How To Spend The Best Day Apple Picking In Julian
Visiting Julian each fall season has become a tradition to soak up the idyllic old gold mining town and indulge in everything apples! Apple picking in Julian and eating homemade Julian apple pie are the highlights of any visit to this rustic mountain retreat.
Although apple picking is the main event, there are many things to do in Julian to spend a full day or even a weekend getaway.
The town of Julian is a historic district preserving its history as a gold mining town settled by the Bailey and Julian families.
Imagine an old western town feel with pioneer storefronts that transports you to the late 1880s when the town was established as a gold mining town.
The gold rush was rather quick but luckily the town of Julian didn’t become a ghost town like many other mining towns of its time.
The fact that Julian has a colder climate than the rest of San Diego County allows for the perfect environment to grow apples.
For more detailed information on what to do in San Diego, read my post 15 Best Things To Do In San Diego.
Where Is Julian?
Julian might be one of the few if not only places in San Diego County that actually has the four seasons.
I think that is one of the draws for local San Diegan’s as we love our sunny year-round weather yet we crave the crispness of an autumn day…
Located a little over an hour east of San Diego, Julian sits up in the mountains at an elevation of 4,235 feet among trees where fall foliage can be found.
It is the place for leaf-peeping to quench that autumn fix. Because it is at a higher elevation, it can vary in temperature more than near the ocean.
Even if it is a hot day in San Diego, always bring a jacket and umbrella as the weather can change quickly. No matter the time of year, Julian is the perfect escape from San Diego that you don’t want to miss!
Julian Apple Picking Season
Julian is known for its apple picking and of course its apple pie! Apple season in Julian is during the fall months of September and October.
Some years the season may start as early as mid-August. The length of the season varies each year depending on the weather and success of each orchard.
For those visiting from out of town or locals to San Diego, the main fall event is to head to Julian!
Apple orchards are abundant accompanied by fresh apple cider that celebrates fall has arrived. But the true star of apple season is the famous Julian apple pie!
Wherever you may be in town, don’t be surprised to smell an intoxicating aroma of apples and spices that alert you to a pie is ready.
Although Julian a great town to visit any time of the year, you must experience it in the fall at least once!
Plan ahead and search for the best fight deals into the San Diego International Airport (SAN) today!
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Note: The end of apple season is determined when all of the apples have been picked and varies each year! If picking is over, you can still buy apples at many places in town.
If you are visiting in October, find out where to get a pumpkin in my Guide To The Best Pumpkin Patches In San Diego.
Tip: Julian is also one of the few places that can get snow in San Diego County so it can be a great winter weekend trip too.
What Kind of Apples Are In Julian?
All of the apple orchards are within a mile or two of downtown Julian and a great place to stop on your way into town.
The orchards where you can go apple picking in Julian are referred to as self-picking or U-Pick.
There are a variety of apples that can be picked in the orchards around Julian such as Jonathan, Gala, Empire, Fuji, Granny Smith, Pippin, and Red Delicious.
The type of apple might vary from orchard to orchard and season to season.
The best apples to eat raw are Gala, Empire, Red Delicious, and Fuji.
If you are planning to make an apple pie then Granny Smith apples are the best to use. The same goes when making apple strudel or apple turnovers, Granny Smith all the way…
If you don’t have Granny Smith available then you can also use Jonagold’s or Pippin. For making homemade applesauce, Gala apples work great.
How To Get To Julian
The quaint town of Julian is 62-miles east (and slightly north) of downtown San Diego taking about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The easiest way to Julian is by hopping onto the 5 Freeway north and then taking the 8 Freeway East.
Exit off the 8 Freeway onto the 79 Highway or Japatul Valley Road. Stay on the 79 Highway passing Lake Cuyamaca until you reach Julian.
If you are coming from North County area of San Diego such as from San Marcos or Carlsbad the drive is 54-miles to the east and also takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
There are a few ways to come from North County but the easiest option is to take Highway 78 (East) to the 15 Freeway (South).
Exit the 15 Freeway at the E Via Rancho Pkwy and head east turning right onto San Pasqual Road. San Pasqual Rd will turn into the old Highway 78 road.
Once you arrive at the town of Ramona turn left onto the continuing old 78 road until you reach Julian.
Where To Stay
You can easily make a day trip from anywhere in San Diego County but if you want to take in Julian over a weekend, there are a few lovely places to unwind at!
Quiet Mind Mountain Lodge & Retreat – Situated along Lake Cuyamaca and a few miles from the town of Julian is a serene place to stay with spa amenities.
Julian Gold Rush Hotel – Located in the heart of downtown Julian
Julian Lodge – Located in downtown Julian
Funny Apple Picking Memory
Traveling for me is all about the unique, funny, and random things that stick in our memory for years to come.
As I have been coming to Julian every year since I was a kid, I have many wonderful memories but one year stood out!
That year my parents and I came to Julian where my dad decided to wear shorts and a t-shirt adamant, he didn’t need pants or a jacket. Once we reached Julian the weather changed getting freezing temps and rain.
My parents were not stoked on the apple picking at that point but my stubbornness persisted and my dad took me while my mom waited in the car.
The things a father will do for his child… He practically froze and earned the nickname “shaky legs”.
By the time we got into town, I kid you not the entire town was sold out on apple pies except for one piece!
And who do you think got it? That’s right, my parents let me eat most of it but they looked on with envy…
The rain continued to get worse and wouldn’t you know it as we were leaving town the windshield wipers failed.
Let’s just say it was a long ride home as my dad had to drive with his head outside the window to navigate us home…
But don’t worry, after visiting Julian almost every year for decades I always had excellent weather minus that one time.
And even though that one trip may sound like a disaster, I had the best time and still laugh about it today.
Tips For Visiting Julian
- If you have the option, go earlier in the season to make sure you don’t miss out on the apples!
- Get an early start and make an awesome fall day picking apples and enjoying the charm of Julian especially on the weekends when it can get packed.
- Most orchards are only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday so check each farm’s website ahead of time to verify they are open.
- It can get both very hot and cold so bring a jacket, hat, sunscreen, dress in layers, and even an umbrella.
- Wear comfy shoes if you plan to walk the orchard picking apples.
- To keep the apples from ripening too fast, don’t wash off the film until you are ready to eat them.
- Make sure to bring your camera to this photogenic town!
- If you are looking to grab a pumpkin in preparation for Halloween, you can pick one out at some orchards.
- As it can get warm, have a reusable bottle of water with you to avoid dehydration.
- Pack a picnic and enjoy at one of the apple orchards in a handy travel cooler.
- If you want to order a Julian apple pie for later or the holidays, you can order one online from both Julian Pie Company and Mom’s Pie!
- Have comfortable shoes for apple picking and exploring the town of Julian.
Things To Do In Julian
1. Dudley’s Famous Bakery & Deli
So technically Dudley’s Bakery is a few miles outside of Julian but it is a must to stop on the way. There is a reason it is known as “famous” as they truly make the most amazing bread!
Since 1963, Dudley’s has been pumping out what seems like so many insanely delicious bread that you can’t leave without buying a few loaves to take home.
Oh and make sure you get an extra loaf for the road as I promise you that will be gone by the time you get home or back to your hotel! Dudley’s has the freshest bread around with over 40 different flavors of bread and pastries…
My favorite has always been the sourdough and jalapeno cheese but a popular one is the date nut raisin bread.
It can be tough to narrow it down to a few but you can always freeze the loaves too and enjoy them for months to come.
There is a deli counter on-site where you can have a sandwich made up using the bread of your choosing. This makes for the perfect picnic meal for later in the day!
Address: 30218 Highway 78 (Julian Road), Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
Hours: Open 8:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Friday through Sunday.
2. Volcan Valley Apple Farm
Volcan Valley Apple Farm is located 2-miles up the hill from the town of Julian and is one of the largest apple orchards around. They have several types of apples for picking for both to eat raw or use to make a pie.
If you aren’t sure which one to pick, the staff can direct you to the apples ideal for you. At the end of each row of trees is a sign letting you know what apples can be found.
I picked some Empire apples to eat and Pippin and Jonathan so my mom could make a pie. The cost is $15 per bag which includes one person entry and $5 for any additional person that doesn’t need to pick any apples.
Apple picking is one of those experiences you want to try at least once! Many times the trees near the entrance will have been picked through so walk further down the orchard rows to find plenty of apples.
Tip: The owner of the apple farm recommended to not wash the film off the apples until ready to eat or use. The film helps preserve the apple!
Note: If you are quenched and need of a glass of wine, head across the way to the Volcan Mountain Winery.
Address: 1284 Julian Orchards Drive, Julian, CA 92036
Hours: Open 9:00 am to 4:30 pm Friday through Monday
3. Taste Fresh Apple Cider
I’m not one to ever drink apple cider except when I am in Julian as it is by far the best fresh apple cider you will ever have. They press the apples and bottle it so that you are drinking it fresh the next day.
If you are at Volcan Valley Apple Farm, cool off with a cold bottle of apple cider that will delight your taste buds. It is made with no preservatives, sugar or anything other than apples. They may blend a few types of apples to get that dynamite flavor.
The apple cider from Apple Lane Orchards that I tried that day was made with Gala, Jonathan, and Gravenstein apples. You can also get this apple cider in town at various places.
4. Apple Starr Orchard
The Apple Starr Orchard is another apple orchard that you can go apple picking at and is quite popular with families. They have both apples and pears that you can U-pick with picnic tables and plenty of space to have a picnic at.
For the fall season of 2020, they are currently closed but make sure to visit them in years to follow!
Address: 1020 Julian Orchard Drive, Julian, CA 92036
5. Grab A Coffee
If you are in need of a little pick me up post apple picking head down to Regulars Wanted Beanery for a cup of coffee.
The exterior like many of the shops and restaurants in Julian has that cottage house appearance that is reminiscent of visiting one’s grandmother’s house.
There is seating both indoors and out front on the patio that is an ideal place to enjoy the mountain air with a cup of coffee. And it doesn’t hurt that the Regulars Wanted Beanery has excellent coffee!
If you have an empty stomach they have both breakfast and lunch options available. And for those that aren’t big coffee lovers, you can order tea or beer. The beanery has a very locals feel that is also welcoming to all tourists too.
Address: 1921 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
Hours: Open daily from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm except for Thursdays (closed).
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6. Wander The Town
After apple picking and maybe a nice meal, take a stroll along Main Street and wander in and out of the many shops.
The downtown of Julian encompasses all of about 4 blocks so you can’t get lost and you won’t get exhausted either.
Each shop feels like you are stepping into a country store that hasn’t changed much over the years!
These shops have some touristy stuff but there are a lot of unique items that make for that perfect gift. Gifts that you can’t just get anywhere.
The exterior of Julian really does look like an old western town where wooden sidewalks line Main Street and the common theme throughout every shop or restaurant are apples of course! One of my favorite shops is The Warm Hearth next door to Mom’s Pie Shop.
7. Julian Cider Mill
Every year growing up I was always excited to visit the Julian Cider Mill for freshly pressed apple cider and fudge. And I still am as an adult! It is one of those stores that has a nostalgia that I look forward to year after year.
The Cider Mill has been owned by the Slaughter family for over 45 years and is one place that requires a stop every fall.
You can pick up some apple and pumpkin butter, honey, preserves, dried fruit, and caramel apples as a treat too. There are numerous items that make for a great gift for someone with the holidays around the corner.
Address: 2103 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
Hours: Open 9:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday and 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Friday through Sunday.
8. Julian Pie Company
There are a handful of pie shops but I believe the Julian Pie Company is the best!
I am not a fan of apple pie or apple desserts in general but I do love the apple pie at the Julian Pie Company and my mom’s homemade one too.
There is that certain combination of great apples, spices, and the perfect flaky crust that just makes for a delightful bite of pie. The Julian Pie Company has been a town favorite since 1986 and owned by the Smothers family.
The star of the pies is the Original Apple Pie but they have an assortment of flavors to choose from if you want some variety.
The Dutch Apple has a crunchy crumb topping which is delicious and a tie for me personally with the Original.
There is an Apple Mountain Berry Crumb Pie, a Boysenberry Apple Crumb Pie, Cherry Apple Crumb Pie, Peach Apple Crumb Pie and several berry pies with no apple. Most likely there is a flavor you are bound to love.
How do you eat your apple pie? There is eating the pie as it is with no nothing on top or you can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top for “a la mode”.
And one that I thought sounded horrible before I tried it is the slice of melted sharp cheddar cheese on top! It is actually so good…
Tip: Buy a slice to enjoy and then buy a pie to take home. There is also a location next to Dudley’s Bakery in Santa Ysabel that I mention in #1.
Address: 2225 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
Hours: Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
9. Old Julian Book House
It is becoming rarer and rarer to find a classic old used book store which is why the Old Julian Book House is a find! I admit I am a huge fan of using my kindle, especially when traveling but I do love the look and smell of a physical book.
Post food coma from indulging in some apple pie at the Julian Pie Company, the book house is directly across the street. Browse the many shelves of books and find a one of a kind that is a page-turner and one you can’t put down.
Address: 2230 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
Hours: Open 11:00 am to 5:00 pm daily except for Monday (closed)
10. Julian Beer Company
The Julian Beer Company is a brewery and eatery located a half block from the Julian Pie Company.
They are obviously known for their handcrafted beer but also for many delicious food options such as appetizers, BBQ, pizzas, and salads.
If you are a beer lover then you will happy to see they offer 18+ beers on tap with many made with local ingredients such as juniper, honey, fruit, and hops.
The brewery itself is housed on the same lot as the historic home of Julian’s founder which makes it quite unique!
Address: 2307 Main Street, Julian, CA 92036
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm, Friday through Sunday open 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
11. Calico Cidery
As you leave Julian make your way to the Calico Cidery for a sip of some hard apple cider made with apples and pears from their orchard.
The Calico Cidery is family owned and they also have an orchard ranch where you can pick your own apples depending on the time of year.
Originally, they got their start as a homestead property with a pear orchard and later adding apples to the property. If the season has closed for apple picking stop in at the Cidery for a hard cider tasting!
I ordered a tasting that included 4 different hard ciders, two made with apples, and two with pears. I enjoyed them all but preferred the ones with pear.
My favorite was the Quinceperry which is a cross between an apple and pear. The alcohol content ranges from 5% to 7.6 % depending on the cider.
The cidery is housed is a very cool open-air barn that has a saloon-style bar you can cozy on up to. Or take your cider over to one of the tables with bales of hay as seating. If you find a cider you like, you can take a growler of it with you!
Address: 4200 Highway 78, Julian, CA 92036
Hours: Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:00 am to sunset
12. Julian Farm & Orchard
The Julian Farm & Orchard is another location to go apple picking and you can go berry picking for raspberries and/or strawberries.
Starting September 19th, the pumpkin patch opens up where you can pick out your favorite pumpkin to carve. Plus hop aboard for a hayride, some ax throwing and fresh-pressed apple cider through October 25th.
Address: 4381 Highway 78, Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
Hours: Open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and Sundays.
13. Oasis Camel Dairy
The Oasis Camel Dairy is not your typical dairy as they have camels! I haven’t visited here myself but it looks like a lot of fun. And I’m sure it is an activity that would be a hit with kids.
They offer private camel tours, feeding, and encounters where you can learn everything related to camels.
You can even buy products with camel milk such as chocolate, soaps, lotions, and lip balms. For 2020, all visits need to have an appointment ahead of time to accommodate safe practices and social distancing.
The dairy is located a little further out at 13 miles from Julian towards the town of Ramona. But if you happen to be in the area it is a unique experience to add to your trip. For more information on the Oasis Camel Dairy, check their website.
Address: 26757 Highway 78, Ramona, CA 92065
14. More Places To Eat & Drink In Julian
Blue Door Winery – for some wine tasting or a refreshing cup of Sangria
Julian Café & Bakery – for some good country comfort food, but hold off on having pie here and go to Julian Pie Comp.
Have fun apple picking in Julian!
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Julian is my kind of town! I not only love apples, and picking them, but I’m a greedy gus for a good apple pie! It’s firmly on my radar.
Apple picking is a fun experience as I have only done it in the fall and in Julian. Plus you get to eat the most delicious pie afterward! You would definitely enjoy it. 🙂
Wow. I’ve never been apple picking or heard about Julian! It seems like so much fun!!! Thanks for a wonderful post!
Thanks Lannie! Apple picking is a fun fall activity to look forward to every year. Since you are a foodie, you would enjoy all the apple pie and great eats there! 🙂
What a charming place! And those apple pies and bread look amazing! It’s the perfect time to go apple picking…we’re going tomorrow.
There is something about visiting small towns in the fall that is so fun. 🙂 Have a wonderful time apple picking tomorrow! Do you ever bake a pie with the apples you get?
I can imagine your dad with his head out the window. I’m sure he wasn’t laughing that day. Going here for the apple pie alone I’m sure is worth it. But the apple picking really elevates it. I must remember your advice on what to do with each Apple.
Haha, yes my dad wasn’t happy at the time but he can laugh about it years later. The apple pie in Julian is seriously the best I’ve ever had so there is a great chance you would love it! 🙂
I wasn’t even aware of this part of SoCal. What a thorough review of everything to do in Julian. Your Dad is such a sport, though I could see myself doing the the same for my daughter 🙂
Thanks you so much! Haha yes, the things a dad will do for their little girls! It is a great place to visit if you are ever in the San Diego area. 🙂
I have to admit that cider sounds delicious!
Oh the cider is so yummy! It tastes so sweet but there is no sugar added which is even better! 🙂
Yes! Highly recommend this experience. It’s a beautiful day trip and apple pie…is wonderful.
Isn’t Julian the best? I agree, such a great day trip for fall especially for the pie! 🙂
I have always wanted to go apple picking, and Julian looks like the perfect place for it! I’m also a sucker for a good apple pie! Thanks for the recs!
Apple picking is fun especially in a town where apples are the star! Plus it is almost impossible to pass up the pie. Hopefully you can go apple picking one day! 🙂
I don’t even eat bread, but Dudley’s Bakery looks amazing! I’d make an exception for just about everything on their menu lol. Thanks for sharing!
Dudley’s is pretty awesome and worth at least a few slices. A deli sandwich is perfect so that you don’t have too much. I rarely eat bread but make an excuse to eat it there! 🙂
I didn’t know you could go apple picking so close to San Diego, what a great day trip!
Julian is a somewhat hidden gem in San Diego that makes for the perfect day, especially in the fall. 🙂
I never knew Julian existed prior to reading your post, but it’s definitely right up my alley of fun! I’ve never gone apple picking before, and this seems like the perfect destination. I find it fascinating that this part of San Diego gets all of the seasons too. Great post!
Thank you! Julian is a special area near San Diego as it has such a different climate than the beaches making it a fun destination! If you are ever in San Diego I highly recommend visiting to pick apples. 🙂
Noooo you really did the apple pie and cheese thing? I honestly thought my colleagues were pranking me when they told me apple pie goes well with a slice of sharp cheddar! I did give it a try, but I have to admit, I was not a fan. Maybe you have to grow up with it to appreciate the combination?
Other than that cheese abomination, apple picking in Julian looks great fun! I love the look of the Empire apples! What do they taste like?
Haha yes eating sharp cheddar on apple pie is a real thing! My whole life I have only eaten plain apple pie but recently tried it with cheese and was like oh so tasty! It is the perfect combo of sweet and salty. Maybe you need to try it in Julian as they do have amazing pies… The Empire apples are sweet with a little tartness and very good! 🙂
I chose to visit Julian at the worst time – everything was closed! It was the off season and weather was horrible, so I understand. But I’d love to go back and do some of these – that book store is calling me especially, haha.
Oh that is a bummer! Yes, during the off-season not as many things are open or just on the weekends. Now you have a great excuse to go back for apple season and hang in the bookstore. 🙂
This sounds/looks like the perfect fall activity! The whole town looks so cute with a lot to do! will save this for a future day trip from San Diego!
It is a wonderful fall day trip from San Diego especially as it is so different from the beach areas and downtown. And with the apples and apple pie, you can’t go wrong! 🙂
Never went picking up apples, but it seems like really fun activity when you make a day out of it. I guess next autumn would be great time to do this again
It is a fun fall experience and you can make a pie with some of them after which is a bonus! 🙂