Apple Central: Julian, California

The mountain town of Julian is synonymous with apples and apple pies

Fall is here and that means it’s time for apple picking in Julian, CaliforniaSeptember and October are prime apple picking months so it’s an ideal time to be outdoors and plan a fun family outing.

And nothing is better than gathering up your own apples and taking them home to your RV for eating, cooking, and baking. So, let’s head to the mountains of Julian for these wholesome fall treats and maybe try some of the famous Julian apple pies.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of Julian apples

The town of Julian is the place to go for apples. Located just an hour northeast of San Diego in the foothills of the Cuyamaca Mountains at an elevation of 4,225 feet, Julian is a refreshing throwback to simpler times.

Once a bustling gold mining town, Julian’s mines eventually dried up but a new treasure had already been taking hold—apples. All thanks to a widower named James T. Madison who relocated here from New Orleans and quickly discovered the fertile soil of Julian was perfect for fruit orchards.

Madison traveled to San Bernardino with a four-horse wagon and returned with it filled with apple trees. And the rest is history. 

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the 1890s, Julian was proclaimed the “greatest apple belt in the world” and its fruit and pies were winning one national award after another. Julian’s legacy lives on today with its apple farms and famous apple pies.

The center of town is just three blocks of restaurants, specialty shops, and a few excellent options for apple pie.

It’s also a popular destination, for those in the know—people who want to get out for the day, to hike, explore the scenic backroads, or see historic sites.

To explore Julian, set out on foot for a historic self-guided walking tour. There are about 30 places to check out including 20 that have plaques explaining the history of the building or place. The Pioneer Museum is worth stopping in as well; its collections run from American Indian artifacts to antique furniture and tools to one of the best displays of antique lace in the state.

There are plenty of hiking opportunities in and around Julian. One great destination is the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve. The park encompasses nearly 3,000 acres of forest; it’s primarily mixed conifer forest but also includes manzanita, elderberry, scrub oak, chamise, and California wild lilac.

One great trail reaches the summit where you will have sweeping views of the orchards and vineyards below and even far-reaching views of the coast. It’s about a 5-mile round-trip hike with an elevation gain of about 1,200 feet. From Julian take Farmer Road 2.2 miles, turn right for 50 yards and left onto Farmer Road. Drive about one quarter mile and park on the right near the preserve sign.

Apple picking season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian Apple Picking

Julian is at its most charming―and busiest―during the fall when leaves change color and local apples ripen. Stop by an apple orchard to sample local varieties not found elsewhere, pick up some of your favorites, or pick your own.

Apple picking season arrives in early September and lasts until Mid-October.

Here’s a listing of places to pick apples in Julian. However, it’s a good idea to check the website or give these businesses a call for updated information before you go.

Where and when to pick Julian apples

Apple picking season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Peacefield Orchard

Address: 3803 Wynola Rd, Julian

Dates: Saturdays and Sundays each weekend in September

Peacefield Orchard U-Pick and Farmstand is open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 2 pm (or until the day’s ripe apples run out). So, it’s a good idea to arrive early as it gets hot! Please wear close-toed shoes.

Orchard tours and u-pick by appointment are also available. Please make reservations for groups larger than two cars. Pick Granny Smith, Red and Golden Delicious, Jonathan, and Jonagold on 2½ acres, widely spaced lanes made for plenty of space.

Cost: $20 per bag (½ peck) with no entry fee.

Apple picking season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian Mining Company

Address: 4444 CA-78, Julian

Dates: Begins October 15, 2023

Julian Mining Company is all about connecting living history with a working farm. Yes, there are apples but this orchard offers a whole lot more.

Apple picking begins October 15 with a variety of fun activities like fall goodies, pumpkins, gold mining and gold panning, fossil digging, a mini train ride, and of course, apple picking. The farm is open Saturdays 10-4 and Sundays 12-4.

Cost: $18 per bag (can be shared) and $3 per person entry fee

Apple picking season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Volcan Valley Apple Farm

Address: 1284 Julian Orchards Dr, Julian

Dates: Opening the whole orchard September 8, 9, and 10 and every Friday, Saturday, Sunday until the apples are gone

A seasonal u-pick orchard with 8,000 trellis-grown apple trees and seven apple varieties, Volcan Valley Apple Farm is all about family fun.

Hours of operation are Friday-Monday, 9 am to 4:30 pm (last sale). Gates close at 5. 

Cost: $15 per bag which holds about 6-7 pounds and includes one admission. Active military with an ID pay $10. Extra admission is $5 per person. Children 5 and under are free. 

Apple picking season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crosscutt Farm and Orchard

Address: 1209 Farmer Road, Julian

Dates: September 16–24, 2023

Gather your friends and family and be ready when the family-owned and operated Crosscut Farm and Orchard opens for apple picking this September.

Reservations are required. Walk-ins are not permitted. 10 people per group minimum, 50 people per group maximum.

Reservation times are 10 am-noon, 1 pm-3 pm, and 3 pm-5 pm but feel free to bring a picnic lunch and spend the day.

Cost: $20 per bag and $5 per person entry fee (kids 4 and under are free) which includes parking, a narrative on apple farming and local history, a cider demonstration, and a picnic site.

Apple dumplings © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stop in for a slice of apple pie in Julian

You can’t be in Julian and not try a big slice of flaky, sweet, delectable apple pie, a true Julian treasure. Several pie companies in town offer either sit-down or window service but you just have to do it.

These are the best apple pies in the universe (and even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top). I guarantee you’ll be taking a pie or two home with you.

But which bakery has the best apple pie in Julian? It seems like every family in Southern California has their personal favorite and some are hard set on only eating apple pie from their bakery.

There are four pie shops in Julian and yes, for the sake of science, I tried them all:

  • Julian Pie Company (2225 Main Street)
  • Mom’s Pie House (2119 Main Street)
  • Apple Alley Bakery (2122 Main Street)
  • Julian Café and Bakery (2112 Main Street)
Julian Pie Company © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian Pie Company

A locally owned family business specializing in apple pies and cider donuts, Julian Pie Company has been producing its stellar pies since 1989 and bakes traditional apple pies plus variations of apple with cherry, boysenberry, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, or rhubarb. You can also order pecan pies and pumpkin pies or a pie with an all fruit filling that doesn’t include apple.

Along with the most widely distributed apple pie throughout Southern California, they carry apple cider donuts, apple nut bread, and apple memories, bits of extra pie crust cut out into hearts that are perfect to snack on during the ride home.

The Julian Pie Company is housed in a small building that looks like a house off of the main street in Julian. There are outdoor picnic tables to enjoy your slice of pie on or a row of tables indoors. If eating at the store, try a scoop of Julian Pie Company’s cinnamon ice cream to go with your pie. You can also try ordering your apple pie with melted cheddar cheese on top.

Julian Pie Company whose pies you can find in stores all round SoCal is popular for a reason. A short crumbly piecrust, juicy, oozy filling, soft, rich apple and a crisp delicate pastry bottom! Perfect.

Mom’s Pies © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mom’s Pie House

Located on Main Street, Mom’s Pie House is indeed owned by a mom who has lived in Julian for over 30 years and has been baking using Julian apples since 1984. A tasty, mouth-watering homemade pie, Mom’s flakey crusts and not-too-sweet fillings are delicious.

The shop is known for its excellent crusts, of which it makes two—the Flakey, a pastry-style crust, and the Crumb which is sprinkled on the top of the pie instead of being rolled on.

Mom’s Pie House has many variations of apple pie, including the Apple Caramel Crumb Pie and Apple Sugar Free Pie. You can also get apple boysenberry or apple cherry pies with either the Flakey or Crumb crust. Mom’s also serves up pecan, pumpkin, rhubarb, cherry, and peach pies.

You’ll also find other equally delightful confectionary goodness but not to be missed are their apple dumplings loaded with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and baked in cream cheese to absolute perfection.

The entrance to the shop is a long corridor that takes you past the open kitchen and into a cozy dining area where you can enjoy your slice of pie.

Apple Alley Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apple Alley Bakery

Apple Alley Bakery turns out a delicious apple pecan pie with a crunchy crumb topping plus a killer lunch special that includes your choice of a half sandwich and a side of soup or salad and slice of pie for dessert.

Owned and operated by a husband and wife team, this little bakery serves up apple pies made fresh each morning. The interior has a cabin feel with ample seating. There are also tables outdoors for those who want to enjoy their pie in the crisp Julian air.

Apple Alley Bakery has some fun twists on their apples pies including a Mango Apple Pie and a Caramel Apple Pecan Pie.

Apple Alley Bakery also serves sandwiches, potpies, soups, and salads for lunch.

Julian Cafe & Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian Cafe and Bakery

Julian Café and Bakery is a small restaurant housed in a cozy log room. You can eat at the restaurant for some good comfort food like meatloaf or country fried chicken followed by a slice of pie or just step up to the pie ordering window for a pie to go.

The claim to fame of the pies of Julian Café and Bakery is the Apple Pumpkin Crumb Pie with layers of creamy pumpkin pie atop soft apples and topped with a crumb crust. The Apple Pumpkin Crumb Pie is available seasonally and is a great addition to Thanksgiving. Also noteworthy, Julian Cafe and Bakery’s boysenberry-apple is the perfect mix of sweet and tart.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pie Fun Facts

The first mention of a fruit pie in print is from Robert Green’s Arcadia (1590): thy breath is like the steame of apple-pyes

Oliver Cromwell banned the eating of pie in 1644, declaring it a pagan form of pleasure; for 16 years, pie eating and making went underground until the Restoration leaders lifted the ban on pie in 1660

Pumpkin pie was first introduced to the holiday table at the pilgrim’s second Thanksgiving in 1623

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pie by the Numbers

  • Nearly one out of five (19 percent) of Americans prefer apple pie, followed by pumpkin (13 percent), pecan (12 percent), banana cream (10 percent), and cherry (9 percent)
  • 36 million Americans identify apple pie as their favorite
  • 90 percent of Americans agree that a slice of pie represents one of the simple pleasures of life
  • 47 percent of Americans for whom the word comforting comes to mind when they think of pie
  • Americans buy around 186 million apple pies every year; and that’s just from stores, not restaurants
  • 6 million American men ages 35-54 have eaten the last slice of pie and denied it

Worth Pondering…

Pie, in a word, is my passion. Since as far back as I can remember, I have simply loved pie. I can’t really explain why. If one loves poetry, or growing orchids, or walking along the beach at sunset, the why isn’t all that important. To me, pie is poetry that makes the world a better place.

―Ken Haedrich, Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie

Day Trip: Julian, CA

The center of Julian is just three blocks of restaurants, specialty shops, and a few excellent options for apple pie

The mountain town of Julian is synonymous with apple pie. Head an hour east of San Diego and check out this charming small town—and bring your appetite.

With a friendly, small-town feel, four distinct seasons, and enough fun to make for a stacked itinerary—including a wolf conservatory, hundreds of miles of trails, charming cafes and cideries, and more—Julian is perfect for a day trip, a weekend escape, or a longer stay. Here’s how to make the most of your visit.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a step back in time to the days of Julian’s beginning rooted in the 1870s gold rush. See where gold was discovered, shop stores housed in historic buildings dating back to the 1870s, hike and picnic amid oaks and pines, and sample Julian’s famous apple pie.

Nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Cuyamaca Mountains, much of Julian’s rustic charm has to do with the fact that it’s preserved its roots as a Western mining town gone boom. The town experienced a population spike in the 1870s following the discovery of gold in a nearby stream by formerly enslaved cattleman A.E. “Fred” Coleman; the find spurred the area’s first and only gold rush which lasted until about 1900.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A bronze plaque near Town Hall also commemorates the city’s early Black history as Julian once boasted the majority of San Diego’s Black population: in the 1880 census, 33 of 55 Black residents living in San Diego County lived in the Julian area.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Around that same time, another enterprising gentleman, James Madison (not the fourth president), brought a wagonload of young apple trees to the area. The trees flourished in the mountain environment and became one of the reasons people from all over SoCal continue to visit Julian today.

More on Julian: The Charms of Julian

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Foodies will have a field day here, especially those with a sweet tooth. A warm slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream feels decadent anywhere else but in Julian it’s essential! Julian Pie Company is the most well-known bakery in town so be prepared to wait in line. Moms Pie House is equally delicious. Both have whipped cream, caramel sauce, ice cream, and sharp cheddar cheese as pie toppings, so pick your pleasure.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Feeling thirsty? There are several wineries around Julian including Blue Door Winery just off of Main Street. Julian Beer Company is another fun place to unwind with several options on tap including Julian Hard Cider. If you’re looking for a caffeine boost, stop by Regulars Wanted Beanery, a cute cafe that serves breakfast all day and some of the biggest cinnamon rolls you’ve ever seen.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

True to its southern California roots, beer, wine, and hard apple cider isn’t hard to come by in Julian. A good place to visit is Calico Cidery, a dog-friendly cider farm and super scenic spot to lounge under the shade of huge oak trees and sip handcrafted hard ciders made from apples and pears grown exclusively on their ranch. Fun fact: It was on the property of Calico Ranch that Fred Coleman first discovered gold in 1870, sparking the Julian gold rush.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over at Nickel Beer Company (1485 Hollow Glen Road; ½- mile east of downtown Julian), 16 taps of house-brewed beer and plenty of outdoor seating are always on the table—just don’t miss the Apple Pie Ale, Volcan IPA, or Hidden Fortress Double IPA and feel free to grab a growler.

More on Julian: Julian Is World Famous For Apple Pies

And at Julian Hard Cider (4470 Julian Road), you can pull up a chair outside of the cider bar and try a flight of ciders with adventurous names like Razzmatazz and Freaky Tiki (though of course, you can’t go wrong with their traditional Harvest Apple).

Tucked into the base of Volcan Mountain at just above 4,000 feet elevation, Menghini Winery is the oldest winery in Julian and the second oldest in San Diego County. Located just 2.5 miles outside of town, the winery is a small-batch operation that produces sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling, rosé, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah. Their tasting room is open seven days a week and visitors are welcome to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on their expansive grounds.

As part of Julian’s Apple Days Celebration, Menghini Winery will be hosting a two-day Apple Days Festival on Saturday, September 23, and Sunday, September 24, 2022. The weekend-long event will feature music and dancing, an antique tractor display, children’s games and activities, gold panning demonstrations, a beer, and wine garden, food and merchandise vendors, contests, and more.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are several historic sites to explore around the town including The Eagle Mining Co. which offers guided tours of its underground tunnels. The family-friendly town has horse-drawn carriage rides, old-fashioned candy shops, and more activities that will take you back in time.

As is often the case in California, hiking is an essential pastime in Julian. About 20 minutes outside of Julian, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has hundreds of miles of trails to traverse.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are over 100 miles of trails that accommodate hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The two family campgrounds, Paso Picacho and Green Valley are open and on the reservation system spring through fall. Green Valley sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet and has a creek that runs through the middle of the campground. Green Valley has 81 campsites.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More on Julian: Where is the Best Apple Pie in America?

Paso Picacho, 5 miles north, sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet. The most popular hikes start from this camp including the 2-mile hike up Stonewall Peak (elevation 5,700 feet) and the 3.5-mile hike up Cuyamaca Peak (elevation 6,512 feet) both of which offer breathtaking views of the deserts to the east, the coast to the west, and Lake Cuyamaca at the bottom. Paso Picacho campground has 85 campsites.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s also the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve—go for a gorgeous, yet moderately strenuous hike that will see you crisscross your way through a mix of scenic conifer forest and desert—and the challenging 4.1-mile Three Sisters Falls out-and-back trail in Cleveland National Forest with a two-mile, 980-feet descent that includes some bouldering, climbing, and traversing before you reach the sparkling falls and the natural swimming pool beneath.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For something truly out of this world, Julian’s night skies make for prime stargazing, giving visitors magnificent views of the Milky Way, planets, and constellations. Amateur astronomers will want to book a Sky Tour at Observer’s Inn where you’ll use research-grade telescopes to view planets, open star clusters, nebulae, star systems, and the moon. Plan a visit around upcoming celestial events for an unparalleled look at the heavens.

More on Julian: Apples and Pies Just Part of Julian’s Appeal

Worth Pondering…

Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.

—Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

Apples and Pies Just Part of Julian’s Appeal

Julian is an old gold mining town, now famous for its apples and apple pies

While many boomtowns eventually became ghost towns, Julian had more to offer than mining.

In the lush rolling hills and mountains, just 60 miles northeast of San Diego, is the small town of Julian. It’s not on the way to anywhere for most folk, but if you’re even close it’s well worth visiting for a day or two.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Confederated, veterans from Georgia headed west to seek their fortunes in a new, mostly unsettled land. Among these were cousins, Drue Bailey and Mike Julian, who found a lush meadow between the Volcan Mountains and the Cuyamacas to their liking.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town was named Julian, in honor of Mike Julian, who later was elected San Diego County Assessor. The town was never large; at the most, it boasted a population of about 600. Rumor has it that Julian almost became San Diego’s county seat.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A cattleman, Fred Coleman, found the first fleck of gold in a creek in early 1870. It was San Diego’s first and only gold rush. The gold rush was short-lived, lasting from 1870 until around 1900 with some mining still later on. But the pioneers stayed and began farming the rich land.

Related: The 10 Best Day Trips in Southern California

While many crops were planted and animals pastured, Julian proved to be a fine place to grow apples. Julian apples, “Twenty-one varieties of well-grown and carefully selected apples”, received the Bronze Wilder Medal, a top honor, from the American Pomological Society at the 1907 Tri-centennial Exposition held in Jamestown, Virginia.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apples continue to be produced in Julian. Their sweet, fresh flavor lures thousands to the mountains each fall when visitors will find fruit stands overflowing with crisp fruit, homemade cider, and other delicacies and enjoy U-picking.

Apple picking season in Julian arrives in early September and lasts until mid-October. But even if your trip doesn’t coincide with the harvest you can still enjoy the spoils: there’s no shortage of bakeries in town and everyone you ask will have a personal favorite.

Julian Pie Company © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The biggest name in town (and possibly in the West) is Julian Pie Company. Along with the most widely distributed apple pie throughout Southern California, they carry more than 20 pie varieties, apple cider donuts, apple nut bread, and “apple memories,” bits of extra pie crust cut out into hearts that are perfect to snack on during the ride home.

Mom’s Pie House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At Mom’s Pie House, you’ll find a laundry list of pie options and other equally delightful confectionary goodness but not to be missed are their apple dumplings loaded with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and baked in cream cheese to absolute perfection.

Related: The Charms of Julian

Apple Alley Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An unassuming spot right off the main drag, Apple Alley Bakery turns out a spectacular apple pecan pie with a crunchy crumb topping plus a killer lunch special that includes your choice of a half sandwich and a side of soup or salad and a slice of pie for dessert.

Julian Cafe and Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also noteworthy, Julian Cafe and Bakery’s boysenberry-apple is the perfect mix of sweet and tart, and Juliantla Chocolate Boutique covers cinnamon-scented caramelized apples in a flaky crust that’s also completely vegan.

Julian is an official California Historical Landmark, meaning that any new development must adhere to certain guidelines that preserve the town’s architectural integrity. Once you’re settled in, get your bearings with a self-guided walking tour and explore Julian Town Hall, historical homes, and the Pioneer Cemetery as well as the Julian Gold Rush Hotel, the oldest operating hotel in Southern California and one of the first businesses in San Diego County to be owned and operated by African Americans.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the longest-running mining operations in town, The Eagle Mine is a popular spot to take a tour and try your hand at panning for gold as they did in the olden days. Julian Mining Company also has all your gold-panning needs covered, plus gem mining, tomahawk throwing, and train rides.

Related: Where is the Best Apple Pie in America?

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s also worth checking out the outstanding collection of historical artifacts at the Julian Pioneer Museum where you can learn about how local Indigenous groups and pioneer settlers lived and worked as well as The Barn Vintage Marketplace just outside town in Wynola, a great spot to shop for vintage keepsakes, furniture, and souvenirs. Be sure to say hello to the sweet emus who call the latter home.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You won’t be leaving this little town hungry and for a trip down memory lane, Miner’s Diner is the spot. Operated within the Historic Levi & Co. building (the first brick building erected in Julian, 1885) the historic significance doesn’t stop there. From the eclectic mix of vintage signage to old prescription medications which line the shelves to the numerous photos of the town and the building, customers receive an understanding and experience of old Julian which is available nowhere else.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dating back to 1929, this charming vintage soda shop has classic diner fare on deck—stacks of pancakes, bacon, and eggs, burgers, dogs, and melts included—plus a “Fun Stuff” menu where you’ll find old-timey treats like phosphate soda, ice cream floats, thick shakes and malts, banana splits, and, yes, apple pie.

Related: Julian Is World Famous For Apple Pies

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Established in 1977, the California Wolf Center is home to several gray wolf packs including one of the rarest and most endangered species, the Mexican gray wolf. Reservations are required to visit so schedule one of three different tours to learn about wolf conservation and meet with the wolf packs.

Worth Pondering…

Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.

―Yogi Berra

Where is the Best Apple Pie in America?

Exploring the possibility that the best apple pie in the U.S. is in the little gold rush town of Julian, California

It’s no exaggeration to say that America has a fascination with apple pie. In fact, it’s an obsession. And pretty much every town in the country claims to have the best.

Apple dumplings from Mom’s Pie House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I can understand the fixation; for as long as I can remember, of all desserts, hot apple pie with a scoop or two of ice cream will get me every time. I think I must be a little bit American!

So when I discovered we were just a day trip away from a town famous for its apple pies, I was very excited.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian is a historic mountain town about two hours out of Palm Springs. Like so many towns in the Southwest, Julian was founded on mining. In the winter of 1869, former slave A.E. “Fred” Coleman, a cattle rancher who lived near present-day Julian, found gold in a mountain stream.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

His discovery kicked off the area’s only gold rush. Today, visitors can get a taste for gold rush-era Julian by panning for gold at the Julian Mining Co. or taking an hour-long tour into old mineshafts at the Eagle Mining Co.

The town thrived briefly and became the hub of the area for business and social gatherings. During the boom, there were 50 houses, a schoolhouse, restaurants, saloons, and, of course, a brothel or two.

Julian© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While many boomtowns eventually became ghost towns, Julian had more to offer than mining. At an elevation of 4,200 feet, it has a mild climate and rich soil, ideal for growing quality fruit. While many crops were planted and animals pastured, Julian proved to be a fine place to grow apples.  

Another scrumptious dessert: Why I Love Blue Bell Ice Cream

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As early as 1893 Julian apples took some of the top prizes in the Chicago World’s Fair and are still the reason many visitors flock to this mountain town. Julian apples, “Twenty-one varieties of well-grown and carefully selected apples”, received the Bronze Wilder Medal, a top honor, from the American Pomological Society at the 1907 Tri-centennial Exposition held in Jamestown, Virginia.

Apple picking season in Julian arrives in early September and lasts until Mid-October. You can buy just-picked apples and fresh-pressed cider without leaving Main Street at the Julian Cider Mill or head to any number of U-Pick locations outside town, like Calico Ranch or Apple and Art Orchards.

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But even if your trip doesn’t coincide with the harvest you can still enjoy the spoils: there’s no shortage of bakeries in town, and everyone you ask will have a personal favorite.

Another scrumptious dessert: Along the Kolache Trail

There are four pie shops here:

  • Julian Pie Company (2225 Main Street)
  • Mom’s Pie House (2119 Main Street)
  • Apple Alley Bakery (2122 Main Street)
  • Julian Café and Bakery (2112 Main Street)
Julian Pie Company © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The biggest name in town (and possibly in the West) is Julian Pie Company. Along with the most widely distributed apple pie throughout Southern California, they carry more than 20 pie varieties, apple cider donuts, apple nut bread, and “apple memories,” bits of extra pie crust cut out into hearts that are perfect to snack on during the drive home. Julian Pie Company whose pies you can find in stores all around SoCal is popular for a reason. A short crumbly pie crust, juicy, oozy filling, soft, rich apple, and a crisp delicate pastry bottom! Perfect.

Mom’s Pie House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And, Mom’s Pies are a close runner-up. A tasty, mouth-watering homemade pie, Mom’s flakey crusts, and not-too-sweet fillings are delicious. At Mom’s Pie House, you’ll find a laundry list of pie options and other equally delightful confectionary goodness but not to be missed are their apple dumplings loaded with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and baked in cream cheese to absolute perfection.

Apple Alley Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An unassuming spot right off the main drag, Apple Alley Bakery turns out a delicious apple pecan pie with a crunchy crumb topping plus a killer lunch special that includes your choice of a half sandwich and a side of soup or salad and a slice of pie for dessert.

Julian Cafe & Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also noteworthy, Julian Cafe and Bakery’s boysenberry-apple is the perfect mix of sweet and tart.

Another scrumptious dessert: Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

True to its southern California roots, beer, wine, and hard apple cider isn’t hard to come by in Julian. A good place to start is Calico Cidery, a dog-friendly cider farm and super scenic spot to lounge under the shade of huge oak trees and sip handcrafted hard ciders made from apples and pears grown exclusively on their ranch.

Mom’s Pie House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fun fact: It was on the property of Calico Ranch that Fred Coleman first discovered gold in 1870, sparking the Julian gold rush.

Over at Nickel Beer Company (1485 Hollow Glen Road; ½- mile east of downtown Julian), 16 taps of house-brewed beer and plenty of outdoor seating are always on the table—just don’t miss the Apple Pie Ale, Volcan IPA, or Hidden Fortress Double IPA and feel free to grab a growler for the road.

Julian Cafe & Bakery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And at Julian Hard Cider (4470 Julian Road), you can pull up a chair outside of the cider bar and try a flight of ciders with adventurous names like Razzmatazz and Freaky Tiki (though of course, you can’t go wrong with their traditional Harvest Apple).

Another scrumptious dessert: Getting in our Licks on National Ice Cream Day

Julian © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Julian is also a popular destination for those who want to get out for the day, hike, see historic sites, or explore the scenic backroads. It’s not on the way to anywhere for most folk, but if you’re even close it’s well worth visiting for a day or two. Many visitors come just for their love of apples and apple pie, the products for which Julian is famous.

Worth Pondering…

Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.

―Yogi Berra