The crisp air has arrived and that means just one thing, apple picking season in here! Heading out to the orchard as a family is the perfect weekend activity as apple trees tend to be shorter and easier for little ones to reach. Bring the buckets, pin some apple sauce and pie recipes and you’ll be all set for an adventure at one of these nearby orchards.

Gabriel Farm
If eating organic is important to your family, head to Gabriel Farm (located in Sebastopol, a town practically synonymous with the fruit) where you’ll get a tour of the certified organic orchard in addition to the opportunity to pick your own McIntosh apples and Asian Pears through mid-November. To participate in u-pick at Gabriel Farm, visitors are asked to become members of their CSA by purchasing a case of their asian pear and apple juice for $39. U-pick price is an additional $2.50 per pound of fruit. The farm has a store with juice and jams for sale as well (no CSA membership required to purchase from the store).

Gabriel Farm
3175 Sullivan Rd.
Sebastopol, Ca
707-829-0617
Online: gabrielfarm.com

Photo: Kate Loweth

Swanton Pacific Ranch
Owned and operated by California Polytechnic State University, Swanton Pacific Ranch produces over five tons of apples every year. The two-acre orchard hosts 12 different apple varieties, all with individual ripening periods, meaning that the picking season lasts well into late fall (this year, they are estimating early November). Nestled in the foothills along the central coast and outlying Monterey Bay, this orchard is the perfect distance away for a family day trip!

Swanton Pacific Ranch at the Old School House
480 Swanton Road
Davenport, Ca
831-458-5410
Online: spranch.org

Gizdich Ranch
The u-pick apple season has already started at Gizdich and lasts about 4 weeks. While not all apple varieties are available for picking (you can expect Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Pippins and Galas this year), they do have many varieties for sale in the barn. Visit their website to see what varieties are in season. Stay for a self-guided tour of the apple orchard and berry farms. If you’re visiting on Saturdays (September-May only), you can watch the apples get pressed for juice! Make sure you make time to head to the bake shop after picking to grab one of their out-of-this-world pies to take home or enjoy a slice a la mode while the kids play behind the barn. If you visit on a hot day, cool down the kidlets with an apple popsicle or apple slush. They are open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily during picking season. Check online for strawberry picking availability and you can get both at one time!

Gizdich Ranch
55 Peckham Rd.
Watsonville, Ca
831-722-1056
Online: gizdich-ranch.com

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Photo: Kate Loweth

Clearview Orchards
Also located in the beautiful Santa Cruz Basin, Clearview Orchards offers a huge variety of certified organic apples, specializing in Gala and Fuji, Honey Crisp, Mitsu and Pink Lady during their mid-September through end of October season. Pick some apples and enjoy their beautiful terraced grounds with a view of the Watsonville valley. They also sell delicious local honey and fresh-pressed apple cider. Kiddos can even pick out their own pumpkins, just in time for fall. Open Saturday and Sundays only, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Clearview Orchards
646 Trabing Rd.
Watsonville, Ca
408-472-1958
Online: clearvieworchards.com

Apple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch
With a name like that, you know Ratzlaff Ranch is focused on apples! U-pick Gravensteins, Rome and Golden Delicious are a bargain at $1.50/pound or $50 for 40 pounds (now that’s a LOT of pies!). They are open daily from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (except Thursdays and Saturdays when they are closed).

Apple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch
13128 Occidental Rd.
Sebastopol, Ca
707-823-0538
Online: facebook.com/pages/Apple-A-Day-Ratzlaff-Ranch

Further Afield
For a bit of a longer trek, you’ll get no better apple selection than in the Apple Hill Region, about fifty miles east of Sacramento. With over 55 ranches offering different apple varieties and activities, you are bound to find the perfect experience for the kids. The Apple Hill Growers Association lists orchard details including U-pick hours, picnic areas, local attractions, and more. The u-pick ranches tend to be very small, and very popular, so it is a good idea to call the ranches themselves to make sure they have the apple variety you want and that the fruit is available.

For more farms in the Apple Hill Growers Association, check out their site or call their number at: 530-644-7692.

Where will you pick your next apple? Let us know below!

—Kate Loweth and Erin Feher

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