on 2.5 acres of land Peacefield orchard is home to over 200 apple trees. They are only open on the weekends during the season. You can pick red and golden delicious apples and granny smith. The cost is $20 per 1/2 peck size bag (roughly 8-10 apples) and no entry fee. Check their website for opening dates.
Julian Mining Company: Offering U-pick apples during the fall season along with gold mining tours, fall activities, and a train ride for kids to enjoy. The cost is $18 per bag with a $3 entry fee.
Crosscut Farm & Orchard: Cost $20 per 1/2 peck bag and $5 entry fee.
Visit Lake Cuyamaca
Lake Cuyamaca is a peaceful lake surrounded by a 110-acre reservoir. You can visit for the day and enjoy the scenery or choose to fish, camp, boat, or indulge in birdwatching. They also have cabins for rent so you can stay a while. It’s very serene and offers beautiful fall foliage during the months of November. You can find more information on their website including a live lake web cam.
Drive to Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Anza Borrego Desert state park is the largest state park in California and is only a 30-minute drive from Julian. The park offers sweeping desert views with plenty of hiking trails including a slot canyon hike. Along with that, visit Galleta Meadows a sprawling desert sculpture park with over 130 iron sculptures of animals. It’s such a unique spot. They can be a bit difficult to find so make sure to check out this website for more information.
Well, there you have it fam! Thank you for reading my “12 Amazing Things to Do in Julian California”. I hope you enjoy visiting this charming mountain town and don’t forget to check out more of my California Guides.
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