Apple picking has become an annual tradition for us, and this year I got a ton of questions about where we go. If you’re looking for recommendations about apple picking in Southern California, read on for my suggestions!
When my husband and I had been married for about a year his family invited us to join them in Apple Country – a five mile scenic loop of 30+ ranches and farms – for the day.
For the next several years this became an annual activity where we would drive out to Oak Glen, buy bags of apples in every variety, bring home apple pie and stuff our faces with barbecue, apple cider and cider donuts.
There was just one thing missing from this entire process – we never, ever picked the apples ourselves. It’s not because the opportunities weren’t there. We were in the middle of an apple orchard, but for my husband’s family the picking wasn’t a part of the process. There were no young kids in the mix, and then once my son was born there were a couple of visits where he was too tiny to participate, so we just went along for the ride.
After a while we started to change the way we visit apple country by adding an obvious component – apple picking! Now I can’t imagine going without venturing into the orchards and filling up a bag or a crate of apples. Apple picking has become one of our favorite fall traditions.
Where to go Apple Picking in Southern California
From Orange County, we prefer Oak Glen for apple picking. Julian is your other option in Southern California, but it’s twice as far for us. I know several people who prefer it there, but Oak Glen has always been our choice.
We have been to several orchards in Oak Glen and far and away our favorite is Los Rios Rancho. In addition to picking apples in one of their several orchards, you can visit their petting zoo, take a hayride, take a short hike, order lunch from their outdoor barbeque (their tri-tip sandwich is amazing,) shop in their general store, and just enjoy the surroundings. Having visited several other orchards I can tell you that this is the prettiest we’ve visited. Also, they have ample parking, which is likely because they’re the most popular.
2021 Update: Los Rios Rancho suffered a devastating fire in 2020, but they finished out the season with the help of the community. They are back this year with all of our favorite offerings, and they’ve even included an itinerary on their website to give you an idea how to plan your day. While they are open seven days a week, many of their offerings are only open on the weekend (as is the case for much of Oak Glen) so be sure to check the website prior to visiting.
Where to Eat in Oak Glen, CA
This year we spent twice as much time eating as we did picking up apples. Let’s be honest, the food is pretty much the highlight of any outing for me. Lunch after apple picking is a must, and your options are slim once you’re in Oak Glen.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have great options! As I mentioned, the grill at Los Rios is a great option. If you’re looking for more of a sit down choice, I’ve got just the spot for you.
Just down the road is Oak Tree Village which is the home of Apple Annie’s restaurant. When we visit during the week, this is our preferred lunch stop (more on weekday vs. weekend visits below.) I look forward to their fried chicken all year long. On the weekend, the lines are often long. There is a lot to do and see in Oak Tree Village on the weekend, so if one member of your party is willing to volunteer as tribute and stand in line, then it’s not a terrible wait.
Right next door to the restaurant is Apple Annie’s bakery where you can pick up their mile high apple pie. Personally, I prefer the apple cherry combo pie, but they also have an assortment of apple pastries to take home. (We brought home an apple betty this year and it was great for breakfast the next morning!)
Our final stop before we head home is always the Oak Tree Village candy shop. At this point my kids are high on cider and pie, but I always let them choose a candy stick for the road. This is admittedly selfish as it keeps everyone quiet and happy for the drive back home, but the way I see it, everyone wins!
Things to know before you go Apple Picking
- There is the tiniest bit of mountain driving, so if you get car sick, be aware of that. It really is a short distance, but it’s good to be prepared.
- There are some advantages to visiting Oak Glen during the week, namely that the crowds are basically non-existent. This also means that many, many things are closed. Always call ahead to see what’s going to be open when you visit.
- While apple season generally runs September and October, there have been seasons where the orchards have nothing available to pick due to weather conditions during the growing season. Check the website ahead of time to see what’s available for picking. Earlier in the season there are often other items available for picking in addition to apples (like raspberries and pumpkins.)
- Check the weather before you go! We have only been one year where it was genuinely cold and every year I hope it will be like that again. This year we got temps in the 60’s which was nice. The temperature dropped by 20 degrees from when we were on the freeway, and it would be no fun to be shivering in the orchards.
- Bring your camera. Photos in the orchards turn out so nicely, and this is a great chance to get a family shot for your holiday card if that’s the sort of thing you’re in to.
- Wear comfortable closed toe shoes. This probably goes without saying, but you will not be happy if you show up in sandals, I promise.
If you have been Apple Picking in Southern California, please leave your comments about your favorite places below.
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We think apple picking is an absolute must-do in October. For more suggestions about things to do in October, check out our guide with 31 fun activities for the month of October!