Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Julian, CA

  • Published 2022/08/05

Julian is a popular and dynamic town in Southern California.

Located near big cities like San Diego and Los Angeles, this small town is as lively as its neighbors.

The town has a very charming aura and attracts a lot of visitors each year.

Julian also has a number of historical attractions, mining sites, beautiful shops, and naturally abundant spots.

It is also world-famous for its apples, as more than seven varieties of apples are grown in its orchards using traditional methods.

This charming town is not only great for long vacations but also for short, sweet weekend getaways.

Here are the best things to do in Julian, California:

Go Fishing at Lake Cuyamaca

Scenic view of Lake Cuyamaca

Colorful Moments /

Lake Cuyamaca was created in the year 1888 as a result of the construction of the Cuyamaca Dam, which is one of the oldest operational dams in California.

Spanning almost 110-acres, the lake is a perfect place for recreational activities.

The lake surrounds Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, which makes it a very suitable place for activities like fishing.

Lake Cuyamaca is heavily loaded with different types of fish, such as trout, Florida bass, catfish, bluegill, sturgeon, and more.

Wooden dock at Lake Cuyamaca

Rosamar /

Due to its fish population, the place is always filled with fishermen.

It also boasts a nice and well-maintained campground.

A small store, cafe, and tackle shop on the lake site are additional perks that make visits to this lake very comfortable.

There are also several hiking trails nearby, so the lake area is perfect for exploring the surrounding wilderness.

A boat on the waters of Lake Cuyamaca

Rosamar /

Observe Majestic Wild Wolves at California Wolf Center

A vast area dedicated entirely to the recovery and preservation of wolves, California Wolf Center is more of a wolf sanctuary.

The center provides a home for a large number of grey wolves, North American grey wolves, and a few breeds of Mexican grey wolves.

Some of the wolves are also part of the educational programs devised by the center.

The visitors are allowed to observe these animals and their activities on a day-to-day basis and understand their behavior patterns in normal life.

This helps the people to connect with them in a better manner and reduce the factor of fear.

All these contribute to increasing the interest of humankind in wolves and their conservation in the wild.

The center offers a very natural and healthy environment for the inhabiting wolves so that they can live and grow without any challenges.

California Wolf Center is also famous as the biggest breeding center for Mexican Gray wolves in the United States.

Fall in Love with Breathtaking Nature at the Santa Ysabel East Preserve

Open space at Santa Ysabel East Preserve

Sholmes370 /

An unbelievably beautiful and scenic mountain nature sanctuary, the Santa Ysabel East Preserve is located between hills, oak woodlands, and grasslands loaded with wildflowers.

This preserve is spread over 3,800 acres and is a haven for natural adventures like biking, hiking, and equestrian activities.

It has beautiful and well-maintained trails spread over an area of 18.5 miles with a great elevation, which are perfect for light adventurous activities.

In addition to well-groomed paths, these trails are home to a wide variety of plants and animals.

The Santa Ysabel East Preserve has a few picnic tables and is perfect for spending some time in the lap of nature.

Explore the Hiking Trails at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve

Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve is located on the slopes of Volcan Mountain.

This nature preserve was established to protect Volcan Mountain and the diverse habitats in the nearby area.

It is spread over an area of 2,900 acres of evergreen forests, oak woodlands, and deserts.

The preserve has great hiking trails that lead to the Volcan Mountain summit.

The entire journey results in spectacular and unbelievable views of the surrounding landscape.

There are a large number of picnic areas, viewpoints, and hiking tours arranged by rangers for a more fulfilling experience of the preserve.

Step Back in Time at the Julian Pioneer Museum

Exterior of Julian Pioneer Museum

Seauton, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Julian Pioneer Museum is a great place to experience traveling back in time and get an insight into the life of people living in small towns like Julian.

The museum is located in an old blacksmith shop from the 1800s and is one of the town’s important attractions.

It provides a visual insight into the lives of Americans, their practices of mining gold, and the development of agriculture over time.

Its extensive collection includes articles of Native American clothing, historical artifacts, mining equipment, Victorian pianos, equipment used for transportation like sleighs and buggies, and historically eminent photographs.

The Julian Pioneer Museum is also surrounded by a park, which is quite a famous spot for picnicking in Julian.

Explore Julian’s World-Famous Apple Orchards

Apple orchards in Julian

Manuela Durson /

A visit to the town of Julian is not complete getting to taste its apples and visit its apple orchards.

One of the best ways to experience Julian’s true essence is to go apple picking in any of the town’s apple orchards.

The season for picking these organically and naturally grown apples is relatively short and changes yearly.

So, to make sure that you visit on time, refer to the orchards’ official websites.

Apple Starr Orchard is the perfect place to go if you are looking forward to picking some organic apples and additional treats like pears.

The trees have long branches, so younger family members can also participate in apple picking.

Calico Ranch Orchard is one of the oldest apple orchards in Julian.

Apple orchard at Julian

travelingdani /

Established back in the 1930s, this orchard also sells fresh and extremely delicious cider.

Julian Farm & Orchard is a dynamic orchard whose produce is not only limited to apples.

This farm is great for picking other fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and more.

Julian Farm & Orchard also features fun amenities like a zoo, archery ranges, hayride offerings, and ax-throwing events.

Orchards are fulfilling places and will make you feel lively with all the lush and colorful vegetation around.

Visiting an orchard is a must when traveling to Julian, California.

Taste the Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pies at the Julian Pie Company

Julian pie company

David Lafontaine /

Apples are not the only blessing to the town of Julian.

The town is also famous for its apple pies, which are best served warm and are great for fulfilling your sweet cravings.

The Julian Pie Company is one place that attracts a lot of visitors to this small town.

They are famous for their delicious, melt-in-your-mouth pies.

The pie company also offers a lot of other flavors, such as crumb and chicken pot pie, peach apple crumb, and more.

A slice of apple pie in Julian Pie Company

RightCowLeftCoast, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to pies, the bakery also sells cookies, donuts, ice cream, and apple cider vinegar.

Everything served at this place is mouth-watering.

The place is also dog-friendly, so you can take your pets along with you.

You can also purchase your pies for takeout and enjoy them with your family and friends.

The Julian Pie Company is definitely a must-visit when you’re in town.

Signage of Julian Pie Company

David Lafontaine /

Bite into the Delicious Apple Pies at Mom’s Pie House

A box of Mom’s pies

Rosamar /

Mom’s Pie House is the place to visit if you are looking forward to having not very fancy but basic apple pies—the type that taste like the ones your mom used to bake for you when you were little.

This place serves a variety of delicious apple-based menu items such as apple dumplings, apple crumbs, and apple boysenberry.

The reasonably priced and traditionally cooked pies at Mom’s Pie House are the perfect treat for you and your loved ones.

Tour Julian’s Famous Gold Mines with the Eagle Mining Co.

Mining was a very famous activity in the town of Julian.

Even though it only ran for a short span, from 1870 to 1900, the history of gold mining is still rich in the area.

Eagle Mining Co. is a service provider that offers tours to various gold mines in Julian.

The tours mainly involve visiting various museums, underground tunnels, and gold panning areas.

Eagle Mine and High Point Mine are the most famous in town.

They are famous and well-restored gold mines that allow visitors to explore their original tunnels and pan gold.

The guides will help you understand the detailed process of mining.

The mine tours are pretty popular among tourists and are definitely worth checking out.

Treat Your Palate to Julian Wine & Chocolate’s Delicious Flavors

Julian Wine & Chocolate is a small yet beautiful wine bar located in Julian’s restored historic station.

In addition to delicious wines, the place is also known for their handmade chocolates.

The wines at the bar are carefully chosen and produced by Californian artists for the unique labels.

You can try the wines at the bar or buy a bottle to take home with you.

Their wines can always be paired with their chocolates for an enhanced taste.

Dine with the Family at Miner’s Diner

Exterior of Miner’s Diner

Rosamar /

An old-fashioned diner in Julian, Miner’s Diner is located in a historic brick structure that was established in 1886 and is the oldest building in the town.

The building has been restored, but many of the artifacts and original pieces were kept in the same form and used in the decoration of this diner.

Miner’s Diner has wooden display cabinets and unopened bottles of medicine, which give it a very quaint and antique look.

The place serves a wide variety of shakes, ice cream, malts, sodas, and comfort food like sandwiches and burgers.

It also has a version of a candy mine where kids can get their favorite candies.

Definitely a must-visit restaurant in Julian, Miner’s Diner is a great place to go for a satisfying meal.

Drink Ice-Cold Beers at Nickel Beer Company

A very popular spot among Julian’s locals and visitors, Nickel Beer Company serves the best beer in town.

The company’s brewery and taproom are housed in a wooden green building, giving the whole place a magnificent and rich look.

Nickel Beer Company has 16 beer taps that serve a variety of beers with different seasonal and regular flavors.

The place is always enchanted with great live music performed by local bands, making it a perfect place for casually hanging out with friends and family.

Browse through the Books at Julian Book House

Julian Book House is a charming bookstore and the perfect attraction for all book lovers visiting the town.

This little bookstore was originally a house that was converted into a bookstore.

The entire environment is quite old, and the smell of old books is always present.

The books are neatly and alphabetically organized in beautiful stacks, which makes it easier for the visitors to reach for them.

Julian Book House’s titles are also reasonably priced.

In addition to the usual books you’ll see in other stores, Julian Book House also has some rare editions that you can purchase for a few extra bucks.

Apart from buying the books, you can also read them while you’re in the store.

This little bookstore is definitely going to steal any bookworm’s heart.

Shop for Souvenirs at Julian’s Local Boutiques

The town has a number of beautiful gift shops that sell not only antique and unique gifts but also locally produced items.

Julian has excellent offerings for antique collectors.

If you are looking for some antique glassware, quilts, toys, tools, and other items, check out Wynola Junction Antiques & Collectibles.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in purchasing cheap yet good-quality souvenirs for gifting, check out The Warm Hearth of Julian.

The place sells locally produced gems, sauces, coffee, jellies, and other items.

Crow and Lilac is a perfect place for buying beauty and body products like soaps, body scrubs, and lotions.

The quality of all these products is top-notch, and the prices are reasonable.

Catch Sight of the Milky Way and Other Celestial Bodies

If you are amazed by beautiful skies, Julian has got you covered.

The town’s skies are quite dark and aren’t greatly affected by pollution; as a result, the Milky Way can be seen from here.

In addition, visitors can also see other stars and planets in the beautiful night sky.

If you are interested in taking up this adventure, join the Julian Dark Sky Network and find yourself in an altogether different universe.

This breathtaking experience is a gift that you should definitely give yourself.

Visit the Taste Room of Volcan Mountain Winery

Located at the foot of the magnificent Volcan Mountain lie the family-run winery and vineyard known as Volcan Mountain Winery.

The historic town center of Julian, which had its beginnings in the 1870s gold rush, is just a short 2-mile picturesque drive from its tasting facility, winery, vineyard, and orchard.

The winery’s scenery is relaxing and romantic, making it a fantastic spot to unwind.

Given their proximity to the town and distinct ambiance, this winery’s tasting room and vineyard are fascinating Julian sights to check out.

When you visit their tasting room, sample their exquisite wines.

Engage in Outdoor Activities at William Heise County Park

The 929-acre William Heise County Park is next to the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and the Laguna Mountains range.

It is a peaceful park with hiking paths, RV and tent campsites, simple cottages, restrooms, and hot showers.

This large county park is renowned for its numerous campsites and excellent hiking, bicycling, and equestrian riding routes.

From here, you may participate in some of Julian’s free activities, like stargazing and birdwatching.

Go hiking, mountain biking, or park walking to fully immerse yourself in nature.

Taste Well-Loved Pies at Julian Pie Company

Julian is surrounded by apple orchards and attracts visitors partly because of its apple pies.

The Julian Pie Company is the greatest spot to buy a delicious pie.

Their apple pies feature a fantastic crust that melts in your mouth and is puffy, crunchy, and tasty.

In addition, they sell cookies, doughnuts, delicious ice creams, local cider, and a variety of pies, including chicken pot pie and peach apple crumbs.

There is a nice terrace in front of the shop and outback with shaded trees where you may dine.

Additionally, they provide frozen pies that customers can bake whenever they’re at home.

See Various Animals at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Welcome sign of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Autumn Sky Photography /

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is a well-known state park in the Peninsular Ranges Cuyamaca and the Laguna Mountains, 64 kilometers east of San Diego.

Due to the area’s elevated height compared to its surroundings, meadows, and streams are found on the park’s 26,000 acres of pine, fir, and oak woods.

View of stonewall peak at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

dlhca /

The second-highest point in San Diego County, 6,512-foot Cuyamaca Peak, is located within the park.

The park is home to various animals, birds, reptiles, and amphibian species.

Trail camping, campsites, mountain bike trails, hiking trails, and an exhibit at the Stonewall Mine, a historic gold mine, are some of the park’s facilities.

Summit of stonewall peak at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Kevin Key /

Go on a Date at Menghini Winery

The Menghini Winery is located approximately three miles from the town center at the foot of Volcan Mountain.

Apple orchards and approximately six-acre vineyards surround the winery.

They provide sizable picnic areas with breathtaking 365-degree views of the surrounding area.

Each year, Menghini Winery cranks out about 4,000 cases of wine.

This little vineyard is a nice setting for a date, thanks to the wide area and fresh air near an apple orchard.

Final Thoughts

Julian, a quaint little town nestled in a lush setting between the Cuyamaca and Volcan Mountains, is a short drive from San Diego.

Even though Julian may not be the biggest and most advanced town in the country, it nevertheless contains sights that tourists will love seeing.

Julian is filled with beautifully preserved old homes used as museums and restaurants.

While Julian’s orchards are a well-known cider producer and apple pies are sold in nearby bakeries, the stunning Cuyamaca Mountains provide paths and breathtaking vistas.

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