Quiet, quaint, with a little bit of an edge

That’s what Julian felt like as we wound up the road away from the lights of San Diego to step back in time and straddle the power of an Indian.

We were there for romance and adventure, but back in the 1870’s the town of Julian, California was the destination for gold miners hoping to strike it rich in the beautiful hills about 60 miles northeast of downtown San Diego.

Today, the town of Julian is a couple of blocks of quaint shops and little restaurants which beckon tourists, bikers, and campers to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday urban and suburban life and enjoy a breath of fresh air.

At 4226’ altitude, you are way above Inland Empire smog and Pacific coastal fog. So, go ahead and take those deep, cleansing breaths! Gaze to the heavens. The night sky lights up with stars that are only enjoyed in the quiet and darkness of the mountains. The aroma of pines will remind you what life should feel like.


If you’re hoping for hotels and upscale dining, this isn’t the place. However, if camping, cabins, general stores and locally made apple pies and honey are your fancy, then this is just what the doctor ordered.

We stayed in a romantic cottage at Pinezanita. They have several to choose from. It’s a one-bedroom adult-only getaway that offers privacy, decks, grills, a fireplace, fully stocked kitchen and some creature comforts which can include a satellite and a flat-screen TV. Although with natural beauty all around you, you may want to unplug completely.
Create a snack plate with fruit, cheese and honey and pair that with your favorite wine. Head to the deck as the sun goes down and drink in life. Pure heaven.
If you’re not in the mood to cook your own dinner, then head over to Wynola Wood Fire Pizza just 3 miles west of Julian. There is an interior dining area with a view as well as an enclosed courtyard lined with the fragrance of Jasmine which creates a barrier between the eating area and Highway 78.
They are known for their wood-fired pizzas. They also have some barbeque on the menu. The tri-tip sandwich (we ordered ours without the bread) was very tender and full of flavor.

The winding hills around Julian are a bikers dream. The roads were not crowded with cars when we were there which is great when you’re on your motorcycle. The mix of winding roads and stretches of countryside are just breathtaking.

Stop in town and you will certainly be in good company. Bikes line the street as “weekend warriors” or touring bikers stop to whet their whistle with a little bit of apple cider from The Julian Cider Mill or grab a slice of  pie. The apple butter is amazing!

In the early morning, you can head over to Lake Cuyamaca just in time to see the morning sun glistening over the lake. Kayaks and fishing boats with their outboards motors are lined up along the dock waiting for those ready to throw a line in and catch some fish, or just cruise along the lake. Not in the mood to fish? Then the Lake Cuyamaca Restaurant is ready to serve you breakfast and a cup of coffee as you sit on their expansive deck and enjoy the lake view and a little solace.
Every now and then it’s good to escape the concrete jungle and a cookie cutter suburban life. Unplug. Breathe. Connect. Love.

When you Go:

Pinezanita Cottages
4446 Highway 79
Julian, CA  92036

Wynola Pizza Express
4355 Highway 78
Julian, CA

The Julian Cider Mill
2103 Main Street
Julian, CA 92036
Lake Cuyamaca
15027 Highway 79
Julian, CA  92036

photo attribution with creative commons license:

Other photos Full copyright: Dawn Damico