Visiting Julian, California: What to See and Do

Julian has apple pie, mountains and more small-town fun

You'll find a lot of apples and small-town fun in Julian, California
Calin Niculescu/EyeEm/Getty Images

Where is Julian?

Julian is located 60 miles northeast of San Diego situated between the northern end of the Cuyamaca Mountains and the southern slope of Volcan Mountain, west the Anza Borrego desert. Depending on traffic and which route you take, it is about a 60-90 minute drive from central San Diego.

Why is Julian worth a visit?

Julian is a quaint mountain town that offers San Diegans a taste of the rural, mountain lifestyle that we aren't usually exposed to. For those of us used to surf, sand and palm trees, it gives us a chance to experience oak and pine forests and fresh mountain air.

Why the name Julian and what is its history?

Civil war veterans, displaced by the war, traveled west in search of a place to start a new life. Among these were cousins Drue Bailey and Mike Julian, who found a lush meadow between Volcan Mountain and the Cuyamacas to their liking. That same year gold was discovered in a small creek by Fred Coleman. It was San Diego County's first and only gold rush. The town was named Julian, in honor of Mike, who later was elected San Diego County Assessor.

What is produced in Julian today?

When the mining died out, settlers turn to the land for their livelihood. The mountain weather proved to be ideal for apples, and orchards cropped up around the town. Today, Julian is famous for its apples and the pies and cider that the fruit produces. This helps the town to do a healthy tourist business.

Does it snow in Julian?

Julian is one of the main spots in San Diego County that residents head to when there is snow. Once word gets out that it's snowing in Julian, then it's likely there's snow in the entire mountain area. At 4,235 feet, Julian’s high elevation provides clean air, blue skies and four distinct seasons. The first cold spell of fall prompts a blanket of color as the trees prepare for a winter of gentle snowfalls. Sledding and snowball fun add to the season’s activities.

What is there to do in Julian?

Other than being simply a nice place to visit, you can roam the small village center and shop in the antique shops and other merchants. You can take in the surrounding scenery by hiking or horseback. You can enjoy the historic sites around town. You can spend the weekend and just relax at one of the several bed and breakfasts or inns. You can pick your own apples in one of the local orchards or taste wine at the local wineries. And you must buy a locally baked apple pie.

Are local apples used in Julian pies?

Fall (September through November) is apple season in Julian. This is the time when local apples are typically used in Julian apple pies. It's also an ideal time to visit one of the local orchards to pick your own apples (check the Julian Chamber of Commerce website for orchard listings) or buy locally produced apple cider.

How do I get to Julian?

From the San Diego areas: take I-8 East to Highway 67 (toward Ramona). 67 turns into 78 in Ramona, follow to Julian, or take I-8 East to 79 (through the Cuyamaca State Park) to Julian. From the L.A. and Orange County areas: take 5 or 15 South to 76 East to 79, turn right to 78/79 (Santa Ysabel) turn left to Julian, or take 5 or 15 South to 78 East to Julian.

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