Nestled in the foothills of the San Diego Mountains sits Julian, California, an unincorporated community within the County of San Diego. Once a mining town, today it is home to a small year-round population and hosts thousands of visitors who come to experience the world-famous Julian apple pie.
As you walk through the Julian Historical District, you will feel as if you are stepping back in time to 1913. An architectural review board ensures that all new exterior developments accord with Julian’s authentic historic architecture.
This tiny town offers four distinct seasons, annual events, locally owned businesses, an impressive list of unique attractions, the best hometown hospitality, and a way of life that you just don’t find many places anymore—it is true Americana.
The Native American Kumeyaay tribe, the first inhabitants, lived in small, seasonal villages scattered throughout the area. Being nomadic, they traveled between the desert and coastal areas depending on the seasons.
The town itself was first settled by the Bailey brothers and their cousins, Mike and Webb Julian. Taken by the beauty of the area, Drury Bailey chose to settle here and named the settlement after Mike Julian.
In 1869, A.E. "Fred" Coleman, a former slave, found gold in the stream bed now known as Coleman Creek. Soon thereafter, he established the Coleman Mining District. On February 22, 1870, the first "lode" or hard-rock mining claim was filed in the Julian area. Because February 22 was the first president’s birthday, the mine was named the Washington mine.
It wasn’t long before others rushed to the area, hoping to strike it rich in San Diego’s only gold rush, making the town an overnight tent city. The gold began to run out in the 1900s, forcing residents to relocate or find other sources of income.
In 1907, the legacy of the town was forever changed when twenty-one varieties of Julian-grown apples received the Bronze Wilder Medal, a top honor, from the American Pomological Society at the 1907 Tricentennial Exposition held in Jamestown, Virginia. Since then, our town has been known for apples. Over the years, local businesses have devised very creative ways for visitors to experience our famous apples, from pies to ciders and caramel apples.
The town of Julian is located in mixed pine-oak woodland at 4,235 feet above sea level. Within the Julian zip code, elevation ranges between about 1,350 feet and peaks at 6,515. The region experiences more extreme temperatures than much of southern California, dropping to the low teens and soaring to over one hundred degrees in the summer. You can expect to see snow between November and May.
The town's population has fluctuated in size and race over its 150-plus year history. In 1870, Julian's population was 300 with nearly 1,500 people living in the Julian Mining District. However, the rush was short-lived, and most of the mines closed during the 1880s. The population of Julian dropped to a hundred or so.
Julian once boasted the majority of San Diego’s Black population: In the 1880 census, thirty-three of fifty-five Black residents living in San Diego County lived in the Julian area. The region is also home to a large Native American population. The boundary of Julian is very interactive as none of the government-established boundaries match, resulting in inconsistent population counts. Within the historical district, roughly a couple hundred people reside today. Julian Community Planning Area identifies a population of 3,018 for the larger town, and within the Julian zip code, which covers roughly 178 square miles, the population is estimated at around 4,000.
Attractions and Things to Do
Events and Festivals in Julian, CA
Julian offers an impressive list of offerings that attract visitors all year long, including a number of locally organized special events. Just to name a few: the Julian Daffodil Project, Julian Wildflower Show, Eleanor Burns Quilt Show, O.P. Ball’s Kids Fishing in the Pines Derby, and Julian’s Open Studios Art Tour. Before you plan your next trip to Julian, check out this list of events and festivals so you can plan your trip around attending them.
Julian Apple Season
Since Julian’s foundation in the 1860s, the town’s claim to fame was its hills, rich with gold. Then, the legacy of the town was forever changed when Julian’s apples won that prestigious pomological award in 1907. Since then, we have been known as the hills rich with gold and fresh apples. Each fall, visitors flock to experience “Apple Days” in Julian.
Learn more about Julian’s Apple Days with these resources:
Julian has multiple U-Pick orchards open to the public.
A local’s Guide to Apple-Picking in Julian, CA
Julian’s world-famous apple pie is a must-taste!
I put together a blog post with more details on the apple beverages available.
Join the Julian Women’s Club and the Julian Tea Cottage for the tea party of the year.
Julian 4th-of-July Parade
Since 1993, the Julian 4th-of-July Parade has been San Diego’s premier small-town Independence Day celebration. Volunteers work hard all year long to put together a parade theme that embraces our community culture and celebrates those who serve our country. The parade features a wide variety of entries from local organizations to local officials, bands, and so much more. You don’t want to miss this event!
Where to See Fall Colors Near Julian
It is so magical watching historic Julian completely transform as nature paints it with colors of amber, 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. Wondering where to see spectacular foliage in SoCal? Look no further! Here you can find great spots to scope out the colors of fall in San Diego County.
Unforgettable Animal Encounters
Are you longing for an up-close animal encounter? Come learn about the California gray wolves, ride a camel, hold a fox, and see an emu! Learn more about animal encounters in Julian here.
Julian has so much to offer. There’s something to do in every season, for every age, and every gender to ensure that the whole family has a good time. Julian is only sixty miles from San Diego City, so visitors can easily make this a day trip or a quick weekend getaway. Learn about all Julian has to offer and get local insider knowledge here.