Updated: Jan 26
There are two main roads to get around the greater Julian area: Highway 78 and Highway 79. Being that there are only two main roads, means road closures and delays are just a part of backcountry living in San Diego County. It is strongly encouraged to get in the habit of keeping a full tank of gas. I always fill up on the way up the hill because the last thing I want is to be stranded during an emergency without gas.
I highly encourage locals to become familiar with alternative routes during normal conditions. This will help reduce stress levels when there is no choice but to use these alternative roads. These routes are the definition of backcountry roads. It is critical that you know these routes well without the use of Google Maps/Apple Maps/GPS, as these programs are not always aware of the roads that do not allow for through traffic. The last thing you want in an emergency is to be directed down dead-end roads. Please note that during snowstorms, some of these roads may not be accessible.
We ask non-residents to stay on the main highways when possible. It is important that locals have a way to move about the region as needed. Secondly, these alternative routes are backcountry routes that require a more thorough knowledge of the area and an appropriate vehicle for the terrain.
Here are the alternative routes drivers may be able to use:
Old Julian Highway: Ramona to Julian
From Hwy 78 in Ramona, turn onto 3rd St. (South). 3rd St. then turns slightly and becomes Old Julian Hwy. After a few miles, you will have to make a turn to stay on Old Julian Hwy. Continue on Old Julian Hwy to Hwy 78. Old Julian Hwy is less traveled than Hwy 78, and some locals use this route regularly to avoid traffic.
Wildcat Canyon Road: To Avoid Highway 67 Between Lakeside and Ramona
Just off of Hwy 67 in El Cajon, take Mapleview St. to Ashwood St.. Follow Ashwood St. to Wildcat Canyon Rd. Take this road to San Vicente Rd., then to Arena Dr. Vista Ramona Rd. will take you to Old Julian Hwy. Stay on this road to reach Hwy 78.
Black Canyon Road: Ramona to Julian
From Hwy 79, turn onto Mesa Grande Rd. Follow it until you reach the intersection with Black Canyon Rd., then turn onto Black Canyon Rd. At the intersection of Black Canyon Rd. and Lake Sutherland Dam Rd., drivers have the option to take Lake Sutherland Dam Rd. to Hwy 78 or to continue on Black Canyon Rd. Those who continue on Black Canyon Rd. will see it turns into Magnolia Rd. and will eventually take you to Hwy 78 just before the townsite of Ramona.
This is the only through alternative for Hwy 78 between Ramona and Santa Ysabel. Black Canyon Rd. is a narrow single-lane dirt road. A vehicle with four-wheel drive is recommended. This road should not be taken after a rainstorm.
Wynola Road: To Avoid the Julian Historical District
Wynola Rd. runs west to east from Hwy 78 in Wynola, bypassing the Julian Historical District and intersecting again with Hwy 78 in Banner Grade. From Wynola Rd., drives can turn onto Framers Rd. to go into town. Wynola Rd. is a narrow, windy two-lane road with a steep drop-off. It should not be taken during a snowstorm or in the days following one. During u-pick season (August - October) there is a dramatic increase in traffic on this road.
Lakeview Drive: To Avoid Town
From Hwy 79, turn onto Royal. From Royal, take Lakeview to Manzanita. Manzanita will then take you to Hwy 78. To avoid the town, follow the directions above for Wynola Rd. Lakeview should not be taken when there is snow on the ground.
Engineers Road: Pine Hills to Cuyamaca, Avoiding Town
From Hwy 78, turn onto Pine Hills Rd. Turn onto Eagle Peak Rd. next. From Eagle Peak Rd., turn onto Engineers Rd. Engineers Rd. will take you to Hwy 79 near Lake Cuyamaca.
Engineers Rd. to Boulder Creek Rd. can be taken to Descanso. Boulder Creek Rd. is a long narrow dirt road. Four-wheel drive is recommended.
Engineers Rd. is a narrow and very long alternative route along the west side of the Cuyamaca Mountains. It should not be taken during a snowstorm or in the days following one.