Visiting Apple Hill Farms in Fall

Crates of fresh apples in an orchard

Anne Hawken / Getty Images

For many people in Northern Carolina, a trip to the Sierra Foothills to go to Apple Hill Farms, a rural region comprising of upwards of 50 independent and family-owned farms, is a treasured autumn tradition. From apple picking to trick-or-treating, the events at Apple Hill keep families coming back year after year. Apple Hill is located just outside of El Dorado County and is less than an hour’s drive from the heart of Sacramento and two hours east of San Francisco. Those wanting to experience blue skies, autumn temperatures, and a trip to the countryside can also go to the many farms located in and around the small town of Camino, California. The ambiance is unforgettable, and so are the special moments you’ll enjoy with your family and friends.

How to Get There

Apple Hill Farms is 135 miles northeast of San Francisco and just 50 miles east of the California state capital of Sacramento. From San Francisco, you can take I-80 East toward Camino to US-50, also known as the El Dorado Freeway, passing Sacramento along the way. From this road, you can get off on Carson Road. The drive takes about two hours and you'll pass Sacramento along the way.

Where to Stay

If you'd like to spend the night to maximize your autumnal getaway and pack in as much apple-picking and hay-riding as you can, consider booking a room nearby at the Ponderosa Ridge Bed and Breakfast, which has three acres of apple orchards, or the Time Out Resort & Day Spa, where you can indulge in a little bit of pampering. Other nearby hotels include the Best Western Placerville Inn, the Best Western Stagecoach Inn, the Eden Vale Inn, and the North Canyon Inn. If you've got a tent ready, you can also go camping at the Crystal Basin or Sly Park Recreation Areas.

Where to Go Apple Picking

You won't want to leave Apple Hill without bringing home at least a bushel or two of apples. Harvest season typically starts on Labor Day weekend and goes until mid-December.

  • Grandpa’s Cellar: In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, this farm produces spectacular apples, with cool nights and warm days bringing out the best in them. Grandpa's Cellar maintains the atmosphere of a country orchard and farm and has a bounty of delicious apple pastries in addition to the actual fruit.
  • Rainbow Orchards: This orchard is famous for having the best hot apple cider doughnuts at Apple Hill. Starting Labor Day weekend, you can find fresh-picked peaches followed by apples in Rainbow Orchards' Barn, along with pressed apple cider. The barn welcomes visitors from the end of August through early December.

Things to Do at Apple Hill Farms

September at Apple Hill is when things really get hopping. It's the opening of most major ranches, and the crowds begin flocking to the farms and vineyards in the area. If you are looking for things to do at Apple Hill in the fall, Labor Day onward is the time to go for a getaway or Apple Hill day trip.

  • Halloween: This time of year means picking pumpkins for jack-o'-lanterns and Apple Hill is the place to find just the right one. Check out Bluestone Meadow, Mill View Ranch, or O'Halloran's Apple Trail Ranch for some pumpkin patch fun in the bright October sun.
  • Apple Hill Harvest Run: This annual run benefits the Camino Union School District. It starts at the Lava Cap Winery in Placerville and includes a 9-mile run, a 3-mile run/walk, and kids' half- and quarter-mile runs. After the race, enjoy complimentary wine tasting.
  • Christmas Tree Farms: Most Apple Hill Christmas tree farms open in late November. Cutting your own is a memorable start to the holiday season and possible to do at Apple Country Christmas Trees, Crystal Creek Tree Farm, or Fudge Factory Farm, which also sells handmade chocolates, fudge, and candy-coated apples.
  • Wine Tasting: Apple Hill is also home to several wineries, and fall is a beautiful time for a wine-tasting afternoon. Driving through the Apple Hill area and following the numbered map is especially fun in fall when the weather is mild, and each stop leads you to yet another treat—apple pies in one place and a hearty glass of Barbera wine at the next.