Escape to the Historic Mountain
Town of Julian
By Ann Nelson



Have you ever thought of going on a llama trek through the quiet, serene countryside, or having a personal visit with the resident wolf packs? Itís all possible, and itís close to home.

Nestled high in the pine and oak-covered hills of San Diegoís backcountry sits the enchanting frontier town of Julian. This rustic mountain retreat, rich in history with small town community spirit, has grand stories to tell of fame, fortune and dreams come true. The townís old storefronts date back to the 1870ís and offer visitors many historic sites to explore.

More than a hundred years later, Julian offers visitors a unique combination of history and natural beauty in which to tour and explore the regionís unspoiled and peaceful countryside. There is no fog and no smog in this small mountain community. The weather is mild, with summer highs in the 80ís and winter lows in the 30ís.

Just an hour northeast of San Diego, and three hours from Los Angeles, Julian is located between the northern end of the Cuyamaca Mountain range and the south slope of Volcan Mountain, just west of the Anza Borrego Desert.  Even though this community was hit hard by the 2003 wildfires, it is still beautiful, surrounded by uncluttered tree-lined country roads with grazing cattle and horses, fruit orchards and open meadows.

Following the Civil War in 1869, a group of veterans headed west, and captivated by the beauty of the land, settled in what was to become Julian. Within a month of finding gold in a small Julian creek, the town was flourishing with commerce, trade and homesteading. By 1934, after over 60 years of mining, the total gold production for this small  mountain region was estimated between four and five million dollars.

Unlike most gold-mining towns of the time, Julian didnít disappear after the mines were depleted. Tent housing gave way to brick and wood buildings, many of which survive today. The areaís temperate climate and close proximity to San Diego played a major role in the development of the town and by 1872, Julian counted fifty houses, three hotels, four stores, two restaurants, one schoolhouse and a large number of saloons. The town was named Julian City, in honor of Mike Julian, who later was elected San Diego County Assessor.

As the gold played out, pioneers planted apple trees, which thrived due to the townís elevation, climate and soil. Julian apples won national and international awards around the turn of the century. Visitors today can enjoy the world-class apples as well as pears, lily-of-the-valley, and  peonies.

Today Julian has about 2,000 residents. There are no movie theaters or shopping malls. People come here for the quiet atmosphere and nostalgic reminders of simpler times. Julian offers limitless outdoor activities including  hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, picnicking, boating, camping, hunting, and fishing. The residents of Julian care about  their community and  the environment.

The California Wolf Center sponsors private and group tours. Its mission is to increase awareness and conservation efforts in protecting and understanding the importance of all wildlife and wild lands by focusing on the history, biology and ecology of the North American Gray Wolf through education, exhibition, reproduction of endangered species and studies of captive wolf behavior.

Julianís  Historical Walking Tour will help any visitor feel the true soul of this town. The different plaques placed on the historical buildings reveal Julianís history from the Gold Rush times to the 1920ís. There is a map available at The Julian Chamber of Commerce located inside the Town Hall on Main Street. The Eagle Peak Mining Company, one of Julianís original producing gold mines, offers daily guided tours that take you through tunnels in the hard rock mine and recreates the lives of the early residents.

After trekking around the countryside and checking out the mine,  you may want to consider spending the rest of the afternoon concentrating on wine tasting. The Menghini Winery is local, and located down a two-lane country road. Set on ten acres of vineyards and apple orchards, this is the perfect place to bring a picnic lunch. Wine tasting and tours are offered daily.

Julian offers a wide variety of lodging, including nearly 20 bed and breakfast inns. Some people consider Julian the B & B capital of Southern California.

Following is a brief synopsis of a few of the inns:

Wikiup Bed & Breakfast - Enchanting and relaxing with beautiful theme rooms featuring spas, fireplaces and private entries. Gourmet breakfast. Cats, dogs and llamas on site. (800) 6-wikiup or $165.00- $175.00  a night.

Butterfield Bed & Breakfast  - 3-acre country garden setting up in the quiet hills with dozens of roses and bonsai. Three rooms have fireplaces or  a wood stove. Gourmet breakfast. (800) 379-4262 or go to $130.00-$175.00 a night.

Rockiní A Ranch - Located on 5-1/2 secluded acres with fruit orchards, fishing pond, pool and spa. Features European-style feather-filled body pillows covered with cozy comforters. Continental breakfast. (760) 765-2820 or see $135.00 a night.

Eaglenest Bed & Breakfast - Victorian Home in the townsite with spectacular views. In-room fireplaces, private hot tubs, view patios. Full Country breakfast and desserts served daily. (888) 345-6378 or $145.00-$185.00.

Villa De Valor-Hildreth House - Enjoy formal Victorian elegance in this Turn-of-the-Century historical home in the heart of town. Suites feature private entrances and parlor areas. (877) 96-VILLA or see   $160.00-$180.00.

The Historical House - Built for the goldminers and beautifully refurbished. Features tin ceilings and clawleg tubs. Private romantic play-house set in the garden. Located in the Julian townsite. (760) 765-1931 or see $95.00-$110.00.

Rainbow Hill - Organic architecture by James Hubbell blends native stone, stained glass, forged metal works and flowing mosaics. Terrace has woodburning stove and window seat. Musical waterfall, garden paths and stone-paved patios. (760) 765-2644 or see $125.00-$155.00.

The Julian Hotel -  Constructed in 1897 by freed slaves, this 16-room hotel is Southern Californiaís oldest continuously operating hotel. The hotel is the only survivor of the townís fifteen hotels that were in operation during Julianís heyday. Most rooms have a bath down the hall. The separate Honeymoon House and Patio Cottage have fireplaces. (800) 734-5854 or



California Wolf Center 
(619) 234-WOLF

Leelin Llama Treks 

Historical Walking Tour  
(760) 765-1857

The Eagle Peak
Mining Company 

(760) 765-0036
The Menghini Winery 

(760) 765-2072
Julian Chamber of Commerce  (760) 765-1857


Ann Nelson is a freelance writer, presently residing in San Diego, CA.

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