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JULIAN DAY TRIPS FROM SAN DIEGO

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THE ULTIMATE DAY TRIP TO JULIAN, CA

Now I know the city of San Diego is considered to be “America’s Finest City,” however sometimes you may want to experience what is just outside of this city. Maybe you are looking to see some Fall leaves or maybe you even want to see some snow! Well, there are some amazing day trips that are only about an hour away. One of the best day trips from San Diego is Julian. 

Julian day trips from San Diego

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

WHAT IS JULIAN, CA?

Julian is a cute little gold mine town that creates for the perfect day or even a weekend escape from San Diego. You will totally get the small-town vibes from here. Don’t expect to be staying up partying all night as this town heads to bed around 8 pm. 

However, if you are looking for the perfect day date, weekend getaway or girls day then head to Julian, CA. People started visiting Julian way back in the 1800s hoping to find gold. As the gold rush century came to an end the people ended up staying and have now made this into a charming and quaint little town. 

WHERE IS JULIAN LOCATED AND HOW TO GET THERE? 

Julian, CA is located in the Laguna mountains just about 9 miles from Lake Cuyamaca. It sits at an elevation of 4,200 ft. Julian is about a 1hr 15min drive East of San Diego, therefore this makes it one of the best day trips from San Diego. 

From San Diego, you will follow signs for the I-8 East towards El Centro. Take exit 40 for CA-79 N toward Julian. You will be on this road for about 23 miles. Turn left on Main St. to arrive in the town of Julian.

WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN JULIAN?

You may be asking, when is the best time to visit Julian? Honestly, there is never a bad time to visit Julian. If you are looking for seasons in San Diego then this is the place to be. You can experience every type of weather in Julian depending on the time you visit. Read below for more detailed information on seasonal weather in Julian, CA. 

Spring-Springtime is one of the quieter seasons in Julian, so if you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life then head to Julian in the spring. 

Summer-This is the perfect time to bring a picnic basket up to Julian and enjoy the day outside in the warm weather air. 

Fall-Enjoy all the fun Fall activities. You can experience jumping in the beautiful Fall leaves, go apple picking, and enjoy the crisp and cold nights.

Winter-Enjoy hiking in the snow or sledding down some small mountains. Makes sure to check the weather prior to going to see if you need to prepare for snow or not.

JULIAN DAY TRIPS FROM SAN DIEGO: THINGS TO DO

According to the main Julian website,  “the town of Julian features a number of events throughout the year.

1. HIKING IN JULIAN, CA

There are a numerous amount of hiking trails around Julian, but the most scenic one would have to be Stonewall Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. This is the perfect hike for adults and kids. It is 4 miles roundtrip and has a steady but do-able incline. The trail is well maintained and offers great views from the top. 

hiking trails Julian, CA

Check out this hiking page for a complete list of all the hikes around Julian, California. You can find anything from a small 0.75-mile loop to an 8-mile hike.

2. JULIAN, CA APPLE PICKING  

There are plenty of apple orchards to visit, but I personally recommend you go to Apple Starr orchards. This orchard offers quite a variety of apples for you to pick. Sometimes they even have pear trees for you to pick from.

Come visit this orchard in the Fall seasons when the apples are nice and ripe. The majority of the trees have low branches so that the children can pick the apples too. What I love about this orchard is they use organic products only. Don’t forget to bring cash as this place is cash only.

Here is a list of more apple orchards if you prefer to go somewhere else.

3. WALK AROUND TOWN

As stated before, Julian is a very cute and quaint town. Make sure to spend some time walking up and down the old historic town. Visit the cute antique and local craft shops, taste-test the hot apple cider, and enjoy a beautiful day outside. 

You can pick up a self-guided tour map at the Chamber of Commerce office at the Town Hall. 

4. VISIT THE CALIFORNIA WOLF CENTER

You may not know this, but wolves have almost gone extinct in the United States. The California Wolf Center is working on recovering these endangered animals. They are dedicated to creating communities where the wolves and livestock can share the same landscape.

Enjoy a two-hour educational presentation and guided observation of the wolves. The cost of the tour is $20 and they do require a reservation in advance. I personally highly recommend this tour. It was such a fun and educational experience. 

5. GO STARGAZING

Geek out of seeing the night stars. This is a perfect activity for the kids. The Observer’s Inn offers sky tours for $30 per person. You will be able to observe the moon, comets, planets and much more through their large telescopes. If you don’t want to pay this fee then just head outside at night and take a lookup. Julian is a great place to see the Milky Way.

6. FIND SOME GOLD 

The town of Julian became popular during the gold rush era; therefore, there are some old gold mines that you can walkthrough. Head to the Eagle Mining Co. to tour two of Julian’s original gold mines. You will be lead through rock tunnels as you hear stories of what life was like in the gold rush.

If you are looking to pan for some gold then head to the Julian Mining Company. Here you can pan for real gold, visit the farm animal and see old mining equipment. 

WHERE TO EAT IN JULIAN

1. JULIAN GRILLE

This is an affordable sit-down dinner place. The vibe is perfect and cozy. I ordered a hamburger and fries and my husband ordered the salmon. Per my husband, “this is one of the best salmon meals I have ever had.” And that is saying a lot because I can cook a mean salmon 😉

This restaurant is actually a cottage that was built in the 1920’s. It was a residence until the 1980’s and was then became a deli. In 1989 it became the Julian Grille. Reservations are not needed, but they are recommended. This place is also dog-friendly. 

2. JULIAN BEER COMPANY 

There are actually quite a few beer companies in Julian, but this one, in particular, is my favorite. I recommend getting a flight of beers so that you can try all the fun different flavors. They do offer food here as well, including some delicious pizza!

best places to eat in julian ca

3. REGULARS WANTED

If you are a coffee or breakfast lover then this is the perfect place for you. This place opens early in the morning. Prepare for it to be a little crowded. 

4. MOMS PIES OR JULIAN CAFE AND BAKERY

Julian apple pie company

You can’t leave town without getting a classic Julian apple pie. Mom’s pies in Julian are the most popular place to get a pie, but the line is always crazy long. I recommend heading to the Julian cafe and bakery just across the street and getting an apple crumble pie. You won’t wait in a long line and the pie is just as delicious! 

5. JULIAN DELI AND MARKET 

If you are looking for some snacks or a sandwich to take for your picnic then head to this Deli. They make delicious sandwiches and have lots of snack choices. However, if you happen to be looking for Lactaid pills in Julian, you will not find them anywhere. 

6. BLUE DOOR WINERY 

Looking for a relaxing afternoon sipping on some wine? This is the cutest little winery! They converted the old livery stables into a charming tasting room. 

THE PERFECT JULIAN DAY TRIP ITINERARY

Check out the itinerary below for a full Julian day trip from San Diego.

700am-Head out from San Diego towards Julian

815am-Arrive in Julian and make a stop at the Regulars Wanted coffee shop for some coffee and breakfast

915am-Walk around downtown Julian. Visit the unique craftsman shops

1130-Grab a sandwich and chips form the Julian Deli and Market and head to an apple orchard

1200-Have a picnic in the apple orchard then pick some apples

200pm-Head to Stonewall peak and go for a hike 

500pm-Head back into town and pick up an apple pie to take home

530pm-Grab dinner at the Julian Grille

700pm-Taste some beers from Julian Beer Company (not too many though)

830pm-Head back home (please don’t drink and drive-make sure you are safe to drive)

Julian day trips from San Diego Lake Cuyamaca

PLANNING TO STAY THE NIGHT?

There are a lot of cute bed and breakfasts’ in downtown Julian. You can also use Airbnb or the website VRBO to find a home away from home to stay in. Or go camping at Lake Cuyamaca as I did! If you plan to camp in the fall or winter, make sure to come prepared as the weather does drop to freezing temperatures. 

camping in Julian ca

OTHER FAQ?

Are there bears in Julian, CA? No, there are not any bears in Julian. Beware of rattlesnakes on warm days and coyotes at night time. 

Is this a good day trip from Temecula, CA? Yes

Is this a good day trip from Los Angeles? Yes, but I would highly recommend making it a weekend trip. 

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26 Comments

  1. What a great insider view for those of us not from the area! Julian sounds like a great place to visit when we’re planning a trip to Socal! Will definitely bookmark this one!

  2. Your insights are so helpful. I love San Diego but really like the 4 seasons and greenery. So Julian sounds like a great place for me to explore and consider living in. Other suggestions for around San Diego rural life would be welcomed too.

  3. This article was fantastic! Really! I’m planning a big US round trip and I’m collecting info about all the places which are not that famous worldwide. Thanks for this! Helped me a lot with my plans.

  4. Wow Julian looks amazing, especially the winery and the market 😍 If I ever get back to the US I’ll be sure to refer to this awesome itinerary for a great day out!

  5. Julian has many wonderful campgrounds and hikes. Spring and Fall are my favorite times to visit Julian because the evenings cool down and there’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting around a campfire on a brisk evebing. You picked one of my favorite hikes that have switchbacks and such a beautiful view at the top. Lake Cuyamaca also offers fishing and it’s a beautiful hike around the lake as well. Julian Is one of my favorites and is definitely a great place to visit either for the day or a hike.

  6. What a great article about Julian. This town holds lots of great memories for our family…mostly camping and hiking…a few school trips as well. Love seeing you and your hubby explore and make new memories!

  7. You forgot Fort Cross on the list of things to do. It’s the most fun thing in Julian! Can’t believe it was left off the list!

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