Scenes from Apple Hill

Every year Aron takes a half-day off so that we can visit Apple Hill without the crush of fall crowds. This collection of orchards in the western Sierra Foothills of El Dorado County, just over an hour outside of Davis, is mobbed on weekends throughout the month of October. Traffic grinds to a halt. But if you can get up on a mid-week day, you’ll be rewarded.

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

Flaky apple pie at Apple Pantry to start. (Though the Dutch is still my preferred slice.)

Boxes of apples, and a sampling of every variety at Larsen’s. This 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.

Just down the block from Larsen’s is perhaps our favorite: Rainbow Orchards for fresh cider donuts. If you dare to come on a weekend, get here early or be prepared to wait in a monstrous line. We got six and ended up going back for more.

The hot apple cider is good for sipping while the kids run and jump over hale bales and climb on the tractors in back. I also always find this is my favorite spot to get pictures of the kids. Their porch has the most beautiful lighting, and they’re usually sitting still for a few minutes when the donuts arrive.

(I love looking back at all the years of Apple Hill photos.)

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 Farm for picking—but be sure to call ahead if that’s something you’re planning.

High Hill is such a large place, with lots of vendors on site, so iI find it to be way too overwhelming with crowds. But it’s hard to pass up their  apple crunch pie with caramel sauce. Aron and I decided we didn’t want to share this year.

I haven’t been to any of the area wineries, but I’d like to make a point to visit some day. Here’s a list—they looked beautiful this time of year!

There are also a few spots that sell hard cider: I’ve heard the Henrietta Stitch cider at Delfino’s is a favorite, and there’s a new (dedicated) cider company.

The apple crop at 24 Carrot was damaged by late frost this year, but it’s still a favorite stop. We picked out pumpkins (Skyler chose this little green one), and watched the clouds move in.

If you’re local, any other favorites to add? We also love Smokey Ridge for its U-Pick Chestnuts and house-made sausages, and El Dorado Orchards for the train rides—but both are only open Friday through Sunday.

P.S. The dish to make with your apples this year. 

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