Best Places to Go Apple Picking near San Diego

a little kid in yellow boots reaches up to pick apples from a u-pick tree iStock

Apple picking season is here and your apple-picking squad is guaranteed to have bushels of fun at these apple picking farms. From the orchards with the most variety to ones with certified organic crops, we know which apple orchards will have you reaping the best fruits of your labor. There are two locations that only allow groups, perfect for homeschooling, scouts, or playgroups. Apple season is generally from early September to mid-October, so get all the juicy details on where to go apple picking near San Diego.

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Good to Know: Check the orchard’s websites and social channels before you go for apple picking dates and the best apple picking time—they provide the latest updates during the apple picking season regarding any last minute picking changes and supply availability.

Julian Farm & Orchard: Many people choose to pick from Julian Farm not only for their delicious apples but for the array of other fun to be found there. They usually have a pumpkin patch that opens toward the end of September, along with hayrides and apple cider pressing. You can even stop into their Julian Mining Company where kids will love to pan for gems and gold.

Picking Dates: Sept. 18-Oct. 31

4444 State Highway 78
Julian, CA

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Volcan Valley Apple Farm: With 10 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 that holds 6-7 lbs of apples and then head into the fields to fill it up.

Picking Dates: Starts late Aug. and typically stays open until Oct. 1.; Fri.- Mon. from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 

Good to Know: Cashless payment only.

1284 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, CA

Ranchita del Reo: You’ll get more than just a u-pick bag of apples from this fifth-generation family farm. You’ll get an experience like no other in Julian when you book your private 30-minute slot to have the entire orchard to yourselves. Choose from three different reservation packages that include not only a bag to hold apples but also come with the added bonus of homemade goodies like homemade jams to enjoy with cheese and crackers in the orchard while you relax or to take home for later.

Picking Dates: Sept. 24-Nov. 7 by reservation only.

1711 Highway 78
Julian, CA

The Peacefield Orchard: Pick from where the rumored oldest apple tree is in Julian: the “Granny Gravenstein,” which, according to the orchard this year already has apples growing "like gangbusters." You’ll find more than 200 other trees on 2.5 acres bearing Reds, Goldens and Granny Smiths, so you’re bound to find some juicy pickings here.

Picking Dates: Opens in late Aug. and goes through the end of Sept.; Sat. & Sun. from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. 

3803 Wynola Rd.
Julian, CA

Related: Off the Beaten Path: 8 Hidden Gems to Visit with Kids in San Diego

Apples and Art Orchards: This orchard is for large groups only expecting to pick 20 bags of apples or more per reservation—perfect for a homeschooling group, scouts, sports teams, neighborhood blocks or play-groups. They run an all-natural, pesticide-free, non-GMO orchard with many apple varieties including McIntosh, Red Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Green Pippen, and some Heirlooms. Since they ripen at different times, not all varieties will be available at your reservation time. Email for reservations.

Picking Dates: Opens in Sept. with two time slots per day: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

1052 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, CA

Apple Starr Orchard: This orchard was originally planted by the Farmer family after whom the local Farmers Road was named. It hosts about a thousand apple and pear trees ranging in age from 20 to 70 years old, covering 8 acres of the 28-acre Apple Starr Orchard. Here you can find an abundance of apple varieties including Granny, Fuji, Gala, Arkansas Black, and more. Many of the trees have low-hanging branches making it easier for children to reach and pick fruit. 

Picking Dates: Not announced yet for 2022.

1020 Julian Orchards Dr.
Julian, CA

Related: 15 San Diego CSAs Delivering Farm Fresh Fruits & Veggies

Crosscut Farm and Orchard: This is a group apple picking site that only allows a minimum of 10 people per group and a maximum of 50 people. Make your reservations early at this family-friendly mom and pop operation because they’re only open for one week of apple picking. They have about 700 trees to choose from including golden delicious, Jonathon, and Liberty apples. They are not certified organic, but they do use "organic practices” and don’t spray their trees. Pre-paid reservations are required for u-pick and cider-making demonstrations.

Picking Dates: Sept. 10-18; from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., 1 p.m.-3 p.m. and 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Picking will also be held from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on Sept. 17 only. 

1209 Farmer Rd.
Julian, CA

Apple Picking Tips

1. Go early in the season and check ahead to confirm that apples are still available for picking: Once the apples are gone, that’s it until the next year. Most orchards report updates on their socials or website.

2. Bring the right money: Some orchards only accept cash, while some only take cards. Do your research and maybe even bring both.

3. Prepare to spend more money than you would on grocery store apples: The apple picking experience definitely costs more than a trip to the produce section.

4. 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.

5. 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, close-toed shoes, and maybe a little bug repellant.

6. Make a day out of your trip to experience Julian: This little mining town has so many fun things to do besides apple picking. Julian is best when you allow yourself an entire day to explore.




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