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A Locals Guide to Apple Picking in Julian, CA

Updated: Mar 10, 2022

Julian local, Eva, picking apples at Volcan Valley Apple Farm in Julian, CA.
This photo is copyright of Jennifer Gutierrez. © 2019 - 2022 by Jennifer Gutierrez.

How about them apples? There’s nothing like hand-picked apples grown in the charming San Diego mountain town of Julian, CA.

Known for its pioneer storefronts, hills of gold, apple pie, u-pick agrotourism, and historic sites, Julian has authentic old West frontier charm. Being tucked away in San Diego’s backcountry Julian’s location allows Southern California residents easy access to the best day-trip destination. Although Julian is fun to explore year-round, most visitors prefer visiting in the fall, unofficially known as Apple Days.

Apple picking takes a little over an hour. All ages can participate, so this is a great family activity.

Here are a few apple picking tips to keep in mind on your apple picking adventure:

When can you pick apples in Julian?

In San Diego County, peak apple picking season usually begins at the end of August (when the apples begin to ripen) through the beginning of October (when the orchards sell out). The dates for apple picking vary each year due to different varieties ripening at varying times depending on local weather patterns. You can check to see which u-pick orchards are open to the public on the Chamber website. ​​Click here to see which orchards are my personal favorite. Go when the orchards first open or you may miss the season!

Local tip: Weekends in Julian between September and the New Year are very busy. I definitely recommend coming during the week. If you can come only on a weekend, try to arrive at the orchard when it opens for the day. By noon, Julian is crowded.

Apple pie, as well as apple-inspired treats, and beverages are available year-round.

Eva eating the apples she picked while visiting Volcan Valley Apple Farm in Julian, CA.
Photo by Jennifer G.

How much does it cost to u-pick apples in Julian?

The cost to u-pick apples in Julian depends on which orchard you visit. Farmers usually charge around $15 for a ¼ peck bag (holds roughly 7lb) of u-pick apples. Some orchards charge a small admission fee ($2-$5 per person). Limited free parking is available so arrive early. Most orchards are cash-only operations.

What do you wear to go apple picking?

Always check the weather before you come apple picking. Being a fall activity, most visitors expect the weather to be crisp and cool. In actuality, it is usually pretty hot. I recommend wearing weather-appropriate clothing that can get dirty. Yes, apple picking involves dirt. Closed-toed shoes are a must. Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses are highly recommended.

Where can one u-pick apples in San Diego?

There are a number of local farms that run u-pick operations in the greater Julian area. Julian’s gateway community of Wynola is home to the majority of local farms. I recommend Julian Farm & Orchard, Calico Ranch & Cidery, and Volcan Valley Apple Farm. These orchards are easy to access, don’t require reservations, well laid out, and have a decent amount of parking available. Learn more here.

Additionally, there are a handful of smaller orchards that offer more private u-picking experiences on a reservation basis. Ranchita del Reo is run by a 4th generation Julian family who has been in the farming business since 1942. They offer a great private apple picking experience.

Overall, parking is very limited. PLEASE only park in designated areas. Parking is not allowed along the highways. Don’t be the bad apple of the bunch. Cars illegally parked create traffic congestion and block exits. Law enforcement will be out ticketing illegally parked cars.

U-pick apples in the San Diego mountain town of Julian, CA.
Photo by Jennifer G.

How to pick apples?

Gently twist and pull the apple. It should easily fall off into your hand. It’s natural to pick a bunch of apples from one tree, but just pick a few of each tree so you don’t fill your bag too quickly with only one apple variety. Walk the orchard to pick a few of all the different varieties. Jonagold, Granny, Fuji, Gala, Empire, and Red Delicious — a few of the varieties grown here. You’ll notice the subtle differences in taste between them. Nothing compares to crisp, juicy, and oh-so-sweet fresh Julian apples.

What else is there to do in Julian?

Between the towns of Santa Ysabel, Wynola, and historic downtown Julian there’s enough to keep you busy. Near the larger orchards, you can find wineries, cideries, shopping, and restaurants. A short one to two-mile drive from the orchard of your choice will take you into Julian proper.

Julian’s Main Street is 4 blocks long and 3 blocks deep. It’s walkable, so don’t worry about parking too far. Park, walk around, and explore. Some suggestions:

Julian Apple Orchards scented candle hand-poured in Julian, CA.
Photos by Jennifer G.

Julian Apple Orchard Candle

Be sure to bring home a Mountain Made apple scented candle with you! It's assured to leave your home smelling like Julian.

What to make with your apple harvest?

Now that you have a bunch of handpicked Julian apples to take home, what are you going to do with all these apples? You’ll need plenty of apples for making homemade applesauce, pies, cobbler, and you’ll want to save some just for munching. Check out all these apple recipes you can make!

Tell me about your experience picking apples in Julian. Comment below or find me on social @mountainmademe


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