Updated: Mar 10, 2022
Believe it or not, you don’t have to make a cross-country trek to experience fall on the West Coast. Each year thousands of visitors flock to the San Diego mountains to experience fall in Southern California.
It is so magical watching historic Julian completely transform as nature paints it with colors of amber, gamboge, crimson, rust, gold, and scarlet. There is no one particular area to see fall foliage near Julian as the trees are scattered throughout the region. Don’t fret, I have put together a list of Instagram-worthy locations with beautiful trees rich in fall colors.
Local tip: When planning a trip to see the fall colors, keep in mind that San Diego County has a difference of 6,000 feet in elevation. The elevation affects how quickly the tree changes color. For example, leaves might be yellow in Julian (4,200 ft) and still green in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (4,613 ft to 6,512 ft). The trees begin to turn colors at the end of September and continues until the Santa Anna Winds blow the leaves off by November.
Wondering where to see fall colors in SoCal? Look no further! Here are great spots to scope out the colors of fall in San Diego County.
Take A Backcountry Drive
The best way to see the colors of falls in San Diego is by driving Highway 67 to HWY 78 East (through the Julian Historical District) to HWY 79 South and catching Interstate 8 in Descanso. It is important to note that you will be viewing the trees from a distance.
The area surrounding Julian is a very popular tourist destination. It is also home to roughly 4,000 full-time residents. Please stay on the highways and out of the local neighborhoods.
Julian Community United Methodist
Just before entering the Julian Historic District via Highway 78 East sits Julian Community United Methodist church. A group of locals volunteers year-round to maintain this beautiful garden. Please be respectful when visiting the church property.
Address: 2898 CA-78, Julian, CA 92036
St. Elizabeth Catholic Church parking lot
Commonly referred to as “the church parking lot” is the largest public parking area in the heart of Julian. During fall, the trees on the hill just west of the lot turn colors making for a beautiful backdrop.
Address: 2001-2099 4th St, Julian, CA 92036
The Intersection of Coleman Circle and Washington Street
In the area where Coleman Circle and Washington Street meet there are a number of trees that produce bright fall colors. Please note that this is a highly traveled State Highway. I recommend taking photos at Pioneer Park or in Coleman Creek Village.
Address: Intersection of Coleman Circle and Washington Street, Julian, CA 92036
Just one block off bustling Main Street is B Street. This three-block street features cute shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. During autumn, visitors may spot autumn foliage. Walk up the hill towards the intersection of B Street and 2nd Street. Please note, there are private homes on this street. Do not block driveways, the road, or trespass.
Address: Intersection of B Street and 2nd Street, Julian, CA 92036
D.G. McKinney Building
On Main Street Julian, you can find fall colors in front of the D.G. McKinney Building. This is a safe spot to take photos on the sidewalk.
Address: 2015 Main St, Julian, CA 92036
Jess Martin Park
On the edge of the Julian Historical District is Jess Martin Park. There are a number of trees that begin to turn yellow as the weather becomes cooler. The park has free parking and many great places to pose for a fall-themed photo.
Address: 2663 Apple Ln, Julian, CA 92036
Lake Cuyamaca Recreation and Park District
Lake Cuyamaca is one of the most popular sites to see within the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. The lake is operated by the Lake Cuyamaca Park and Recreation District. The grounds offer camping, cabins, fishing, boating, hunting, and outdoor recreation opportunities. There are a number of trees with leafage that change colors. There is a $10 parking fee.
Address: 15027 CA-79, Julian, CA 92036
HW 79 between Milkranch Road and Paso Picacho Campground
In 2003 the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park was devastated by the Cedar Fire. Over the last 18 years, the trees have been slowly pushing up out of the brush. As you drive through the park, you will see trees changing colors. My personal favorite spot is as you drive along HW 79 between Milkranch Road and Paso Picacho Campground.
This is a site to see from the car only. Do not stop on the highway to take photos. Parking is not allowed on either side of the road.
Address: HWY 79 between Milkranch Road and Paso Picacho Campground
About a 30-minute drive South-East of Julian is the neighboring mountain community of Mount Laguna. In late fall this beautiful old-growth National Forest is filled with fall colors. The Mount Laguna Recreation area offers a number of day-use areas and hikes one can use to experience the changing of the season up close.
Address: Mt Laguna, California 91948
45 minutes North-West of Julian is another neighboring mountain community known as Palomar Mountain. The majority of the mountain is operated by the California State Parks System and the National Forest Service. Visitors can use the public day-use areas to see the trees change colors.
Address: Palomar Mountain, California
Know Before You Go
Lastly please be respectful of the trees, private property, and of others. Don't break branches off. Stay on main roads and don't stop in the middle of the road. Leave no trace. Be considerate of those around you or who may come after you. Thank You!