Updated: Mar 18
Julian and the surrounding mountain communities are the only places in San Diego County that you can find covered in snow on occasion. Yes, snow in sunny San Diego! In about two hours you can go from surfing to snowball fights to the hot desert sun. It's really one of my favorite aspects of San Diego.
Unlike Big Bear or Mammoth, snow in the San Diego mountains doesn't last long. We get anywhere from a dusting to 3ft on a rare occasion. Typically, the snow may even start melting the same day. Most of the time it's gone within a day or two...it really depends on how much snow we get and how long the cold spell lasts. So, if you want to come up for the snow don't dilly dally. Julian has been known to get snow as early as November and as late as Mother's day in May. We get most of our snow from January to March. Check out the Julian Webcam before you plan your trip. Mount Laguna, Palomar Mountain, Lake Cuyamaca, and Julian are located at different altitudes, sometimes resulting in some areas having snow while others will have none. For those coming to play in the snow, here's some local advice.
Be sure to check the road conditions before you head up the hill. It's strongly recommended that a driver with experience driving in snow, is the one that drives. It's not easy to drive with snow and ice on the windy roads. Always make sure you have the proper size chains for your vehicle and know how to put them on before you head up the hill. Stopping in the middle of the road to put them on is not safe. Car accidents increase dramatically when there's snow. We have a very limited amount of emergency resources in the mountains. Resources are limited and stretched to the max with a sudden, dramatic increase of visitors. Lastly, it's strongly advised to fill up on gas before you head up the 78 or 79. We only have one gas station in town.
When To Come
Weekdays are the best time to come all year long especially when there's snow. During a holiday snowfall, we get thousands of visitors per day trying to play in the snow. In 2015, one local estimated over 30,000 visitors trying to come to Julian in a single day. Only about 4,000 people live here. If possible, come up early in the day. The mornings are icy but everywhere will be packed by 12 p.m.
What To Bring
Bring all your waterproof snow gear with you (snow gloves, pants, jacket, and boots). Few stores carry a very limited variety and supply of snow gear/winter clothing. Sorry ladies but high heels are not a good choice when there's snow/ice on the ground.
Bring a change of clothes for everyone. Even with waterproof clothes, you're probably going to be dripping wet and cold after playing in the snow.
Be prepared with water and food for your party. Playing in and eating snow dehydrates you so bring lots of water. After a long drive and playing, you're sure to get hungry. If you come on a weekend, you may have to wait two-plus hours to eat at a local restaurant. That's not an exaggeration so come prepared! If you do decide to wait it out, please be patient with the staff. They are doing their best to serve everyone in a timely manner.
Where To Play
Please be mindful of where you stop to play. Most of the mountains are privately owned. The snow oftentimes covers signs and fences. We ask that you take a little extra time in making sure you're on public lands and not private property. You can be convicted of a misdemeanor for trespassing and subject to fines. We do not have any ski resorts. Don't stop to play on private property, along the highway and roads, in the Julian Cemetery (see video), in neighborhoods, and in unsafe areas. There's a list of public spots you can play at: William Heise Park, Jess Martin Park, Cuyamaca State Park, Julian High football field, and Laguna Park. Even if you are on public land, we ask that you stay respectful of the land, wildlife, and natural resources as you play.
Please please take everything you bring with you back home. Our mountains are beautiful and home to lots of wildlife. We ask that you help us maintain a clean environment for the animals and the generations to come. Do not leave trash of any kind including, but not limited to sleds, dirty diapers, snow gear, and more. Anyone who litters can be fined up to $1,000 and community service (see the law here).
As always, thank you for supporting our community. Have a safe trip!