Nestled in the 6,000-ft-/2,000-m-high Laguna mountains, about 40 mi/65 km northeast of San Diego, is the former gold-mining town of Julian, California. You can tour the defunct mine's tunnels, ride through town in a horse-drawn buggy and shop for country curios and antiques in old-time buildings that now house stores. http://www.julianca.com.

A number of bed-and-breakfasts operate in the town, including the Julian Gold Rush Hotel on Main Street, a designated historic landmark. Be sure to try the locally made apple pie if you have the chance—it's famous among area gourmands. Two of our favorites are Mom's Pies (http://www.momspiesjulian.com) and the Julian Pie Co. (http://www.julianpie.com). Although the pies are available year-round, the best time to visit is late August-October for fresh harvests from the area's orchards or to pick your own apples and pears.

If heading towards San Ysabel Valley, stop by Dudley's Bakery for one of its freshly baked loaves. The hardest part is picking just one of the 23 varieties. http://www.dudleysbakery.com.

Julian makes a great halfway stop when visiting nearby Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Famous for its springtime wildflowers, at any time of year this vast desert wilderness abounds with natural delights, from the cactus gardens at the Visitor Center, in Borrego Springs, to the fan palm oasis at the head of Palm Canyon. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638.

The California Wolf Center offers education and conservation focused on wolves. It's home to several packs of grey wolves and located on the grounds of the K.Q. Ranch Campground, 4 mi/6 km south of Julian off Highway 79. Phone 619-234-9653. http://www.californiawolfcenter.org.

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