The Best of Apple Hill Day Trips

Top Spots to Visit on "the Hill" This Fall

cider donut
manda_wong / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Apple Hill is nothing new to families living in Sacramento. However, many people still head on up to the various farms and ranches wandering rather aimlessly. It can definitely be overwhelming when you look at the free map of the region, which can be found online. Especially if you are traveling with small children, you likely just want to know where to find the best apple pie in Placerville, the original apple donut or the most scenic place to do a little apple picking. Whatever you’re looking for during your day at Apple Hill, you’ll need to have a plan – and a list of the top spots – to get it done.

The Best Apple Desserts at Apple Hill

Repeat annual visitors agree that when it comes to the best apple pie at Apple Hill, Bodhaine Ranch has got everyone else beat. They are famous for their blackberry-apple sour cream pie, and also sell other fruit combinations like rhubarb/apple and raspberry/apple cream cheese pie. Sound ridiculous? Not as ridiculous as how quickly you’ll finish your slice and find yourself heading back up to the counter for a frozen version to take home. Bodhaine Ranch also serves lunch and is notorious for being one of the smaller, family-friendly stops on the hill.

Apple Hill is famous for their apple cider donuts, and it is likely the treat that really put the hill on the tourism map. Pretty much every ranch and farm serve them, but for the best (and allegedly the original), make a stop at Rainbow Orchards. The apple cider donuts are served warm here and are covered in sugar crystals. Since the only option at Rainbow Orchards is to sit outside, you’ll experience the awesome combination of warm, crispy donut heaven and brisk country air.

The Best Place to Pick Apples at Apple Hill

Picking apples allows the city folks of Sacramento the opportunity to travel east and partake in the country charm of apple picking. Bolster’s Hill Top Ranch invites visitors to pick from their trees starting Labor Day weekend, and winds down the season in mid- November. Nine different varieties are grown on-site, and kids can also learn how apple cider is made. Free samples are distributed for sweet refreshment after your bucket of apples is full.

Willow Pond Farm is a smaller establishment that isn’t as well known to the general public – which makes it a great getaway for apple picking. Set apart from Apple Hill’s main crowds, kids can paddle boat and picnic on the pond for free after picking some of the best apples available on the hill. Willow Pond Farm is open September through November each day of the week except Tuesdays.

The Best Place for Kids at Apple Hill

Kids Inc. gets a lot of press for being one of the premier destinations for children at Apple Hill. While they do in fact produce quite a show with their annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic and parade, petting zoo and more – there are some other locations worth giving a try this year too.

Abel’s Apple Acres is great for the minis in your family, as they offer a hay maze, candle making, and even pony rides. Get your Halloween pumpkins here, or pick up some treats for Thanksgiving dinner.

High Hill Ranch is another great destination for kids, but be warned it is the #1 most visited spot at Apple Hill. It’s recommended you check out this ranch during the week, or arrive early if you must go on a weekend. Activities include craft booths, a fishing pond, apple cider tasting, a fudge factory, train, pony and hay rides. To give kids an additional treat, they even serve up apple cider milkshakes.

The Best Romantic Spots at Apple Hill

Perhaps you are planning a kid-free weekend, or aren’t yet at the parenting stage of life. Apple Hill still has plenty for you to enjoy – including some truly romantic spots that shouldn’t be missed if you head up to Camino with your sweetie.

First and foremost, go to Apple Hill on the weekdays. Yes, for the most part, every business is open, but the majority is void of craft fairs, petting zoos, and intense crowds. It’s possible to venture over to Apple Hill and find a ranch or two during the week where you’re the only ones there – or at least very close to it.

Located near Apple Hill in Placerville is the Eden Vale Inn – a romantic luxury bed and breakfast. They offer discounts to their popular packages during the fall and winter, so Apple Hill harvest season is a great time to book a room.

Go wine tasting at Crystal Basin Cellars – their Merlot is rather impressive, and they even have a wine club you can join, should you feel so inclined. For the boyfriend/husband, spend some time at Jack Russell – which has plenty of different beers to try, including blackberry ale.

Finally, finish off your day by having dinner at Foresters. They are known for their steak and shrimp, which is a great way to fill up after a long day of exploring vineyards and orchards. Views of the sun setting in Camino also abound.

Wherever you choose to go, Apple Hill is a wonderful way to spend time with your friends and loved ones during the fall harvest season. In the end, the best places in Apple Hill are the ones where you make the best memories.