Southern California is known for its verdant growing conditions, making for a variety of succulent products. Especially endowed in the fall, ripened apples pack a punch while serving as a healthy treat. So, with that in mind, why not head out and pick some bushels yourself? Within under a two-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles in both Oak Glen and Yucaipa, visitors from the big city will find their way into the countryside and the chance to enjoy foraging for the best of the bunch to take home. That said, the following are the best farms from which to select the apples of your own eye. Enjoy!
Willowbrook Apple Farm
12099 S. Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
This century-old apple orchard run by the Swanson family gives you the chance soak up the countryside in an ambiance that comes right out of “Little House on the Prairie” — babbling brook, barn and all. Once on the premises, you’ll get the opportunity to choose Stayman Winesap apples as well as make your own cider the old-fashioned way by using an antique press. Beyond picking until your heart’s content, expect to also learn how to press your own cider, and also be aware that the apple butter sold here is some of the best in the Golden State.
Photos: Fun Fall Activities
Los Rios Rancho
39611 Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
This farm’s motto is “where history is made every day,” and although what that history is depends on who is making it and how, visitors will at least have the chance to conjure up more than a few memories while picking apples from this active outpost that also offers activities for the entire family. Along with choosing from amongst a variety of about two dozen kinds of apples, guests will also have access to hay rides and the chance to learn some of the crafts that were part of life in the Old West, like tin smithing, candle making and leather crafting. As for your apple-oriented foray, there’s a tour that includes taking in the farm’s 1906 barn where you’ll pack apples on the line as you work alongside Johnny Appleseed and then walk with this iconic characters through the lovely orchards of Los Rios Rancho.
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12261 S. Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
(909) 790-TIME (8463)
Some 100 varieties from trees that have aged up to 100 years are waiting at Riley’s Farm. However, the specialization here is reserved for this grower’s heirloom apples. This seasons crop over 30 varieties of apples, all ready to be plucked from the trees after checking in at the Barn General Store on the premises to get instructions on how to do so. After your outing, be sure to head over to the on-farm bakery for a fresh, double-crust apple pie or a crumb-crust apple pie to go with your apple bounty. Not looking for something sweet? Try the out-of-this-world chicken pot pie, ready and waiting after placing your order the day before you head out for your outing at Riley’s. Riley’s Farm is also famous for their attempts to take you back in time and relive colonial America. This working apple orchard also offers chances to pick strawberries, raspberries, pumpkins, berries, flowers and more. You can even press your own cider, watch a blacksmith, and participate in other 18th century activities.
Parrish Pioneer Ranch
38561 Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399
A clear choice for apple picking not far from Los Angeles is Parrish Pioneer Ranch, offering these fruity delights since 1867. By way of background, it took four mules and a wooden wagon for Enoch Kidder Parrish to buy these fine acres, 160 in all. By working the earth, he came up with what is now the premier spot to pick from Rome Beauty Trees that take over the sprawling premises. Also on offer at the farm store is apple butter, syrups and, of course, cider. While there, be sure to book a table at the Apple Dumplin restaurant on the site for some hearty farm fare unrivaled in the City of Angels.
39400 Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399
Apples galore are available at this expansive Yucaipa outpost, but you may have to leave the actual picking to the management. Still, there are plenty of varieties from which to choose, from Ambrosia, Arkansas Black, Cameo, Macintosh, Matsu, and Pink Pearl to Red Staymen, Rome Beauty and many many others. Indeed, this is only a small selection of the crispy fruit on hand and ready to grab at Snow-Line. Snow-Line Orchard also has a tasting room for their wines and hard cider, so make sure to stop by for a free sample. They are open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm.
Brian Ranch Airport U-Pick Orchard
34810 Largo Vista Rd.
Llano, CA 93544
Braeburn, Golden Supreme, Red Fuji and Royal Gala varieties can be picked at Brian Ranch, an airport convenient outpost that also produces plenty of other fruit, particularly pears, nectarines and cherries. Also on the premises is a pumpkin patch, just in time for Halloween, and a shop where you can purchase butters made from the products grown on this enchanting outpost.
See Canyon Fruit Ranch
2345 See Canyon Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Growing sweet and tart apples for more than a century, See Canyon Fruit Ranch lets you pick your fruit after these apples have fallen from the hearty trees on the property. More than two dozen types of apples are ready to be chosen from this prolific outpost, including Winter Banana, Golden Delicious and Pearmain. In addition, honey is on tap as well, so make sure to put that on your shopping list and then head for San Luis Obispo to grab this golden California rarity.