Last fall, Jessica Blotter listed the best places to go apple picking in Orange County, and most of these top picks remain on the “best of” list for good reason. Although they are technically not located “in” the OC, they are within an hour of Orange County and all of them are worth the drive. You can just spend a few hours reliving this all-American pastime, but it is recommended that you make a day trip of it and enjoy your time in the orchards and their environs.
Riley’s Apple Farm
12201 S. Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399
This one is not on the previous list and is often confused with Rileys at Los Rios, but these are two totally unrelated farms. Riley’s Apple Farm offers u-pick apples, berries and vegetables. Not only can you pick, but you can design your own tour down on the farm with activities available that include archery, gold panning, rope making, cider pressing, corn grinding and tomahawk throws. You can also enjoy a freshly barbecued hot dog or sausage before a bumpy hayride around the farm. Apple season officially starts on Labor Day weekend, but you can come earlier if the weather cooperates.
Willowbrook Apple Farm
12099 S. Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
If you want to bypass the crowds and opt for a more personal farm with a family feel, stop by Willowbrook Apple Farm and visit the friendly Swanson family to meet its pets Comet the mini pony and Blossom the pig. Willowbrook prides itself on its Stayman Winesap apples, a red with green apple that is excellent for juicing, cooking or just enjoying fresh from the tree. If plain apples don’t do it for you, you can press your own cider or purchase a delicious caramel apple. It also has a variety of other treats for you to enjoy like apple rings with cinnamon, apple or pumpkin butter, berries, honey and preserves.
Stetson Creek Ranch
P.O. Box 192
Angelus Oaks, CA 92304
A remote ranch located past Angelus Oaks in the beautiful San Bernardino mountains, Stetson Creek Ranch is a 100-year-old farm that is 100 percent organic. If you enjoy baking or cooking with fresh apples, Stetson Creek Ranch has Rome apples, a popular American cooking apple because it keeps its shape. If munching on a fresh, tasty apple is what you’re after, Stetson also has delicious red McIntosh apples for you to enjoy – refreshingly sweet and crisp. Stop by on your way to Big Bear – but as this is a working farm, leave your dog at home.
Apple Starr Orchard
1287 Julian Orchards Drive
Julian, CA 92036
You can pick a peck of pickled peppers, but did you know you can pick a peck of apples too? According to Apple Starr Orchard, a peck is 12 pounds and you can fill your bag with u-pick apples or pears. Apple Starr even has wagons to help you with your load. Some of the apples here have fancy names like Arkansas Black and Wealthy, and there are five varieties of pears to choose from as well, including both red and green Bartlett pears. A “newer” farm established in 1982, Apple Starr is 100 percent organic and a little-known secret as the location is at the very end of Julian Orchards Drive.
Rileys at Los Rios Rancho
39611 Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
Rileys at Los Rios Rancho boasts 23 varieties of apples on the farm. Not only can you pick your own apples and enjoy freshly baked apple pie or a pint of fresh-squeezed cider on your visit, but Rileys at Los Rios Rancho also hosts a Hometown Jamboree, Gospel Night and Contra Dance on various Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year. Looking to do apple-picking and tree-hugging? The nearby Wildlands Conservancy’s hiking trails are open to the public and a great way to burn off all those delicious apple treats you are sure to feast on throughout the day.
Related: Best Wine Tasting In Orange County
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Erin Johnson is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.