Fall is around the corner which means not only is it time to go leaf-peeping around town and plan some epic, fall-tastic hikes around San Francisco, it’s time to start planning your apple picking trip! We love apple picking because the fruit is mostly within a kid’s reach and there are no thorns to deal with (looking at you, blackberries). Bring home a bushel and make yourself a pie or homemade applesauce (snag yourself this apple peeler—you’ll thank us later). Pro Tip: Check the orchard’s website before you head to these U-pick apple orchards in the Bay Area to confirm availability.
The Best Apple Picking in Sonoma County
EARTHseed Farm (formerly Gabriel Farm): If eating organic is important to your family, head to EARTHseed Farm located in Sebastopol, a town practically synonymous with the fruit. In addition to picking your own apples, you can schedule a tour of the certified organic orchard. Varieties include McIntosh, Gravenstein, Gala, Braeburn, Gilbert Golden Delicious, Fuji and Rome. A $25 entrance fee covers your Saturday U-pick time slot, which can be booked on a week-by-week basis starting the Tuesday before. The Bay Area farm has a store with juice, jams and pears for sale as well.
3175 Sullivan Rd.
Hales Apple Farm: The Hale family farm has been around for about 120 years and Dave Hale is involved in the growing and harvesting of over 40 varieties of heirloom apples, continuing the time-honored tradition of apple farming within both his family and the Bay Area. The roadside stand is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but you should contact the farm in advance to make arrangements for U-Pick.
1526 Gravenstein Highway N
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Apple-a-Day Ratzlaff Ranch: With a name like that, you know Ratzlaff Ranch is focused on apples! U-pick Gravensteins, Rome and Golden Delicious are a bargain at $2 per pound. They are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except Thursdays and Saturdays when they are closed). While you are there, don’t forget to pick up some of their award-winning apple cider, best chilled or warm? You decide. U-Pick is typically September through early December, depending on the availability of ripe apples, but exact dates may vary.
13128 Occidental Rd.
Casari Ranch: This apple ranch near Bodega Bay boasts tall antique apple trees, and you also might spot some sheep and wild horses. U-pick appointments can be arranged only by emailing: email@example.com.
14390 Highway 1
Valley Ford, CA
Chileno Valley Ranch: Chileno Valley Ranch starts its U-pick season on Sept. 4, available Sun. only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Oct. Time slots are available every hour and admission is $10 per family if pre-booked online or $12 per family if you do not pre-book. Check the website and Facebook as spots fill up quickly. Apples are $2 per pound and you can expect to find varieties such as Orin, Pinova, Candy Crisp, and Jonagold. Beyond apple picking, you can also shop for for free-range eggs, honey, and baked goods.
5105 Chileno Valley Rd.
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Best Apple Picking in Watsonville
Gizdich Ranch: The U-pick apple season at Gizdich starts mid-Sept. (check their website for exact dates) and lasts about a month. Their pie and deli shop offers a boxed picnic meal, so stop by for lunch and then take one of their out-of-this-world pies, apple dumplings or puff pastries home (is your mouth watering yet?). On hot days, the kids can enjoy a homemade apple slush. They are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during picking season. Bring your own containers.
55 Peckham Rd.
Live Earth Farm: This spot in Watsonville grows a small variety of apples including Gala and Fuji. Their U-pick apples (and as well as strawberries and tomatoes) are already available from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. through Oct. 30. The picking is a bargain at $1.50 per pound. Bring buckets, boxes, or other containers to harvest into, or purchase containers from them for a small fee.
1275 Green Valley Rd.
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Clearview Orchards: Located in the beautiful Santa Cruz Basin, Clearview Orchards offers a huge variety of certified organic apples, specializing in Gala and Fuji, Honey Crisp and Mitsu. Pick some apples and enjoy their beautiful terraced grounds with a view of the Watsonville valley. They also sell delicious local honey, fresh-pressed apple cider, and the kiddos can even pick out their own pumpkins, just in time for fall. This year they will open Saturdays and Sundays starting Sept. 3 through Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Advanced reservations are required and a $7 entry fee for each vehicle will give you a one-hour time slot for your littles to pick to their heart’s content.
646 Trabing Rd.
The Best Apple Picking: Apple Hill Region near Sacramento
photo: Erika Fletcher via Unsplash
Apple Hill Region: For a bit of a longer trek, you’ll get no better apple selection than in the Apple Hill Region, about fifty miles east of Sacramento. With more than 50 ranches offering different apple varieties and activities, you are bound to find the perfect experience for the kids. The Apple Hill Growers Association lists orchard details including U-pick hours, picnic areas, local attractions, and more. The U-pick ranches tend to be very small and very popular, so it is a good idea to call the ranches themselves to make sure they have the apple variety you want and that the fruit is available.
A full list of farms can be found via the Apple Hill Growers Association.