Picking Apples in Julian

With fall around the corner, it’s time to plan a day in the California mountain town of Julian to tour apple farms and u-pick apples. Julian is a small and quaint historic California town an hour east of San Diego that may be one of the best-kept secrets for among apple pickers and those who love apple pies. For those who want a unique autumn experience, head up Hwy 79 for an adventure picking apples in Julian.

What are your plans for the labor day weekend? Camping, BBQing and heading to the beach are always fun options if you live in Southern California. The gold rush era town also has some of the best apple pie in California.

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Julian cider mill

Julian has history and so do its apples. It’s the best Apple Picking in Southern California!

Apple Picking Season in Julian: Early September to late October. Check with each farm for their apple harvest times (which can vary year by year).

About Julian, California

Julian apple pie

Julian is located in San Diego County and specifically in the Santa Ysabel Valley. It’s about an hour northeast of San Diego and 2.5 hours southeast of Los Angeles.

A cattleman found the first fleck of gold in a creek in Julian in early 1870. It was San Diego’s first and only gold rush.

Today, Julian continues to celebrate its gold rush roots and mining history but is now probably better known for its apple orchards, apple pie shops, charming stores, quirky antique shops, and quaint B&Bs.

When I lived in San Diego, it was a yearly tradition to visit Julian and pick up apple cider, an apple pie, and a few bags of apples. This is a fun and unique SoCal day trip.

Julian is also a terrific weekend getaway. Located at about 4,200 feet in elevation in the Laguna Mountains, the climate is unusual for sunny SoCal because it has four distinct seasons. Fall is prime for apple picking. There are some great hiking options that are great in any season. If you like the charm and the farms of San Luis Obispo, you’ll definitely love Julian.

Map of Julian Apple Orchards

Map of Julian apple orchards

Map of Apple Farms in Southern California

8 Best Places to go Apple Picking In Julian

With the mining days long gone, Julian is now better known for its apple orchards and the famous Julian apple pies. Here in Southern California, apple picking (or other fruit pickings) is commonly known as U-Pick.

Below are the best u-pick apple orchards in Julian for those who seek a unique day trip or a terrific weekend getaway. Or, if you just happen to be passing through town, we handpicked a few spots for you too! 

1. Volcan Valley Apple Farm

Ripe green apple on tree in Julian

If you like scenic drives, then head to the Volcan Valley Apple Farm. The farm has about 10 acres with 40 rows of apple trees with a wide variety to pick from – Empire, Golden, Jonathan apples and Pippin. One of the most visited orchards in Julian, they are located on the corner of Wynola Road and Julian Orchard drive.

Farm activities: U-Pick, finger foods, wine tasting room at the Volcan Mountain Winery and picnic area. Please call them before you head over as the farm can get busy early into Apple Picking season. Portable restrooms available.

  • Farm activities: Apple picking. They are open 9am to 5:00pm. No admission after 4:30.
  • Apple varieties: Empire, Golden, Jonathan apples, and Pippin.
  • Cost: $15 for Apple Picking and $5 for entry (as of 2021)
  • Distance from San Diego: 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Volcan Valley Apple Farm Address: 1284 Julian Orchards Dr, Julian, CA 92036

Helpful tip: They do not have a website, so call them at 760-302-4574 before you head over or visit their Facebook page, as the farm can get busy early into Apple Picking season.

2. Apple Starr Orchards

Apple Starr Orchards is a 28-acre farm with around 8 acres for apples and pears. There are around 1000 of apple and pear trees that range from 20 to 70 years old and many are low enough for children to access.

This is a family-friendly Julian apple picking orchard with lot’s of fun for the whole family.

  • Farm activities: U-Pick, Picnic spots but bring your own chairs and blankets (just in case), red wagons for kids with strollers. A unique old wooden barn and a run down tractor.
  • Apple varieties: Granny, Jonagold, Roma, Arkansas Black, Red Delicious, Wealthy and Fuji.
  • Cost: bags of apples (one peck/12 lbs) is $25. Each additional bag is $15.
  • Distance from San Diego: 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • Apple Starr Orchards Farm Address: 1020 Julian Orchard Drive, Julian, CA 92036

Tip: make sure to get your GPS coordinates set because this farm is not easy to find or follow these directions from the center of Julian: travel 3 miles East on Main Street (which turns into Farmer Rd.) At the stop sign, continue straight onto Julian Orchards Dr. Head to the end of the road, past the wineries.

3. Calico Ranch Apples & Cidery

Calico Ranch apples in crates

Calico Ranch Apples and Cidery is a family-run apple and pear orchard. They have been in operation since 1930. It’s located along the Julian Hwy with U-Pick, apple stands, and a Cidery.

The cidery makes Bone Hard Hard Ciders with their homegrown USDA apples and pears. The ciders are crafted by a highly experienced pomologist – David Young, and his father, Conrad Young who has been an apple orchard grower for 32 years.

  • Farm activities: U-Pick,Picnic tables (bring your own food too), Hard Cidery, Barn and easy-pick fruit stand. Cidery offers growler pickups.
  • Apple varieties: organic gala apples.
  • Cost: $10 for a 1/4 peck which is about 7lbs of USDA Organic Apples.
  • Distance from San Diego: 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Calico Ranch Apples & Cidery Address: 4200 Highway 78 Julian, Ca 92036

Helpful tip: check online for their hours as they are not open through the week.

4. Julian Farm & Orchard

Julian Farm And Orchard

Julian Farm and Orchard is located in the Wynola neighborhood of Julian. It is a 25-acre family-run sustainable farm with big apple orchards and other crops grown throughout the year.

Julian Farm is a unique destination for all types of visitors. Be it school field trips, corporate retreats or weddings, Julian Farm can host a whole portfolio of events. Highly rated on Yelp! for families.

  • Farm activities: U-pick,tractor-pulled hayrides, axe throwing, Rock-Climbing Wall, picnic areas, hammocks, a gift shop, farm animals and petting zoo, corporate retreats and wine dinners. Food and beverage options are available as well.
  • Cost: $12 per bag, $2 for entry
  • Distance from San Diego: 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Julian Farm & Orchard Address: 4381 Julian Hwy Santa Ysabel, CA 92070 ( 3 miles west of Julian and 3 miles east of Santa Ysabel).
  • Hours: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10am-4pm

5. Apples & Art Orchards

Apples and Art Orchards is a beautiful small mountain orchard that emphasizes sustainable agriculture, all-natural pesticide-free apples, and no soil contamination.

This orchard is for groups that pick 20 or more bags only. So, it’s best for family groups, homeschooling classes, and scout groups. The minimum group size is 20, and the max group size is 60.

A group visit starts with the owner giving a tour of the orchard and later demonstrating how to press apples for fresh cider. They also sell a small apple pie cookbook ($7) with their own award-winning recipes.

The art part of the orchard is from John C. Heglin. John has worked as an artist and sculptor for more than 50 years working in clay, metal, glass and wood.

  • Farm activities: U-pick, picnic area, group activities with a tour from the owner around the orchard, making freshly squeezed apple cider with a hand crank apple press, and feeding apple pulp to chickens.
  • Apple varieties: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Gala, Arkansan Black, Fuji, Jonagold and new strains like Fiesta, Greensleeves, Queen Cox, and Liberty plus vintage heirloom apples
  • Cost: $12 for 5 pounds
  • Distance from San Diego: 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • Apples & Art Orchards Address: 1052 Julian Orchards Dr. Julian, CA 92036

Note: DO NOT USE GPS – follow the directions listed on their website.

6. Storum Ranch Cider & Wines

strorum ranch cider tasting

Storum Ranch Cider and Wines orchard has over 3000 apple trees in 60 different varieties. This is not a u-pick farm, but a cidery and tasting room. They also grow 300 grape vines.

They offer traditional Estate cider from their own apples and a wide selection of extra virgin olive oil and fine balsamic vinegar. Highly rated on Yelp! and google maps.

  • Activities: Tasting experiences of ciders and wine – great spot to quench your thirst after a hike to Mt Volcan
  • Tasting Cost: varies per cider and wine
  • Distance from San Diego: 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Storum Ranch Cider & Wines Address: 1878 Wynola Road, Julian, CA 92036 (5 minutes from downtown Julian).
  • Hours: Tasting Room is open Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays from 11am to 5pm.

Other Famous Apple Orchards in Southern California

Based on your location, if picking apples in Julian is a bit too far, here are two additional Apple Orchards for you to visit.

7. Willowbrook Apple Farm

Willowbrook Apple Farm
Photo Credit: Willowbrook Apple Farm

Willowbrook Apple Farm is nestled against the San Bernardino Mountains and the apple trees on the farm were planted in 1910.

You can also press your own apples and make fresh apple cider. It takes 13 pounds of apples to press one half-gallon of cider, but it is worth it! You will get to hand-crank the cider press to create a half-gallon for you to take home (or enjoy on the farm).

This apple orchard is a bit closer to Los Angeles and absolutely worth a visit for a perfectly fun day trip.

  • Farm activities: U-Pick, U-Press apple cider, private events, wine and s’mores along with bonfire, educational tours and meet the farm animals and tractor rides.
  • Apple varieties: Stayman Winesaps, Jonagold, Sweet Sixteen, Honeycrisp, Double Delicious, Seek no Further, Liberty
  • Cost: $20 bag of u-pick apples, $15 for U-Press apple cider
  • Distance from San Diego: 2 hours | Distance from Los Angeles: 1.5 hours
  • Willowbrook Apple Farm Address: 12099 S. Oak Glen Rd., Oak Glen, CA 92399

8. Los Rios Rancho

Los Rios Rancho is the biggest apple farm in SoCal and has been in operation since 1906. Their apple season runs from August-November.

They specialize in traditional agriculture methods, hosting historical entertainment and living history field trips. Fruits from this farm have been shipped locally and globally over the years.

They are now under preservation of The Wildlife Conservancy and business operations run by Devon Riley. A must-visit if you are in the Los Angeles metro region.

  • Farm activities: U-Pick, Farm to table meals offeringlow cooked meats, fresh baked goods, artisan crafts, mountainous nature trails, weddings, proposal carriages, movies on the green, farm fairs offering Haybale Pulley, Candle Dipping, Toy Making, Corn Maze and farm festivals such as Old West Days.
  • Apple varieties: Macintosh Apples (Thursday-Sunday) & Gravenstein Apples (Saturday and Sunday)
  • Cost: $5 per pound, $25 a gallon for U-press
  • Distance from San Diego: 2 hours | Distance from Los Angeles: 1.5 hours
  • Los Rios Rancho Farm Address: 39611 Oak Glen Road, Oak Glen, CA, 92399

Other Fun Things to do in Julian

Beyond apple picking in Julian, there is plenty to do!

Stroll down the historic Main Street

Main Street in Julian is filled with restaurants including an old-fashioned diner, stores selling fun locally made items and all kinds of apple products, and a historic B&B.

Take a Horse Drawn Carriage Ride

Tour the town of Julian in a horse-drawn carriage. Not only is it fun, but the drivers double as guides and share information about the town and its history.

Horse Drawn Carriage Ride

Meet a Llama

Most weekends you’ll find a fun farm animal on the Main Street corner. When we visited last, this Llama was greeting people with it’s owner.

Llama in Julian

Buy an Apple Pie to Take Home

There are several restaurants that serve apple pie. You can also buy a whole pie to take home.

Apple Alley

In fact, there is even gluten-free apple pie at a few of the restaurants including Apple Alley Bakery!

gluten free apple pie

Visit Julian Mining Company

Better known as JMC, run by Ryan and Gina Cross, it’s a fun little place that offers Gold Panning, Gems Sluicing, Birthday Parties, Hayrides, Field Trips, Berry Picking, Apple Cider Pressing, Pumpkin Patch, Candle Making, Petting Zoo, Tomahawk Throwing, Campfire Parties, Gold Rush History field trips and many more activities.

Apple Varieties in SoCal

Traditional: Jonagold, Granny, Fuji, Gala, Empire, and Red Delicious, Anna, Dorsett Golden, Ein Shemer. 

Antique apple varieties adapted to warm winter climate: Pettingill, Yellow Bellflower, Winter Banana and White Winter Pearmain

Fun facts about Apples

  • The science of apple growing is called pomology.
  • A quarter part of an apple is just air, which is why it floats on water.
  • On average, an American eats around 45 pounds of apples per year.
  • A half peck of apples weighs 5.25 pounds. A bushel of apples weighs about 42 pounds.
  • The top apple producers around the world are China, the United States, Turkey, Poland, and Italy.

For now, that’s all the apple-lore

But before you set your ‘Visit Julian’ travel dates on your calendar, look up the events calendar and plan accordingly.

If you enjoyed reading this post, check out our blog on Apple Picking throughout the United States.

With the mountains in the backdrop and fall around the corner, Julian is a great little escape from San Diego or Los Angeles. And if you just happen to be passing by, ask the locals for the bakeries and restaurants that offer the famous Julian apple pies. Here’s one: Julian Pie Company on Main Street. Know about other hidden gems? Let us know!

Also, did you know about Apple Picking in Mass – checkout this blog: https://52perfectdays.com/massachusetts/apple-picking-in-massachusetts/

5 Tips for Your Apple-Picking Adventure

  1. Dress in Layers & bring a light rain jacket.
  2. Wear boots. Even if it’s not a rainy day, the fields could still be muddy. Here is my favorite boot for fall. If you have kids, these apple rain boots are perfect!
  3. Bring a garbage bag (for muddy boots) and an extra pair of shoes for the drive home.
  4. Bring a picnic blanket and picnic lunch to enjoy on the farm.
  5. Don’t forget sunscreen and hand wipes!

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