In sunny Southern California finding ways to celebrate the changing seasons can be tricky. With kids going back to school in triple digit weather and utter lack of changing foliage, we all have to work a little harder to manufacture that fall feeling. So even though it’s not quiet sweater weather, why not take a day trip to an apple orchard? These u-pick orchards may be a bit of a trek, but once your munchkins take that first crisp bite, you’ll know it was worth every mile. Apple picking season generally runs September through October, but check with the orchard you plan to visit first as crop density and ripening vary season to season.
The best places for apple picking in Southern California are centered on a six-mile area known as Oak Glen. Here you’ll find a general store, hand pressed apple cider and several orchards that offer a variety of apples. It’s a bit of a hike, about a two-hour drive from the Westside, but worth it for the complete orchard experience.
Riley’s Apple Farm, Oak Glen
12201 South Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, Ca 92399
An Oak Glen favorite, Riley’s is open for u-pick on the weekends only, but call them before you head out. You can schedule an appointment to pick on weekdays. They have fourteen different varieties of apple, including some hard-to-find heirloom varieties. Your little ones will love running from tree to tree filling their bushel.
Los Rios Rancho, Oak Glen
39611 Oak Glen Road #13
Oak Glen, Ca 92399
At Rios you and your family will find apple trees heavy with fruit, some of the best apple pie you have ever tasted, and a beautiful spot for lunch. The orchards here are pretty hilly, so small toddlers may be better off in a carrier or a rugged jogging stroller. On weekends during apple season, this place gets crowded fast. Plan to arrive early. The lines for food tend to get long in the afternoon, so if you want to buy your lunch you may want to plan to eat early. They are open for apple picking Friday through Sunday, but hours may change as the season progresses so give them a call before you head out.
Raven Hill Orchard, Julian
1284 Julian Orchards Drive
Julian, Ca 92036
This beautiful orchard, located outside of San Diego, is home to 8,000 dwarf trees, which should allow even your littlest apple picker a shot at some action. Bring cash and call before you head out. This orchard is also dog friendly, so be prepared for some furry friends joining you between the trees.
Know any other great spots for apples this fall? Share your favorite u-picks in a comment below.
— Kate Felton
photo courtesy of Brian Birke & Robin B.