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15 Things to Expect On The Drive to Julian

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Things to expect on the drive to Julian, CA on the Mountain Made Blog
This photo is copyright of Jennifer Gutierrez. © 2019 - 2022 by Jennifer Gutierrez.

With 53 miles of curvy highway roads surrounding Julian, there is no way out of a windy country road if you're headed up the San Diego mountains. When planning a trip to the mountains, here's a few things you can expect on the road and want to keep in mind along the way.


  1. Julian is at least an hour and a half from downtown San Diego. Make sure to use the restroom before you leave. There are no McDonalds or Starbucks to run into for a potty break within 25 miles of Julian.

  2. No matter what time you leave, you always get stuck behind a slow driver, or two, or three...on the drive up or down the hill.

  3. There’s a high probability that the slow driver you're stuck behind will probably rather have a line of 15 to 25+ cars behind them, then take a few seconds to pull over.

  4. In order to keep traffic moving at the speed limit (and keep the locals happy), if you prefer to drive under the speed limit, please pull over at the next available turnout. There are over 30 turnouts in both directions. Yes, I counted.

  5. Carsickness is a constant epidemic in the mountains among many. You might want to pack a plastic bag and extra clothes for the kids.

  6. Watch out for mountain bikers on the road. It’s becoming more popular to bike on dangerous San Diego mountain highways...that have no shoulders. There are very few places for vehicles to safely pass mountain bikes while giving them three feet which could result in traffic slowing way down.

  7. Be sure to keep an eye out for semi-trucks too. They may steal half of your lane.

  8. The idiot who passes you illegally will probably be the car in front of you when you hit the first red light in 23 miles down the road. There is also a high probability that they will be the subject of the day on the community’ facebook group.

  9. The Demler Brothers (formally called Pine Hill Egg Ranch) on Highway 78 is silent but can be deadly. You'll smell it long before you see it and pass it.

  10. Washboard and potholes are red-neck speed bumps. I do have to say though, for the most part, Julian does have nicer paved roads than the City of San Diego.

  11. If there's snow on the ground, please keep in mind most country roads are highways, not parking lots to park and play in the snow in. It's strongly recommended to only drive up here during a snowstorm if you have experience driving in snow. 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. See our Snow In Julian, CA for more information.

  12. Those signs that look like they have reindeer on them, aren't notifying you that your closer to the North Pole. Deer and other wildlife love to jump out to say "hi" at any time. If an animal does jump out in front of you, don’t try to avoid it. You are better off hitting the animal than hitting another is or an embankment.

  13. There's always roadkill on the road. Snakes, skunks, deer, birds, wild rabbits, never know what you'll find.

  14. Don’t hit the pine cones! They will destroy your tire.

  15. GPS has a mind of its own. It works fairly well in town and on the highways but in the neighborhoods, it’s a gamble.


Putting aside everything else, the drive up the hill (and down) is beautiful. It can be long and windy but it's worth it. There truly are so many amazing things to see along the way. I wish you safe travels as you make your journey to visit our beautiful mountain town.


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