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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
Anaheim, CA 92807
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Escape to the Mountains in Julian

By Ann Nelson


Have you ever thought of going on a llama trek through the quiet, serene countryside, or having a personal visit with the resident wolf packs? I wanted to try it all and discovered that it’s possible to do in a remote Southern California town called Julian.

Nestled high in the pine and oak-covered hills of San Diego’s backcountry sits the enchanting frontier town of Julian. This rustic mountain retreat, rich in history with small town community spirit, has grand stories to tell of fame, fortune and dreams come true. The town’s old storefronts date back to the 1870’s and offer visitors many historic sites to explore.

More than a hundred years later, Julian offers visitors a unique combination of history and natural beauty in which to tour and explore the region’s unspoiled and peaceful countryside. There is no fog or smog in this small mountain community. And the weather is mild, with summer highs in the 80’s and winter lows in the 30’s.

Just an hour northeast of San Diego and three hours from Los Angeles, Julian is located between the northern end of the Cuyamaca Mountain range and the south slope of Volcan Mountain, just west of the Anza Borrego Desert. Even though this community was hit hard by wildfires, it is still beautiful, surrounded by uncluttered tree-lined country roads with grazing cattle and horses, fruit orchards and open meadows.

Following the Civil War in 1869, a group of veterans headed west and were so captivated by the beauty of the land, they made a decision to settle here. Within a month of finding gold in a small Julian creek, the town was flourishing with commerce, trade and homesteading. By 1934, after more than 60 years of mining, the total gold production was estimated between four and five million dollars.

Unlike most of the gold-mining towns of that time, Julian didn’t disappear after the mines were depleted. Tent housing gave way to the brick and wood buildings, many of which survive today. The area’s temperate climate and close proximity to San Diego played a major role in the development of the town and by 1872, Julian counted fifty houses, three hotels, four stores, two restaurants, one schoolhouse and a large number of saloons. The town was named Julian City, in honor of Mike Julian, who later was elected San Diego County Assessor.

As the gold played out, pioneers planted apple trees, which thrived due to the town’s elevation, climate and soil. Julian apples won national and international awards around the turn of the century. Visitors today can enjoy the world-class apples as well as pears, lily-of-the-valley and peonies.

Today Julian has more than 2,000 residents. But there are no movie theaters or shopping malls. People come here for the quiet atmosphere and nostalgic reminders of simpler times. Julian offers limitless outdoor activities including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, picnicking, boating, camping, hunting and fishing. The people living here care about their community and about the environment.

The California Wolf Center sponsors private & group tours. Its mission is to increase awareness and conservation efforts in protecting and understanding the importance of all wildlife and wild lands by focusing on the history, biology and ecology of the North American Gray Wolf through education, exhibition, reproduction of endangered species and the studies of captive wolf behavior.

Julian’s Historical Walking Tour will help any visitor feel the true soul of this town. The different plaques placed on the historical buildings reveal Julian’s history from the Gold Rush times to the 1920’s. There is a map available at The Julian Chamber of Commerce, located inside the Town Hall on Main Street. The Eagle Mining Company, one of Julian’s original producing gold mines, offers daily guided tours that take you through tunnels in the hard rock mine and recreates the lives of the early residents.

After trekking around the wide-open spaces and checking out the mine, you may want to consider spending the rest of the afternoon concentrating on wine tasting. The Menghini Winery is local and located down a two-lane country road. Set on ten acres of vineyards and apple orchards, this is the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch. Wine tasting and tours are offered daily.

Spending a night in Julian is essential if you want to soak up the full flavors of what this mountain town has to offer. There are lots of B&B’s and boutique hotels, including one of my favorites, The Julian Hotel, dating back to 1897. The tree house, at The Shadow Mountain Ranch is another favorite, with a staircase situated in the arms of the oak tree leading to the room in the tree.

Traveling with my dogs, Megan and Murphy, is one of my greatest joys. They have spent many happy nights at high-end resorts, but one of their favorite places to stay is The Julian Meadow View Inn. The three of us agreed that getting into nature would be the best “cure for our souls” and we made the decision to go to a place where there were no phone or TV connections. The inn, located one mile from town and situated on 53 acres with breath-taking views, turned out to be a perfect destination.

The inn and all the property around it is family owned and taken care of by every generation, probably ranging in ages between ten and eighty. It fills my heart with joy to see the love this family has for each other and for the land they take care of. Seeing their simple life style in action gives me confidence that future generations may have a chance to learn what is really important.

Another great place to stay is The Julian-Cuyamaca House, tucked into the side of a hill, with a huge wrap-around deck and lake views that go on forever. This cozy, country home was totally rebuilt after the 2003 Cedar Fire destroyed it and everything in its path. All that you need is here, including a fireplace, gourmet kitchen, a huge master suite and plenty of room for your well-behaved dogs.

The Orchard Hill Country Inn, rated “one of the top lodges in the west” by Sunset Magazine, brings sophistication and elegance to Julian. Simply stated, the inn oozes with sensuality. The guest rooms, cottages and the lodge are sprinkled throughout the property and connected with lighted walkways. Colorful plants and trees fill in the landscape, like a perfect and natural painting. A hearty breakfast, plush robes, afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres are all included.

With the exception of some holidays, a four-course dinner is complementary with a two-night stay. Dinner is served in a cozy, intimate dining room on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Trout Pecan with lime and wild rice and Grilled Colorado Prime Lamb with garlic rosemary rub are favorites.

Julian offers beauty and inspiration throughout every season of the year. It’s the perfect destination for hiking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, boating, wine tasting, apple pie and much more. Let your imagination run wild!

It is important to note that many places I have mentioned host special events, weddings, private and corporate retreats.


California Wolf Center:  (760) 765-0030, or:

Julian Chamber of Commerce: (760) 765-1857 or:

Julian Meadow View Inn: (760) 765-2578, or


Mountain Realty Farms (Julian-Cuyamaca House & other rental homes):  (760) 765-0111, or: 

Orchard Hill Country Inn:  (800) 716-7242, or:


Ann Nelson is a freelance writer residing in San Diego, CA