Local Daytrip: Apple Hill

The collection of apple orchards in the western Sierra Foothills of El Dorado County, known as Apple Hill, is mobbed on weekends throughout the month of October. Traffic grinds to a halt. So every year, Aron takes a half-day off so that we can visit Apple Hill without the crush of fall crowds.

A couple of years back, Heather Palmer wrote a Guide to Apple Hill for us with all of her favorite stops. We’ve used that list to come up with our itinerary ever since.

Our first stop is always at Rainbow Orchards for fresh cider donuts (with plenty of cinnamon and sugar). I think our order number has increased every year. If there’s any sort of line at all, I would play it safe and get yourself at least two to avoid regret.

The apple cider is good for sipping while the kids run and jump over hale bales and climb on the tractors in back—and now they sell hard apple cider as well (though I didn’t check whether you’re allowed to consume it on site).


Next door, Larsen’s barn is the spot to pick up a 40lb box of seconds for $20. Just ask what kinds they have in back. There’s also a nice little museum of farm equipment here, too. We appreciate that there’s always a table for sampling the apples. Hudson tried them all and came away with a small bag of Gala; Aron and I chose Fuji; and Skyler went for Asian pears!

There’s also a lovely park across the street for running off some steam.

There’s no U-Pick at Rainbow or Larsen’s. You’ll need to look elsewhere for that. In the past we’ve gone to Bolster’s Hilltop Ranch or 24 Carrot Farms for picking—but be sure to call ahead if that’s something you’re planning. Late September actually tends to be the best time for picking apples, while October is for baking and eating them!

We stopped at the top of the ridge for Aron to practice taking some photos with his new drone—a birthday gift—of all the beautiful vines in the area. We haven’t been to any of the area wineries or hard-cider distilleries, but I’d like to make a point to visit some day.

Also at the top of the ridge: Boa Vista orchard has a large farm store, a pumpkin patch, and a train ride (open on weekends). We couldn’t resist picking up out our first couple of the season. They won’t be our last.

High Hill is such a large place, I find it to be way too overwhelming with crowds. But it’s a must-stop for the apple crunch pie with caramel sauce.

The kids also get a kick out of running up and down the rows of trees here, and so I have photos of them doing so at nearly every age so far.

Finally, our last stop on our quick tour is usually to 24 Carrot Farms—which we first visited to pick apples on a rainy day three years ago, just after they opened. It’s a small, but beautiful farm, with a great farmstand, and you can usually talk to the farmer about his crops if you go down to the field.

If you’re local, or have visited Apple Hill, please share any of your favorite stops. We’d love to check out some new places on our next trip up!

P.S. If you do happen to go up on a weekend, there are a few more spots that only open Friday through Sunday. Be sure to check out the chestnut trees at Smokey Ridge Charcuterie. Here’s a post about cutting and cooking with chestnuts.


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