Looking for fall vibes? Here are 8 places to pick apples within driving distance of L.A.
Spend a few years in L.A. and you’ll start to notice — and appreciate — the subtle shifts in temperature as fall kicks into gear. We may not need to bundle up quite as thoroughly for homecoming bonfires and spooky graveyard tours as our East Coast and Midwest brethren, but change is still upon us.
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Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than at the region’s apple orchards, which are currently welcoming locals and travelers to pick their own fruit. Here you’ll find eight orchards within driving distance of L.A. offering U-pick options. If you decide to go, check the farms’ websites and call ahead to make sure apples are still available.
Avila Family Barn
Cruising up the California coast this autumn? Budget time for apple picking at Avila Valley Barn, just off U.S. 101.
It’s well known among road-trippers as a spot to snag produce, pies and ice cream on a journey north to San Luis Obispo, Big Sur or beyond, and the Barn’s apple-picking season is in full swing.
Travelers can stop in for a chance to pick fruit and fuel up at the corn roaster, chicken shack, smoke house and sweet shop, all open daily.
Jack Creek Farms
To the north 35 miles is Jack Creek Farms, a fifth-generation family farm near Paso Robles. As of Sept. 16, the farm had Golden Delicious, Galas, Gordons and other apple varieties available.
In addition to apple picking, there’s a country store and activities for children, including a wooden train set, a “lasso a dummy steer” station and the opportunity to wave hello to the farm’s goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks.
Jack Creek Farms is open Friday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you’d like to pick apples, stop into the farm store to get set up with picking supplies.
Los Rios Rancho
Cider pressing, candle dipping, barnyard animals, botanical gardens and, of course, apple picking are on tap along with other activities at Los Rios Rancho, which describes itself as “Southern California’s largest Apple Farm in operation since 1906.”
With a sprawling property and lots of offerings, it’s easy to spend an entire autumn day exploring the farm. Los Rios Rancho recommends starting with a cup of specialty coffee at Wilshire’s Apple Shed, about three minutes from the farm, and wrapping up with a horse-drawn wagon ride and a slice of pie.
Los Rios Rancho is open for U-pick while produce lasts. Reservations are not required.
Ranchita del Reo
It’s been a rough year for apple picking in Julian — often considered Southern California’s autumn capital — with late frosts, drought and other factors resulting in the cancellation of many U-pick events.
One exception: Ranchita del Reo, an 80-year-old farming operation directly across from the local high school and the county library.
Unlike other U-pick operations, visitors to Ranchita del Reo can choose among three “apple experiences,” which cost $25 per person (for example, one includes a honey varietal tasting with homemade cornbread and a cup of Ranchita del Reo’s blended apple cider, in addition to apple picking).
Ranchita del Reo is expected to be open starting Saturday, with regular hours Friday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations for apple picking are required, though walk-ins may be permitted if space allows.
SLO Creek Farms
Tucked between Avila Beach and San Luis Obispo is SLO Creek Farms, a 14-acre organic apple orchard, with U-pick open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.
There, you’ll likely find apples you’ve heard of (such as Granny Smith and Galas) as well as Braeburns, Jonalicious, September Wonders and Sundancers.
Visitors also have the chance to purchase hard cider at the farmstand.
Stone Pantry Orchard
On a quiet stretch of Oak Glen Road, between a wedding venue and another apple farm, lies Stone Pantry Orchard.
The small orchard cultivates apples, pears, blackberries and pumpkins, depending on the season.
General U-pick is open on weekends, Labor Day to Thanksgiving, according to the orchard’s website. In addition, guests can press their own cider, which can be purchased by the gallon and half-gallon.
Stone Soup Farm
Before picking apples at this 130-year-old heirloom apple orchard, you’ll first take a brief tour and hear the story of Stone Soup Farm — as well as a few pointers on harvesting apples.
A quick spoiler: When picking apples, avoid pulling the fruit right off the branch, which can damage the tree. Instead, Stone Soup Farm requests that guests push up on the apple and twist until it comes off.
This 10-minute introductory tour is just one way Stone Soup Farm incorporates intentionality and respect for the Earth into its farming practices. In addition to its apple orchard, the farm includes kitchen gardens and flower lanes, designed to serve pollinators as well as visitors who can purchase produce from the farm’s shop.
Apple picking at Stone Soup Farm is planned to take place the first two weekends of October on a first-come, first-served basis, with limited capacity.
Willowbrook Apple Farm
Seek No Further. Sweet Sixteen. Stayman Winesap.
No, these aren’t over-the-top names for racehorses competing in the Kentucky Derby but apple varieties grown at Willowbrook Apple Farm in Oak Glen.
The farm’s apple-picking season is expected to begin in October.
Willowbrook Apple Farm also is home to a menagerie of barnyard animals, according to its website, including a mini-horse named Comet, a mini-donkey named Star, a giant bunny named Flopsy and other critters. Wave hello if you see them before or after apple picking.
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