Julian is a charming small town snuggled in a verdant landscape between the Cuyamaca and Volcan Mountains, a short drive from San Diego. The town is full of wonderfully restored historical houses that today serve as restaurants or museums. There are fully restored mines the visitors can explore, such as the Eagle and High Point Gold Mine. The Julian Pioneer Museum is a great place to learn about the history of Julian through numerous exhibits, including a collection of pianos. The beautiful Cuyamaca Mountains offer trails and spectacular views, while the orchards that surround Julian are a famous source of cider and the apple pies available in local bakeries.

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1.Lake Cuyamaca

Lake Cuyamaca
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Lake Cuyamaca is a small 110-acre reservoir located at 4,600 feet in the eastern Cuyamaca Mountains. The lake was created in 1888 as a result of building the Cuyamaca Dam, one of oldest dams in California still in active use. This lovely lake is surrounded by Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, a popular recreation area for the folks from San Diego and surrounding areas. The lake is a rich fishing ground, full of trout, Florida bass, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, sturgeon, and bluegill. The lake is stocked with trout every year and it attracts fishermen from all over California. The lake is also popular with boaters and has a nice campground with a store, café, and tackle shop. There are a number of great hiking trails south of the lake through the wilderness, which offer spectacular views.

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2.California Wolf Center

California Wolf Center
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California Wolf Center is a large area near the town of Julian dedicated to the recovery of wolves in the wild areas where they once lived and roamed. The center is home to a number of packs of gray wolves, including North American gray wolves and several packs of Mexican gray wolves. Some of their wolf packs are part of their educational programs. Visitors are able to observe wolves in their everyday lives, helping them to better understand them and their issues and increasing their interest in conserving wolves in the wild. As much as possible, the center offers a natural environment for the resident wolves to live in captivity. The center is among the largest breeding centers for Mexican gray wolves in the US.

570 K Q Ranch Rd, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-765-0030

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3.Julian Pioneer Museum

Julian Pioneer Museum
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Located in an 1800s blacksmith shop, the Julian Pioneer Museum and Park is a wonderful place to travel back in time and experience the life of a small California mining town. The museum offers a visual portrait of the lives of the Native Americans who lived in the area and provides an insight into the period of gold mining and the later period of thriving agriculture. The museum contains an impressive collection of period clothing, Native American artifacts, mining artifacts, a collection of Victorian pianos, an old sleigh and buggy, and many historical photographs. The park around the museum is a popular spot for picnics.

2811 Washington St., Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-765-0227

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4.Santa Ysabel East Preserve

Santa Ysabel East Preserve
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It is hard to believe that just a short distance from San Diego’s sand and surf, along a scenic country road lined with oaks and small farmsteads, lies the beautiful mountain nature sanctuary of the Santa Ysabel East Preserve. Snuggled between gently rolling hills, oak woodlands, and native grasslands full of wildflowers, the Santa Ysabel Preserve is a 3,800-acre county park and an outdoor heaven for bikers, hikers, and equestrians. The preserve has 18.5 miles of well-groomed and marked trails with an elevation gain that never exceeds 1,000 feet, and with two loop trails that cross through the range of diverse habitats. Santa Ysabel Creek runs along the preserve’s northern edge. Overnight camping is not permitted, but there are a few picnic tables at the rest area.

500 Farmer Rd, Julian, CA 92036

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5.Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve

Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve
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Just north of the small town of Julian, on the slopes of Volcan Mountain, is the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, created to protect the Volcan range and the natural habitat between the larger Palomar and Laguna Mountains. The preserve covers about 2,900 acres of mixed evergreen forest. There are about 5 miles of hiking trails to the Volcan summit, which offers spectacular views of the oak woodlands towards the coast and of the dry and lifeless landscape towards the desert in the east. Throughout the preserve there are picnic areas, scenic viewpoints and, during the season, hikes that are organized and interpreted by rangers.

1209 Farmer Road at Wynola Road, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-765-4098

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6.Julian Pie Company

Julian Pie Company
© Julian Pie Company

Julian’s apple pies are one of the big reasons so many folks come to this lovely historic little town near San Diego surrounded by apple orchards. And the best place to pick up a great pie is the Julian Pie Company. Their apple pies have delicious flaky crispy crust that simply melts in your mouth. They also offer a selection of other pies, such as peach apple crumb and chicken pot pie, as well as cookies, donuts, wonderful ice creams, and local cider. It is not surprising that the line goes out the door. You can eat on the spot before the ice cream over your hot pie melts, and there is a lovely patio in front of the store as well as out back under the shady trees. You can even bring your dog. They also sell frozen pies ready to be put in the oven at home when you are ready.

2225 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-765-2449

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7.Eagle and High Point Gold Mine

Eagle and High Point Gold Mine
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The town of Julian in California, near San Diego, has a short but rich history of gold mining, running from 1870 to 1900. The Eagle and High Point Gold Mine is a nicely restored historical gold mine that offers visitors tours of its original tunnels, allowing them to pan for gold and pick up a few souvenirs. The tours, which last about 1 hour, explore the Old Hardrock Tunnels, which were restored to look like they did in the 1870s. The guide shares detailed information on the process of hard rock mining and the history of the mine. There are 4,000 feet of tunnels and 11 levels, with a maximum depth of 425 feet. The mine tours are very popular with school groups, and kids have a great opportunity to learn about the history of their community.

2320 C Street Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-315-5533

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8.Volcan Mountain Trailhead

Volcan Mountain Trailhead
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The Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve is a 3,000-acre area of mixed conifer forest on the slopes of Volcan Mountain, about 2 miles from the town of Julian. The preserve is very popular for scenic hikes along the 5-mile loop trail that winds through the old forests and provides magnificent views of the coast and desert. To get on the trail, visitors have to pass through the Volcan Mountain Trailhead, with the stunning Hubbell Gateway created by renowned artist James Hubbell. Once you pass through the gate, the trail will take you to the summit at an elevation of 5,300 feet, which offers 360-degree views of the magnificent landscape all around.

1107 Farmer Rd, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-765-4098

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9.Julian Wines and Chocolates

Julian Wines and Chocolates
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Located in Julian’s historic restored station, Julian Wine & Chocolate is a tiny rustic wine bar that offers wines and chocolates produced in San Diego County. The carefully chosen wines are bottled with unique labels produced by California artists for the Julian Wines label, founded in 2009. The wines are now sold all over the country and are quickly becoming very popular. You can try them by glass at the bar, paired with chocolates or not, or you can buy a few bottles for later or as a gift. You can also buy their chocolate separately if wine isn’t your thing. The place is both kid and dog-friendly.

4470 CA-78, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-885-8364

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10.Julian Ciderworks

Julian Ciderworks
© Julian Ciderworks

As you drive along the windy road through the mountains east of San Diego, near the small town of Julian, you will come across the 200-acre Kenner Ranch and a large sign announcing Julian Ciderworks. There are chairs in front of the barn where the owners greet visitors and share with them the history of the cidery and, together with offering their product, tell the story about the special quality and variety of apples grown in the area. Julian Ciderworks is proud to use only locally grown apples and pears purchased from the growers in the area for their ciders. They produce an interesting and ever-growing range of differently flavored ciders made from apples such as the Golden Russet and the Golden Hornet Crab Apple. As the number of orchards and apple trees in the area is getting smaller, they produce less cider in quantity but with the consistent high quality. The result is true craft ciders made in small batches.

17552 Harrison Park Rd, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-331-7453

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11.Miner's Diner

Miner's Diner
© Miner's Diner

Miners Diner is an old-fashioned 1950s style diner located in Julian, California, in an 1886 brick building, the oldest in Julian. The building has a long history and was home to a number of businesses, including the old Julian drug store and the Candy Mine. During the restoration, the new owners combined the old drugstore and Candy Mine, and many of the original pieces were kept and reused in the decor of the diner, such as the original wooden display cabinets filled with artifacts and the medicine label cabinet with still unopened bottles of medicines. There is a mini-train running along tiny rails high up in the store, and many old decorative pieces create a strong sense of nostalgia. The store serves a range of milkshakes and malts, ice cream, hand-mixed sodas, as well as sandwiches and burgers. In the basement of the building is a version of the old Candy Mine, and kids will delight in the hundreds of varieties of candies in the space made to resemble an old gold mine.

2134 Main St, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-765-3753

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12.Nickel Beer Company

Nickel Beer Company
© Nickel Beer Company

Nickel Brewing Company is a popular spot for the residents of Julian and tourists to stop for a cool beer and get together with friends. The brewery and the tap room are located in a modest wooden green building with a large patio, with the magnificent background of green foothills and orchards in bloom. At the moment they offer 16 beers on tap, ranging from a light, straw-colored beer made in the style of a cream ale to the Jalapeno Gold, with a lot of chopped jalapeno soaking in the keg. Inside, the tap room has the long bar with stools and a window that opens to the brewing area. The popular outdoor deck is great on warm days and is dog-friendly. There is often live music by local bands.

1485 Hollow Glen Road, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-765-2337

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12 Best Things to Do in Julian, CA