When my parents fled the Bay Area to retire to the serene hills surrounding Placerville, California, our family quickly developed new traditions, the favorite of which was visiting Apple Hill in the fall. Representing over 50 local, family farms, the Apple Hill Growers are dedicated to supporting agriculture in their community. Founded in 1964 with just 16 apple ranches, they’ve now grown to include specialty fruit & veggie farms, wineries, B&B’s, flower gardens, Christmas tree farms, and even a day spa.
The drive to the orchards is scenic, especially in the fall when the leaves are just beginning to turn. Just know that there’s a lot to see (and taste!) and a lot of folks who have the same idea as you. So in order to make the most of apple picking at Apple Hill, I recommend these 5 tips for Apple Hill apple picking.
1. Plan ahead. On the weekends, this idyllic slice of Eldorado County gets pretty packed and you can find yourself waiting in lines to get into ranches, lines to buy food or crafts, lines to use the restrooms, and then lines to leave! (Of course the experience is completely worth it, but just wanted to give you a heads-up!) So if you must come on the weekend, come early in the morning before all of the Johnny-come-latelies decide to jump in their car for a day trip. I recently did that with a girlfriend, and while we did run into some lines, they were significantly longer when we were leaving at noon that day. If you can, I highly recommend that you come during the week for the optimum Apple Hill apple picking experience! The crowds are practically non-existent and you can take your time driving from ranch to ranch and really see it all without getting tired from dealing with crowds.
2. Pick your Spot for Apple Hill apple picking. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE apples, and growing up had apple trees in my yard and now have seven in my current home. Now when I go to Apple Hill, there are SO many things to see and do, that I usually skip the actual apple-picking part (and head straight for the donuts—more on that later). But if you do want to pick your own apples, I’d recommend the following:
- Denver Dan’s Apple Patch loves kids and has you-pick apples, a bake shop with assorted goodies (including pies in case you are too tired to go home and make your own!), and lots of crafts to choose from.
- Ponderosa Ridge Bed and Breakfast is the spot to stay for those who want to come for the weekend and enjoy all that Apple Hill has to offer, including Ponderosa’s scratch made baked goods and homemade breakfast. Located on 11 beautiful acres, apple- picking here is for guests only.
- Argyres Orchard had Golden Delicious and Rome varieties for you to pick as well as Concord Grapes. Load up the apple boxes and grape pails high with fruit as there are no scales here. Call ahead to make sure they have fruit as they close down when sold out. (530) 644-3862.
3. Visit Bill’s Apples and Felice’s Dolls. For as long as I can remember, a stop at Bill’s & Felice’s was always a must. We would visit with these two sweet proprietors, linger amongst their amazing gardens (I have never seen, before or since, anything like their chrysanthemums planted hillside), snack on a hand-peeled/sliced apple, and try to decide which locally made dolls, decorations, or kitchen goods we were going to purchase. While Bill and Felice have both passed away, I am so pleased to learn that Jerry and Michelle Visman are honored to carry on their tradition, including keeping the same crew that we had come to know and love. This place just oozes sweetness. They are old school, so you won’t find a website for Bill and Felice’s, but the Apple Hill site does have the info you’ll need to plan your trip.
4. More than apples at Apple Hill. Now that you’ve made the rounds in the fall for Apple Hill apple picking, you’ll want to make sure you come back in June to pick lavender at Bluestone Meadow. They also host an annual Lavender Festival, and their pumpkin patch opens in October every year. Check their website for dates so that you don’t miss either of their opening weekends:
5. Best one-stop shop. If you only have time to visit one ranch, High Hill is it. Located on 155 acres, High Hill Ranch is the most visited farm in Apple Hill. Family owned and operated, High Hill has just about everything: pies, fritters, THE DONUTS I mentioned earlier, fresh-pressed cider, a fudge shop, tasty barbeque, terrific hand-made crafts and art (I met one vendor who only sells here and comes down from the Northwest just to sell his wares at High Hill for a couple of months each year!), and so much more. There are lots of picnic tables with seating; I especially like the area overlooking the pond. Parking is free and not a problem (you actually park in the orchard and they have lots of folks directing you), but know that this is THE stop in Apple Hill so if you can, make this your first stop of the day and then build your route from here.
Insider tip: After you’ve had your fall Apple Hill apple picking experience, make a note to come back in December. Apple Hill also boasts an array of tree farms (and yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus at some locations.)
If You Go: