Fall is a wonderful time to visit San Diego's backcountry, and visiting the mountain town of Julian is a favorite autumn activity for families. During September and October, Julian celebrates the apples grown in its local orchards. Yes, the temperature does get chilly enough for apple (and pear) growing, and some of those very apples are used in Julian's famous apple pies. Even better, some of the Julian orchards let you pick your own apples. Just remember that the apple-picking window is short, and the orchards allow self-picking on a year-by-year basis, depending on how well mother nature has treated the trees. It's advised that you call each orchard to check on apple-picking conditions before you head out.
Apple Starr Orchard is a certified organic orchard that has been in operation since 2002 growing both apples and pears in Julian. The orchard has about 1,000 apple and pear trees. Some of the trees are 70 years old, but the majority of them still have branches that are low enough for children to reach, making a day of apple picking at Apple Starr Orchard fun for the whole family. And don't worry, there are picking poles available for use for those juicy-looking apples on the top branches.
Apple Starr grows Jonagold, Granny, Fuji, Gala, and Red Delicious apples and Bartlett, Comice, Anjous, and Bosc pears.
U-Pick days are typically offered in September and October, with the orchard open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and by appointment during the week. Special arrangements can be made for groups.
Calico Ranch Orchard is located in the countryside of Julian and is run by a local family and has the resulting hometown charm. The 30-acre orchard has been producing apples since the 1930s and has been owned by the Young family for the past two decades. Calico Ranch is one of just a few apple orchards left near San Diego County where friends and families can go to pick their own apples. Many different varieties of apples are grown on-site, as well as several varieties of pears. You might find a different variety depending on which weekend you visit. Apple-picking lasts as long as there are apples. Calico Ranch Orchard also makes its own apple and pear cider. Orchard hours are Saturdays and Sundays during the season from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Apples & Art Orchards provides apple-picking only for groups only. A lecture on apples is included in the visit, and you also get to make your own apple cider. Besides all that, you get a tour around the orchard by the owner. The apples you pick will be all-natural, pesticide-free apples. The orchard does not have trees organized in rows and columns. Instead, they are scattered throughout the property. The variety of apples in the orchard might include (depending on the weather) Red Delicious, Jonathan, Gala, Arkansan Black, Fiesta, Greensleeves, Queen Cox, and Liberty. Group reservations are offered in September and October, or until the apples are gone.
Edited by Gina Tarnacki on September 13, 2016.