Pumpkin spice will soon descend on everything, but there’s no better way to celebrate the arrival of fall than by apple picking! From Red Delicious to Granny Smith, we know which orchards will have you reaping the best fruits of your labor. Not to mention, family memories your kids will always cherish (and you will too, so don’t forget your camera!) You can even top the day off with a slice of fresh baked apple pie! Read on for all the juicy details.

photo: Diana A. via Yelp

Volcan Valley Apple Farm
Julian’s largest orchard, Volcan Valley Apple Farm, comes alive with apple trees filled with seven varieties of red and green apples ready to pick including the famed Gravenstein, Red Delicious and Granny Smith. Grab a bag which holds 6-7 lbs. of apples 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.

Dates: The farm anticipates an opening on Labor Day weekend/one week after Labor Day. Open Fri. – Mon., 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (until season ends); No admission after 4:30 p.m.

Note: There’s a $2 general admission charge, kids 5 and younger are free.

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

photo: Brian Birke via Flickr

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 (likely 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: Opening soon: check their website here for opening day to pick apples and pears on weekends until mid-October 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

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

photo: Ryan R. via Yelp

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. 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.

Open for a visit by advance registration/ticket purchase only, you can take the Guided Apple Orchard & Farm Garden Tour (each tour takes about 15-45 minutes) to learn about how apples grow and about the locale. You’ll also see sustainable agriculture in action and beneficial bugs and learn about natural soil enrichment.

Tours of the orchard are $10/person, $5/ages 3 and under, infants are free and tour goers get to enjoy “all you can eat” chemical-free apples 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: They’ll be open for apple picking tours during the second to third week of September. Tours offered on Sat. & Sun. by appointment only. Call 1-855-ZEN-APPLE to book a tour.

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

photo: Cindy W. via Yelp

Calico Ranch Orchard
This 30-acre, family-run apple and pear orchard near Julian has been producing a variety of apples and pears since the early 1930s! It has been owned by the Young family for over 20 years and is USDA certified organic. They’re open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends. Apples cost $10 per 1/4 peck bag (about 6-8lbs.).

Good to know: They also have an easy-pick fruit stand if you want to swing by and grab the fruits of someone else’s labor instead!

Dates: The orchard plans on opening at the end of Sept. Call for exact opening date.

4200 Hwy. 78
Julian, CA 92036
858-586-0392
Online: calicoranch.com

photo: Derek Taylor via Flickr

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, pesticide-free 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. (Usually all picked by end of Sept./mid-Oct.)

Dates: Email applesandart@sbcglobal.net for a reservation. They open Sept. 6th for group appointments every day at 1 and 3 p.m.

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

Corcoran Ranch Apple Orchard
This Granny Smith apple orchard will update their website with apple picking details during the last week of September and their apples are ready to be picked in mid-October.

16790 Highland Valley Rd.
760-500-1214
Ramona, CA
Online: corcoranranch.com

photo: Jamie W. via Yelp

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.
  • Take enough cash. Many locales only accept cash and it makes transactions quicker and easier.
  • Prepare to spend (a lot) more money than you would on grocery store apples. The apple picking experience definitely costs more than a trip to the produce section.
  • 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.

–– Beth Shea & Leah R. Singer

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