What to Do in Julian
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
What to Do in Julian
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Take a Day Trip to Julian For Homemade Pie, Panning for Gold, Vintage Finds and More

Dust off Your Cowboy Boots—We’re Heading to Julian!

Written By: Keri Bridgwater
Photographed By: Jenavieve Belair What to Do in Julian

Take a break from modernity and head on a day trip to a town that transports you back in time.  Nestled in the Cuyamacas and just an hour’s scenic drive east of San Diego, the quaint mountain town of Julian boasts historic streets filled with specialty shops, forested hiking trails, local wineries, old gold mines and lots and lots of apple pie. Sometimes snowy in winter and its surrounding meadows dotted with wildflowers during summer, Julian makes a great day trip no matter the season. For a dose of old-time charm, gather up the crew for gemstone panning, afternoon tea, antiquing and other fun adventures!


Apple of My Pie What to Do in Julian

Julian Pie Company, Apple Alley Bakery

No trip to Julian would be complete without digging into a slice of the town’s famed apple pie. Perhaps the most well-known bakeshop is the Smothers family-owned-and-operated Julian Pie Company. Alongside their original apple, seasonal flavors like boysenberry and rhubarb grace the menu. Pro-tip: order a slice with whipped cream or à la mode and enjoy a slice on the outside patio! Another highly-prized purveyor is Apple Alley Bakery. Run by long-time local, Debbie Gaudette, this super-popular spot serves up gluten-free and vegan options, among other treats. The apple pie crumble and cinnamon ice cream combo here is especially outstanding.

Julian Pie Company
2225 Main St
Julian, CA 92036

Apple Alley Bakery
2122 Main St
Julian, CA 92036


Tea’s Company

Julian Tea & Cottage Arts

Anglophiles will appreciate menu offerings inside Julian Tea and Cottage Arts, housed inside the historic home which was built in 1898 for gold miner Clarence King. Go big with the Cottage Classic Afternoon Tea, which includes tea, soup, a mini cheese scone, finger sandwiches and buttermilk scones with whipped cream, jam and homemade lemon curd, plus a house dessert. There’s also a three-course Afternoon Tea and a Cream Tea that’s perfect for a pick-me-up. The shop stocks a ton of tea-related accessories, loose-blend and bagged teas, too. Reservations are highly recommended on weekends and holidays.

Julian Tea & Cottage Arts
2124 3rd St
Julian, CA 92036

Shop Vintage and Handcrafted Goods

The Old Well, Crow & Lilac, The Julian Book House


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Crow & Lilac Gallery/Boutique (@crowandlilac) on

While plenty of boutique and eclectic specialty shops can be found along and around Main Street, here are three must-visits. Housed in the 100-year-old Julian livery, The Old Well is a treasure trove for cool finds, antiques and curios, vintage clothing and old vinyl. Take a look-see down the fifty-foot deep (hand-dug!) vertical well that’s still inside the store. Stop by Crow & Lilac for essential oils and handmade aromatherapy products as well as dream catchers, handmade ceramics and original artwork. Have a bookworm with you? Treat them with The Julian Book House orderly shelves packed with well-thumbed paperbacks and coffee table tomes.

The Old Well
2102 3rd St
Julian, CA 92036

Crow & Lilac
2608 B St
Julian, CA 92036

The Julian Book House
2230 Main St
Julian, CA 92036


Natural Beauty

William Heise County Park, Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, Santa Ysabel East Preserve


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by County of San Diego (@countyofsandiego) on

The countryside around Julian is home to beautiful nature preserves and national parks packed with scenic hiking trails. A short drive from town, the William Heise County Park has 11 miles of trails that hug the northern side of the Laguna Mountain Range and wind through mountain meadows, cedar, pine and oak trees. There’s a five-mile-long round-trip summit hike at nearby Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve where stunning vistas from the desert to the coast await; and there are 13 miles of trails through oak woodlands, rolling hills and meadows filled with seasonal wildflowers to explore at the Santa Ysabel East Preserve.

William Heise County Park
4945 Heise Park Rd
Julian, CA 92036

Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve
1209 Farmer Rd
Julian, CA 92036

Santa Ysabel East Preserve
500 Farmer Rd
Julian, CA, 92036


Stay Gold

Eagle & High Peak Mines

Pan for gold at a legit former 1870s mining operation at The Eagle Mining Co. Home to two of Julian’s original gold mines, Eagle and High Peak. Here, daily guided tours are peppered with historical facts and paint a picture of what life was like for early Californians, prospectors and area residents. Each visit culminates with an incredible underground walk through the restored hard rock tunnels of both mine shafts. The on-site general store (aka gift shop) sells crystal geodes you can crack open in the sluice box, too.

Eagle and High Peak Mines
2320 C St
Julian, CA 92036


All Aboard!

Julian Station


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by • E R I N M A C K I E • (@spoonme21daystyle) on

Three miles west of Main Street you’ll find an eclectic collective known as Julian Station. The covered arcade houses a Western-themed antique shop, Cowboy Rendevouz and local gem, Mr. Manitas Taco Bar & Fruteria. It is known as the authentic Mexican eatery which not only serves up GMO-free tortillas but also sources produce from local purveyors. For adult beverages check out Golden Coast Mead, Julian Hard Cider, and The Cooler Craft Beer Tap & Tasting Room. At Julian Wine & Chocolate, try local pours and chocolate pairings or stop by the Station on Sundays for its local live music series and patio barbecue.


Native Knowledge: A horseback ride at Kenner Horse Ranch or apple picking (August and September only) at orchards like Apple Starr is a great way to explore the Julian countryside!

About the author

Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel, culture, and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Beyond Ordinary Guides, DISfunkshion Magazine, Roam Magazine, Modern Luxury, and Eater San Diego, among other outlets and publications.


14 Waterfront Restaurants in Orange County With Unforgettable Views
Make a Splash With the 14 Coolest Pools in Palm Springs
Bare It All: Here Are 8 of the Best Nude Resorts in California
10 Resorts With the Freshest Poolside Cocktails in All of Southern California



Related Content

Join our mailing list.Be the first to know about the best eats, shops, sights and escapes of Southern California.