When you hear the wolves howl ... When the breezes blow through the vineyard ... When waterfalls flow ... you must be in Julian. This gold mine of craft and culture northeast of San Diego is a blend like no other. Fill your getaway with wine, wilderness, wolves and water. Stroll the orchards, vineyards, mountains and nature preserves. Spend a weekend or a week. Conquer what you can. You'll no doubt want to return for more.
Julian is a nine-hour inland run down the state, passing through farm country and forest. Head south on Interstate 5 until you reach exit 199. Point east on highway 138 until it overlaps with highway 14 north of Lancaster.
If you're making time for a stop along the way, Lancaster is home to MOAH (Museum of Art and History) and the BLVD, a stretch of quaint shopping and dining before you get back on the road and head through the San Gabriel Mountains.
In the midst of the mountains, you'll grab Interstate 215 at Cajon Junction and sail south to I-15. Exit 58 will send you on the homestretch with highway 76. Feeling lucky? The Pechanga Resort & Casino has your name on it. With your pockets full, set your cruise control for highway 79, a few miles north of Julian.
The spacious rooms at the Apple Tree Inn have private entrances and mountain views. There is an outdoor swimming pool with plenty of room for soaking up the sun, too.
To escape for a peaceful, mountainside stay, look into Tucker Peak Lodge. There are fireplaces in each room. A common space has a pool table for the pool shark in you, and a telescope for stargazing.
Borrego Springs Resort and Spa is located 20 miles from Julian, and has a championship 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, pool-side cabanas and a restaurant on site that serves American and Southwestern cuisine.
Julian Pie Company is the spot for simple and simply amazing pies, that All-American sweet treat more than worth indulging in on your getaway to Julian. Top it with a scoop of ice cream and know this might be the culinary highlight of the whole trip.
For lunch or dinner, the Julian Grille is known for quaint atmosphere and serving up flavorful, tender steaks. But the seafood, salad and sandwiches get plenty of love, too.
Soups and Such Cafe is what it says, and the reviewers from around the country can't get enough. Even the iced tea gets raves.
Menghini Winery is tucked off the beaten path and situated into the foothills of Vulcan Mountain. It’s surrounded by apple orchards and the vineyards, a fun place to get out into the fresh air and feel the relaxing vibes of country, oh-so-tasty country.
Volcan Valley Apple Farm is laid back and easy. The orchard lets you wander the well-labeled rows and handpick the fruits of the farm's labors. Parking is limited, but crowds aren't overwhelming. The trees are small enough that the fruit is relatively easy to reach. And you can buy bottled water and freshly made apple cider to keep you from getting thirsty.
California Wolf Center is doing great work with wolf conservation in North America, and serves up compelling presentations and experiences. Don't expect to see all the wolves. It's not a zoo, after all. But the wolf center offers top-notch knowledge and the opportunity for the wolves to live a life protected yet relatively wild.
Lake Cayamuca is a post card-beautiful 110-acre lake at an elevation of 4,600 feet. The oak and pine forest surround the lake with the solitude of nature. Want more wilderness? The 26,000-acre Cuyamaca Rancho State Park swallows the lake and its forest on three sides. Bring your fishing and camping gear, or even just binoculars and a picnic.
Cedar Creek Falls is beautiful and getting to them is a relatively short, downhill hike. But don't forget that what goes down to the falls must hike back up from them. Take some water, a snack and, of course, your camera. There is a modest day-use entrance fee.