Today’s agenda included taking a hiking trail in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park with a stop in lunch at the PCT town of Julian. We had planned a stop to Julian on our previous trip on our way back from Joshua Tree National Park but we were a bit ambitious on how much we could fit into that overnight trip. We were happy to have time on this trip to taste their famous apple pie.
A forty minute drive transformed the surroundings for a grey, cloudy city to the sweltering desert. We arrived at a spacious parking lot to a set of trails shared by hikers and horses. We traversed the East Mesa Fire Road / Upper Descanso Creek Trail for a 3 mile loop. It was fairly hot farther inland away from the ocean and the sun was at peak height so tree coverage was infrequent – shade was a welcomed friend. The wildflowers were so pretty and gave a wide variety of types and colors – this gave such a fun contrast to the brown desert tones. Half way through the trail we hit the top and enjoyed a great view out into the mountains – even ones in Mexico.
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is enormous and we only saw a small percentage of the park which offers over 100 miles of equestrian and hiking trails with the opportunity to discover vegetation and wildlife – the park brochure indicates one could encounter a gray fox, badger, bobcat, mountain lion, amphibians, or over 100 species of birds. Before leaving the park, we stopped by the visitor center for picnic seating to enjoy an afternoon beverage and some snacks.
A fifteen minute drive took us right to the town of Julian and it was packed! Luckily, we were able to find a spot easily but this place was bopping. Our first stop was Julian Beer Co and this was clearly a popular watering hole for the folks visiting Julian. Luckily we seemed to have threaded the needle with a short line to order and gotten a table. They specialize in BBQ and pizza alongside their craft beers which as a group we sampled quite a bit of. We kept hearing a bell go off followed by a round of applause – we found out it indicates that someone bought the kitchen a beer! So when you pop in, make sure to throw the kitchen a beer.
Kevin and I split the BBQ Brisket Sandwich served on a toasted brioche bun and a Caesar salad with chopped romaine, zesty house dressing, parmesan, house croutons, black pepper. Our friends additionally ordered the Kielbasa Sausage and the Pickle Plate.
Everything was super delicious – we were impressed! And I have to say the prices here were very reasonable and the portion sizes were enormous.
Our next stop was for the famous Julian apple pie! There appear to be several places in this town to get some – we chose Julian Pie Company Julian Pie Company.
Unfortunately our afternoon arrival on the Saturday of a holiday weekend meant choices were slim pickings – I was most interested in the mountain berry (“the perfect blend of raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries and tart Granny Smith apples. A delicious treat covered with our sweet, crunchy crumb topping”) but we all settled for the only available option – apple pie but we went crazy and added the caramel topping (“our signature apple pie covered with a crunchy crumb topping, drizzled with warm caramel”).
This one street town definitely gave western style saloon vibes. As we were walking I noticed a “PCT hikers welcome” sign and it hit me – this town was familiar because I watched Mari while she was hiking the PCT stop here and I recall her excitement for her first town visit off the trail.
Other than the brewery and a number of places to get pie, there were also plenty of shops to explore. We popped into The Warm Hearth and it honestly was the strangest mix of a garage sale and boutique shop with rooms and rooms filled with merchandise.
After a few more shops, I looked down and could not believe it was 5PM – it was such a fun afternoon that the time really flew by. This is such a fun day trip that is easy to put together from San Diego.