California agriculture is very fascinating to me. I love exploring all that our state has to offer especially when it is in season. Whether it has been picking strawberries off the CA-1, blackberries in Sanger, peaches in Clovis, or veggies in Madera, I want my kiddos to see where our food comes from and more importantly, the amount of thought, love, and effort that goes into planting, growing, harvesting what we eat and can often take for granted. We are lucky that farmers and growers give us access to see where our food comes from and in some cases pick the produce.
This year marks the 4th annual visit to Apple Hill. It has become our favorite fall tradition, it is as special as visiting the pumpkin patch and picking out our Halloween costumes. Every year I hope to wear our boots and sweaters but the weather hasn’t caught on that Fall is here, so we continue to enjoy our California fall. As the girls get older, our visits become even more enjoyable as they can partake in more of the activities and enjoy the experience too.
Apple Hill is a collective of over 50 ranches with the common goal of preserving the heritage of sustainable agriculture to share with generations to come just as they have been doing for the past 55 years. Since people are seeking more farm to fork experience, It has become a popular destination for tourists, with more than 1 million visitors each year. It is a truly unique way to connect with all that California agriculture has to offer. At Apple Hill you can not only pick and buy apples, but you will also find wine, cider, Christmas trees, baked goods, and fun events for the entire family. There are more places to see than you can do in a day or maybe even a weekend, so I guess that is what keeps us returning every year to see more.
Tradition has it that we start every year at High Hill to enjoy Apple fritters and donuts. I look forward to this apple fritter every year. We usually bring our own coffee to sip and savor it with. They have a craft fair, face painting, a fishing pond, hay rides, and a fudge factory. This year I enjoyed (not voluntarily) sliding down the mud covered hill while chasing after the girls. Yes, I fell in the mud after watching my sister do the same thing. We were both covered in mud for the rest of the day. The good news is I burned some of the fritter calories laughing so hard I could barely breathe. They also have decent bathrooms so the line is never that long (I’m sharing this because I know other moms will appreciate it.)
We got in the car and took a short drive to Rainbow Orchards next. The apple cider and apple cider donuts are hands down my absolute favorite. In fact, I think they are the best donuts I’ve eaten, they are that good. The girls picked out some apples to buy and we also got some jams to take home. They have a wonderful picnic area, with plenty of picnic tables, and a fun hay stack maze for kids to run on. I highly recommend making a stop here even if just for a quick donut.
Next we stopped at Delfino Farms. This is by far the prettiest location on the hill. The property is nestled on a small valley overlooking the vineyard and orchard. Pumpkins are growing on the vine alongside a few rows of beautiful fall flowers. I would highly suggest bringing a picnic blanket and lunch to enjoy here. They sell hot dogs and tri-tip sandwiches on site as well. They just started offering hard cider on tap. It is very crisp and light. I really enjoyed it as it tastes much more like champagne than cider because it is not too sweet. While you sit and enjoy taking in the picturesque scenery the kiddos can enjoy rolling down the hill or running through the small corn maze. It is the perfect size for my girls (age 3 and 6) but older kids would love the bigger maze they have right up the road. The pumpkins were not quite ready to be picked yet but if you visit later in the Fall you might have more luck. My girls loved watching the sheep.
This year we tried to make it to O’Halloran’s Apple Trail Ranch to pick pumpkins off the vine but we didn’t quite make it because Little Miss desperately needed a nap. So it is on our list to visit for next year.
If you are heading up the hill on a Saturday with the kiddos make a stop at a u-pick ranch, Denver Dan’s to enjoy picking apples straight from the tree but with the added bonus of cute farm animals and pony rides. They also offer a big variety of baked goods to enjoy or purchase frozen to take home to stock the freezer for the holidays.
Another very kid friendly stop that we have enjoyed visiting in years past is Abel’s Acres. It is packed with fun offerings for kiddos but in my experience is also pretty crowded because of that. They have pony rides, a rock climbing wall, caramel apples, a maze, and a craft fair. They also have food for purchase on the premise.
Of course there are many more places to visit but these are the few that we have been to and that I recommend. You can pick up a map at any of the ranches to help plan your trip and navigate the area. I have also heard that since it has become so popular that they will be offering a shuttle service up the hill starting in October because traffic and parking can get very backed up. So if you are planning to take a trip to Apple Hill this year, check out their website for information about the shuttles as well as the calendar of events to see if there are any special activities to catch like jam making, pie baking, or a painting classes. I hope to plan an adult’s trip soon to check out wha the area’s wineries have to offer.
After you load up on apples, try out my apple pie recipe that you can find here, along with pictures of our past trips. Now that our Apple Hill trip is in the books, it is definitely official Fall. Let the cool weather come so we can bust out our sweaters and start baking.