It’s apple picking season! What better way to celebrate autumn than by taking the apples of your eye to grab hold of these sweet, delicious fruits that are ripe and ready to go? Visit these beautiful orchards (don’t forget your camera for all the cute photo ops), have an outdoor adventure that your family will cherish and top it all off with some apple pie. Read on for where to bite into the juiciest, freshest apples we could find!

photo: Laura C. via Yelp

Volcan Valley Apple Farm
Julian’s largest orchard, Volcan Valley Apple Farm, comes alive with 7,000 trellis-grown apple trees of red and green apples ready to pick. Choose between seven varieties of apples, including the famed Gravenstein, Red Delicious and Granny Smith. Grab a bag for $12 and then head into the fields to fill it up. Also on-site: Granny’s Pies and sometimes there are food trucks that swing by to feed hungry apple pickers! Grab a bite to eat to enjoy at the shaded picnic tables.

Date: Fri. – Mon., 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (until season ends)

1284 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, Ca 92036
760-302-4574
Online: www.facebook.com/julianapplefarm

photo: Danica J. via Yelp

Apple Starr Orchards
This Certified Organic Orchard (CCOF) has been growing apples and pears since the year 2000 and they have about 1,000 trees! Apple varieties available for u-pick include Granny, Jonagold, Arkansas Black, Red Delicious, Roma, Wealthy, Fuji and Gala apples and red and green Bartlett pears, Comice, Anjou and Bosc pears. Picking season at Apple Starr lasts until the fruit runs out (mid-October). The orchard has picking poles available to reach apples way on top of the trees. They also provide red wagons for small kiddos (photo ops)! And families are welcome to bring strollers and wagons. They also have space for picnics, but you supply the chairs and blankets. The cost is $25 for one picking bag (approximately one peck/12 lbs.), with a $15 charge for an additional bag. Make sure you bring cash because Apple Starr only accepts dollars and checks (with ID).

Dates: Weekends until mid-October 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

1020 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, Ca
760-305-2169
Online: apple-starr.com

photo: Peaceful Boutique Orchard via Facebook

Peacefield Boutique Orchard
This pesticide-free, herbicide-free, chemical-free orchard has a variety of red and green apples and even pears and plums available for u-pick including: Gravenstein, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Jonathon, Macintosh, Rome, Braeburn, Strawberry Ladies, Crab Apples, Bartlett Pears, Asian Pears, and French Plums. The sprawling orchard is also home to farm tractors that make for great photo opportunities. Feel free to bring your lunch and use the picnic area, or sit in the Meditation Garden for some tranquility. Be sure to visit the famous Gravenstien Apple Tree, which has been with the family orchard for 115 years.

More than just apple-picking, you can take the Grower-Led Orchard & Home Tour to learn about how apples and pears grow and listen to a Julian Gold Rush expert discuss local historical facts. Tours of the orchard are $10/person and are “all you can eat” for the length of the tour. 1/2 Peck bags are available to fill with any orchard produce for $15/bag. Note: they accept cash only.

Hours: Tours offered on Sat. & Sun. by appointment only. Call 1-855-ZEN-APPLE to book a tour. If you have a group of 10 or more people/meet a $50 minimum, they will arrange a tour for you.

Insider’s Tip: Kids may want to stock up on organic grapes before visiting as the rescue chickens will gladly eat them.

3803 Wynola Rd.
Julian, Ca
855-936-2775
Online: peacefieldorchard.org

photo: Marina Khrapova via Unsplash

Apples & Art Orchards
This u-pick orchard  offers tours and picking for groups of 20 or more pickers. We think it’s a great idea for Scout troops, playgroups and homeschool cohorts. The adventure includes an apple fact lecture, apple picking, group cider making and tasting. This season’s apple varieties include: Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Fuji, heirloom apples and more. The cost is $12/person. Be sure to book your reservation soon as they fill up fast and are only open until the apples are gone.

Dates: Email applesandart@sbcglobal.net for a reservation.

1052 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, Ca
760-310-6368
Online: applesandartorchards.com

julian2photo: Leah Singer

Apple Picking Tips

  • Go early in the season and call ahead to confirm that apples are still available for picking. Once the apples are gone, that’s it until next year.
  • Don’t fret about not being able to pick tons of apples. Nearly all the orchards have pre-bagged apples available for purchase if your little farmers grow weary of picking early on.
  • Don’t expect mountain cold weather. Just because Julian is located in the mountains doesn’t mean you’ll need a jacket. Check the temperatures before you make the trip. San Diego in autumn could be as warm as a summer day. Pack plenty of water to drink and wear hats, sunscreen and close-toed shoes.
  • Make a day out of your trip to experience Julian. This little mining town has so many aspects aside from the apple picking. Drive to Main Street, have lunch at one of the country cafes and pick up a pie to take home. Julian is best when you allow yourself an entire day to explore.
  • Try cider donuts! Don’t leave Julian without trying a cider donut. They are available at the many pie stores in town. These delectable treats are just not found in the city limits. Be sure to get a few (dozen) to go.

Where does your family like to go apple picking? Let us know your favorite orchard below.

–– Beth Shea & Leah R. Singer