Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve Hike ~ Julian, CA

For part of our anniversary trip this past year, Brian and I did a hike at the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve ("Live long and prosper!"), in San Diego County. A hike at the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, outside of Julian, California, is a fantastic hike for the whole family, and afterward, you can enjoy a dinner and some pie in Julian! Volcan Mountain a very charming wilderness area, literally just outside of Julian and it has lots of wildlife and beautiful scenery to observe.

Directions to the trailhead: To get to the Volcan Mountain hike, just outside of Julian, California, you are going to want to head to 1209 Farmer Road Julian, CA 92036.  To drive to Julian, from the Orange County area, you can take the 5 Freeway and go on route 76, up through the mountains to arrive at Julian, this is our favorite route, due to the scenery, but taking the 78 is a faster way to get to Julian, California. You can take alternative routes that can be found through a mapping app or Google maps, to tailor your driving to your location.  Once in Julian, make a left at the only major stop sign in town and take Farmer Road to Wynola Road and turn right, then make a quick left back onto Farmer Road.  There are a couple of other hikes that we've been on in the Julian/San Diego Mountain area.  You can find them on our blog Here.

Description of hike: A hike at the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve offers one of the best places to see and hear wildlife in the area, as well as breathtaking views. It is one of the few places, that from the top of the mountain, you can see the ocean and desert at the same time on really clear days. This hike is an out and back hike, that has switchbacks as you ascend to the top of Volcan Mountain which stands at 5,353 feet. We had a really nice breeze on the was back down from our hike! This is a moderately strenuous hike due to the elevation. The hike starts at the main road, but once you hike inward, you lose sight of civilization and enjoy nature's sounds. The main road will take you all the way to the top of the summit.  The main road is a relatively even dirt hiking trail, that was well marked when we visited. Another option is the Five Oaks Trail, which is a side trail that will reconnect with the main road.  The Five Oaks Trail does not independently go to the summit of Volcan Mountain. For a map of the hiking trails in this area, click Here.

Volcan Mountain is an extremely pristine and biologically diverse area to hike in. There are over 30 different types of plant communities have been identified in the Volcan Mountain area, which provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species. Preliminary biological studies have recorded 45 different species of mammals, over 150 birds, 36 reptiles, 12 amphibians, and an unknown number of insects and other invertebrates that call this area home. The Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve is open sunrise - sunset, 7-days a week, year-round. With an elevation of 5,353 feet, the summit is open on the weekends and major holidays from April thru October.

When we did this hike we saw little patches of snow along the hiking trail near the summit. Snow does fall in this area in the winter time, so you want to make sure you check the weather before you hike here in the winter time. Also summer thunderstorms are known to occur in this area as well, make sure to know the weather conditions before you go hiking on any hike. Camping is not allowed at the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, but you could stay in the town of Julian, or in a designated camping area outside of the town of Julian. Dogs are allowed on the hiking trail, so long as they have a leash. Personally, since we saw several coyotes hunting on our way down, we wouldn't recommend taking a dog.  Still, if you do, keep them on a leash. 

On the hike to the summit of Volcan Mountain, there is an old outpost located near the summit. In the 1920s and 1930s, Volcan Mountain was on the short list of places to house the Hale Telescope, which was ultimately placed on Palomar Mountain. Astronomers would visit this area and stay in the shelter to observe the beautiful night sky. Now, all that is left of the outpost's existence is just a chimney and an old box spring. Seeing the old structure is kind of eerie. On our hike back down from the summit of Volcan Mounatin, we saw two coyotes hunting in this area near the old outpost.  We also saw lots of dear in this area, while on our hike. They like to graze in this area because it's flat plains with lots of Oak trees. On the way back to the trailhead, we also saw a huge Great Horned Owl, that was perched up in a tree. It's silhouette was majestic with the sunset.

Further thoughts: You will want to bring plenty of water for your hike to the summit of Volcan Mountain. There is no water to filter along the hike. Also, parts of the hiking trail are rather exposed, so make sure you wear sun protection. The hike is 5.4 miles if you go all the way to the summit. However, some people only hike to the mid-summit, which makes the hike around 3.2 miles long. There were a number of trail runners utilizing this hiking trail during our visit (probably because they build strength with the incline!). There is also a foundation that dedictaed to the preservation of the Volcan Mountain area that you might want to check out. The Volcan Mountain Foundation has a lot of neat links and information on their website.

After our hike, we went back into the town of Julian and ate at our FAVORITE Italian restaurant, Romano's. They make an amazing pizza--everything is handmade from scratch.  It's not fancy, so come as you are! If you go up to Julian earlier in the day, before your hike, you can also hit the Candied Apple. It has the BEST pies in my opinion--better than Mom's or Julian Pie Company. The Candied Apple has a really good Sour Cream Apple pie, and a crumb cake. It's like you're at your great grandma's cabin in the mountains--so fresh! Volcan Mountain is a good hike to do if you want to explore the town of Julian and enjoy some nature.

Rating: Elevation Gain: 1,253 ft. to the summit (Moderate-Strenuous), Distance: 5.4 Miles Roundtrip to the summit (Moderate-Strenuous).

Time to Complete Hike: 2 - 4 hours.


  1. Thanks guys, appreciate your information!


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