Ready to make memories on a Julian apple picking adventure? Fall is just around the corner (hello, new CSA box)—, and we all know that means apples are at the head of the class. Gather round the apples of your eye and go have bushels of fun apple picking at a nearby U-pick apple farm. From Red Delicious to Granny Smith, we know which apple orchards, including Volcan Valley Apple Farm, will have you reaping the best fruits of your labor. Read on for all the juicy details on where to go apple picking in Julian.
Note: Check the websites and social media pages of the farms and orchards you plan on visiting, and/or call before you plan to head out to make sure that your destination is open and apples are still available.
Volcan Valley Apple Farm
With ten acres to roam, Julian’s largest orchard, Volcan Valley Apple Farm, comes alive with apple trees filled with varieties of red and green apples including Empire, Jonathan and Red Delicious. Purchase a bag which holds 6-7 lbs. of apples for $15 and then head into the fields to fill it up. The farm reports that the apples look "beautiful and plentiful this year." First bag includes admission. No bag––admission is $5. Children 5 and younger are free. No fee for credit card charges. Please wear masks and practice social distancing.
Their plan is to open Sep. 11th. Hours are Fri.-Mon., 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last sale). Gates will lock at 5pm.
1284 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, CA 92036
Calico Ranch Orchard
You'll definitely want to mark your calendar for a visit to family-run Calico Ranch near Julian. Calico Ranch Orchard is a USDA certified organic apple and pear orchard and hard cidery and it has been in production since the early 1930s. The Young family has owned this 30-acre orchard for over 20 years. Their U-pick will be open for a weekend or two, due to the fact that their crop is lighter this year vs. last year. Go enjoy a glass of their bone dry, (not sweet) cider, while you or your kids pick apples. The best way to know which weekends they are open is to follow them on Instagram and Facebook. They are aiming for a U-pick opening the weekend of Sep. 12 and ask that all visitors wear a mask in the orchard unless you're at a tree with your own group. Cash is preferred form of payment.
4200 Highway 78
Julian, CA 92036
The Peacefield Orchard
This fresh, organic, local U-pick that boasts over 220 trees on 2 1/2 acres is now under new management by new owner Ken Browning. The farm stand and U-Pick will be open Saturdays and Sundays this fall (starting Aug. 29) until the day's apples run out. They'll close for the season once all of the apples have been picked.
Juicy fact: Rumor has it that the oldest apple tree in Julian, "Granny Gravenstein" lives on Peacefield Orchard.
Ken's farmer report: “This year the apples from Gravenstein are coming on gangbusters (earliest maturing) and the Jonathans, Jonagolds, Golden and Red Delicious will follow, finishing up with Granny Smith, tart and good for pies.”
Good to know: U-pickers will be allowed to pick exclusively from the green-marked trees within a specified 1/2 acre of the 2 1/2 acre orchard property. Trees marked yellow for next week, and orange or red for wholesale fruit production, are not available to visitors. Guidance and expected adherence to the following is implicit on permitting entry to the orchard. Pickers will be instructed on proper picking technique and will carefully pick only ripe fruit. In other words, no discarding fruit after picking. If one is uncertain which fruit is ripe or acceptable, they will decide before they pick. Once picked, that fruit is part of their bag(s), and the Picker is responsible for paying the agreed-upon pricing.
Covid-19 update from the orchard: Masks and social-distancing are required when approaching orchard points of entry and anytime that your group may come into contact with any other group or staff. Sanitary facilities are limited. Please plan to bring your own mask, hand sanitizer, wipes, towelettes and gloves.
Open: Sat. & Sun. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and by appointment
3803 Wynola Rd.
Julian, CA 92036
Julian Farm & Orchard
This year Julian Farm & Orchard is reporting that their apple crop is relatively small, but they are indeed offering apple picking starting Sep. 19-20, while the apples last. Check their website and social media pages for the latest updates and information.
Additionally, they are currently open weekends for raspberry, blackberry and strawberry picking and they have an animal corral now through Halloween. Starting the last two weekends in Sep., their pumpkin patch opens. They'll have pumpkins to pick, hayrides, apple cider pressing and more activities. Their plan is to charge $10/person admission (kids under 3 are free with paid adult) and then issue 10 tickets per person to spend as they wish on pumpkins and activities. Additional tickets will be available for purchase as well.
Hours: Fri. 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m.
Santa Ysabel, CA 92070
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. Julian is best when you allow yourself an entire day to explore––but due to Covid-19, research which shops and restaurants will be open during your visit and plan accordingly.
–– Beth Shea & Leah R. Singer
featured image: Ryan Arnst via Unsplash