Volcan High Five!

Hike the Volcan Mountain Five Oaks Loop near Julian in San Diego County

The moderate 5.5-mile round-trip Volcan Mountain/Five Oaks loop hike in the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve near Julian transports you from lush farmland to a summit with panoramic views. The trail gets down to business immediately upon entering the preserve, following the path of an old road and quickly ascending to leave behind the apple and pear orchards for a mixed conifer forest.

Hikers on a trail at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve near Julian in San Diego County

Hiker looking at the ruins of the Old Volcan Mountain Observatory Outpost near Julian San Diego County

Hikers on the trail at Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve in San Diego County

The climb is 1,227 feet in elevation, most of it at the beginning. Manzanitas line the trail, and if you’re lucky you might spot a golden eagle! Not too far into the hike you’ll reach a junction with the Five Oaks Trail. Staying on the fire road is a shorter but steeper route, and the Five Oaks Trail is a scenic detour adding 0.6 mile total to the hike, with a gentler grade and better views. Weave under oak canopies and through chaparral, with every turn opening up into a new stunning vista, including apple orchards on hillsides below and the Cuyamaca and Laguna Mountains.

Hikers on a wide trail entering Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve near Julian in San Diego County

The trails meet the fire road again approximately 0.8 mile from the summit where it’s a straight shot through rolling hills covered in native grasses with views all the way to the Salton Sea. Just before the summit you’ll pass the ruins of the old Volcan Mountain Observatory Outpost, built in the 1920s. When scientists were looking for a location for the Hale Telescope, Volcan Mountain was one of the contenders.

Hiker on a wide dirt trail at Volcan Mountain near Julian in San Diego County

Hikers on the trail high up on Volcan Mountain near Julian San Diego County

Hikers on a trail to the summit of Volcan Mountain near Julian San Diego County

Between 1928 and 1932, astronomers would come here to evaluate the conditions to see if this was a good spot, so an outpost was built to provide shelter for them (the telescope ultimately ended up at Palomar Mountain, 25 miles north of Volcan Mountain). Continue to the summit for views of the mountains, desert, and even the ocean on a clear day. The unobstructed vista makes it obvious why this place was considered for the telescope. Head back down the way you came but when you reach the Five Oaks junction just stay on the fire road to complete the loop.

View of mountains from Volcan Mountain near Julian San Diego County

HARD CIDER BONUS: Cool off with some fresh-pressed hard cider at Julian Hard Cider (4470 Julian Rd.). There are 12 flavors to choose from, enjoyed as taster flights, pints, and growlers. We like the Apple Pie cider. Indoor and outdoor seating available. Patio is dog-friendly.

Hard cider samples and pumpkins on a table at Julian Hard Cider in Julian San Diego County

Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve is located in Julian, roughly 80 minutes from the I-15 freeway and Temecula. Take the Temecula Pkwy/CA-79 until it intersects with the CA-78 in Santa Ysabel. Turn left, staying on CA-79, and then make a left onto Wynola Rd., and then another left onto Farmer Rd. The preserve will be on the right-hand side. Street parking available on Farmer Rd. Preserve is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to sunset. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  2. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

    View
  3. Kirby Your Enthusiasm

    Just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin is one of the Bay's most-accessible secluded beaches. Kirby Cove is accessed by hiking or biking a 1-mile fire road down to the beach, where the reward is an all-time classic Golden Gate view.

    View
  4. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Adventure for your earbuds. What's new in the world of the outdoors? Listen to Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss local hikes, beaches, bike rides, camping spots and all kinds of travel and adventure in California and beyond!

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

    View
  4. Border Field State Park

    Border Field State Park is the southernmost point in California as well as one of the last beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the state. Visit this natural refuge for a 4.5-mile hike featuring important history and wildlife habitats, plus stunning SoCal beach scenery.

    View