Headed to Apple Hill, California soon and looking for the best orchards, wineries, and Apple Hill farms?! You’ve come to the right place! Lots of apple cider donuts, fall foliage, and crisp apple ciders in your future! All my favorite things to do in Apple Hill, coming right up!
Imagine indulging in delicious baked goodies like apple dumplings, warm apple crisps, and hot chocolate flights. Sipping hard apple ciders and high-quality wines. Apple picking in that crisp mountain air. Stomping on crunchy leaves and admiring the brightly colored foliage. Sampling fresh farm fruits and veggies. Oh, and you can’t forget about those piping hot apple cider donuts and apple cider slushies!
That my friends, is Apple Hill. This picturesque mountain town is easily one of the best fall destinations in all of California! And I’m here for it.
Growing up on the East Coast just outside NYC, I had my fair share of beautiful falls full of pumpkin houses, charming small towns, and apple cider donuts. Plus plenty of opportunities for apple picking, incredible harvest festivals, getting lost in corn mazes, and pumpkin patches.
Unfortunately, we’re not as lucky here in California – but that’s where Apple Hill comes in. Finally some real autumn vibes in California! Phew! All is well in the world when I can get my little hands on a caramel apple and a slice of dutch apple pie.
We first stopped at Apple Hill a few years back en route to Lake Tahoe, since it’s practically on the way. And after unfortunately canceling a bucket-list trip to see the fall foliage in New England (yes, I’m still bitter about it, haha), we decided to spend a weekend in Apple Hill instead. Sure, it’s not exactly the same (hardly compares…), but at that point I’d do almost anything for a hot apple cider donut and some fall colors.
Apple Hill, California Info
What is Apple Hill?
Only the best place to go for fall fun in California!
For real though, Apple Hill is an area close(ish) to Sacramento that totally goes all out come September. It’s famous for all its apple orchards, pumpkin patches, wineries, and scenic beauty. And of course all those gluttonous apple baked goods that I’m always ravenous to get my hands on. It’s super family-friendly, and you’ll see plenty of groups flocking to the region to get their fall on!
There’s over 50 Apple Hill farms, orchards, and wineries (many family-owned!), completely dotting the landscape of the area. So, lots to choose from! Thankfully I’m sharing all my favorite things to do in Apple Hill, including exactly which farms and orchards I recommend.
Where is Apple Hill?
Apple Hill is located in El Dorado County in California. It’s not a specific town per say, but rather a region in the Sierra Nevada foothills. You’ll find most of the Apple Hill farms and wineries in the small town of Camino off Highway 50, with some stretching to the outskirts of Placerville.
If you’re not familiar with the Sierra Nevada foothills, you probably don’t know where Camino or Placerville are – don’t fret! I had no clue until I visited either, haha. If it makes it any easier, just know Apple Hill is between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe (about an hour from either)! So yes, making it a wonderful fall day trip (or weekend getaway) from both of those popular spots.
The climate in this region of California is just perfect for all those orchards and vineyards to flourish, which is why you see so many of them in Apple Hill! Think apples, pears, cherries, and grapes (for wine)!
Approximate driving distances from nearby spots in Northern California:
- From Auburn: 35 miles, 1 hour drive
- From Sacramento: 50 miles, 1 hour drive
- From Nevada City: 60 miles, 1 ½ hour drive
- From South Lake Tahoe: 60 miles, 1 ½ hour drive
- From North Lake Tahoe: 85 miles, 2 hour drive
- From San Francisco: 140 miles, 2 – 2 ½ hour drive
- From Palo Alto: 165 miles, 2 ½ hour drive
Psst – if you put “Apple Hill” into Google Maps, it’ll take you straight to the Apple Hill visitor center right at Boa Vista Orchards, which is kinda in the middle of everything! A perfect starting point!
When to Visit Apple Hill
Everyone heads to the Apple Hill farms for all the fall fun (September through November), and this is when I suggest visiting as well!
Technically, Apple Hill is open year round, but most farms don’t open until September. The area doesn’t really come to life until around this time, when apple harvest season occurs, starting around Labor Day weekend. This is when it’s the busiest, and rightfully so!
Exactly when to go highly depends on the activities you wanna do – each month has slightly different things to do in Apple Hill, as well as different crowd levels. Although you can get your hands on all the baked goods anytime from September to late-November.
When you visit Apple Hill makes all the difference. In terms of temperature, crowd levels, and fall foliage! You wanna time it right!
Psst – summer time brings berries and there’s tons of beautiful blossoms in spring! It’s never a horrible time to visit this agricultural region. Just know that this guide showcases all the best things to do in Apple Hill in autumn!
A few notes before I get into the specifics of each month:
- Weekdays are obviously less crowded, but some farms are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays (double check individual opening hours/days before venturing over). Fridays are always a better pick than Saturdays and Sundays, and almost everything is open.
- Most Apple Hill farms and orchards close around 5pm, so don’t plan on staying out late.
- Some Apple Hill farms are open year-round (namely Boa Vista Orchards, Hidden Star Camino, and Pine-O-Mine Ranch), but they won’t have any apples until the fall. More info below, but if you’re visiting Apple Hill mainly to go apple picking, you’ll wanna visit in September to early October.
- Aim to arrive no later than 10am if you’re visiting on a weekend in September, October, or early November.
- If you can, avoid holiday weekends at ALL costs – Labor Day weekend and the week around Halloween is extremely, extremely crowded. Prepare for traffic and long lines at popular spots, or plan to visit less well-known orchards and wineries.
- The orchards and farms have all their baked goods throughout fall – think fresh apple cider, apple pies, apple donuts, and other apple-based treats. If that’s all you’re going for, go later in the season to skip the intense crowds of September and October.
September (Apple Harvest Season)
Come visit all the Apple Hill orchards now if you’re aching to go apple picking – easily one of the best things to do in Apple Hill in September! I mean, there’s a reason Apple Hill is called Apple Hill afterall! It’s the ultimate quintessential activity in Apple Hill, and September is when the apple orchards are at their absolute peak (plus there’s loads of apple varieties).
Apple picking season really depends on the year (can’t entirely predict Mother Nature), but you’ll have the best chance in September and early October. Come too late in the season and most of the apples will have already been picked or going rotten on the ground.
There are a few negatives to visiting Apple Hill, California in September though – namely the heat (it’s still quite oppressive), and the insane amount of crowds. Be prepared for hot weather if you come in September; it’s almost unbearable – keep the cute flannels and boots at home (you’ll unfortunately get too sweaty).
Also, don’t expect many of the trees to be changing color just yet – it’s still way too hot! You may get a few yellows and oranges here and there, but don’t anticipate anything extraordinary in terms of fall foliage.
October (Pumpkin Season)
October is pumpkin season here in Apple Hill, California! Many farms and pumpkin patches offer pumpkin picking (some U-pick!) with tons of fall-themed activities, so it’s the perfect time to go if you’re interested in pumpkins and Halloween fun.
Unfortunately, we visited too late in the season and all the pumpkins were already gone, except for a handful of sad looking ones at a few farms. While I’m a tad sad we missed out, we typically go pumpkin picking in Half Moon Bay every year, so get my fix of gourds and pumpkin ciders there.
In terms of weather, it’s a bit more mild than in September, yet still pretty warm at the beginning of the month. The end of October typically sees a bit cooler temps, although there’s always the hot day thrown in (mountain towns are always so unpredictable when it comes to weather).
And this cooler weather brings fall colors!!!! The perfect time for scenic drives, outdoor walks, and of course some leaf peeping!
November (Less crowds and cooler weather)
November is kinda Apple Hill’s best kept secret, and the best time to visit if you’re not planning to go apple or pumpkin picking. There’s way less crowds, amazing fall colors (especially the first two weeks of November), and cooler weather. I mean, crisp days just call for hot apple cider donuts, right?!
Plus, it’s the perfect time to stock up on pies for Thanksgiving!
For reference, we visited the first weekend of November (partially because we were pretty busy in both September and October). We got super lucky and ended up visiting during peak fall foliage — completely unplanned! The colors were unreal (so many reds, oranges, and golds on the hillsides) and I felt so thankful to see many trees at their absolute peak.
December (Holiday Season)
December is holiday season in Apple Hill! And that means Christmas tree farms! Plus holiday decorations and other festive events. Having visited the beginning of November, we saw the baby Christmas trees growing in the farms, and they were oh so cute!
This region of California experiences all four seasons, including some snow in winter. Imagine how festive that’d be (although don’t count on it until later in the season). Snow only falls once or twice a season, but if you’re lucky enough to catch it, you’re in for a real treat! Is it just me or does snow make everything look oh so magical?!
Note that many Apple Hill farms and orchards close by December, so if you’re craving a specific item from a particular farm, double check it’s open!
As noted before, there’s specific opening and closing dates for the different orchards, farms, and wineries in Apple Hill – always check their individual schedules and hours of operation. You don’t wanna drive 2 hours to find (almost) everything closed!
Where to Stay Near Apple Hill
Since we were coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, we chose to spend the night near Apple Hill. Sure, you can definitely do Apple Hill as a day trip from SF (and definitely Sacramento), but it depends how much driving you wanna do in a day, how rushed you wanna feel, and how many spots you wanna visit.
Most of the hotels in the area are quite simple:
- Placerville: Historic Cary House Hotel, Best Western Plus Placerville Inn
- Camino: North Canyon Inn Bed & Breakfast
- Pollock Pines: Best Western Stagecoach Inn (where we stayed)
Placerville and Pollock Pines are less than a 10 minute drive to most of the Apple Hill farms and orchards, while staying in Camino will get you in the middle of all the action (and traffic, haha). Placerville is a charming California Gold Rush Town (kinda like Nevada City!), and it’s the largest of the three. Pollock Pines and Camino are tiny!
We spent a leisurely two days in the region, and were able to visit about a dozen of these Apple Hill orchards without feeling rushed at all. Stay the night if you can – it beats driving back drunk on apple cider and donuts! Psst – looking for dinner in Pollock Pines? Check out Burger Barn; the western cheeseburger was all kinds of divine.
If you’re looking to stay in a larger city with more restaurants and activities, you’ll have more luck in nearby Sacramento. Although kinda silly in my book if you’re planning to visit Apple Hill over two days.
FAQs about Apple Hill
- Can Apple Hill be done as a day trip? 100%, but it obviously depends where you’re coming from! Apple Hill is only about an hour from Sacramento, but further at about 2 ½ hours from San Francisco. And remember — there’ll undoubtedly be some traffic. Leave early.
- What’s the traffic like in Apple Hill? Since most of the farms are situated along one main road (Carson Road), Highway 50 gets backed up and quite congested. If that happens, drive past all the cars on the highway, make the next u-turn, and start visiting the Apple Hill farms from the opposite direction. The best Apple Hill hack.
- Are dogs allowed at Apple Hill? Yes! We brought Kona with us and found Apple Hill to be extremely dog friendly. There were a few inside spots he wasn’t allowed in (understandably so), which wasn’t a big deal as one of us just waited outside with him. You’ll see SO many dogs in the area – we just loved it! Note that each location in Apple Hill is privately owned with their own pet policies.
- How to get around Apple Hill: You’ll undoubtedly need to drive between the farms and orchards in Apple Hill (there’s no public transportation here). I wouldn’t rely too much on Uber as there aren’t many in the area, and cell service is pretty spotty.
- Where to park: All of the farms we visited had large parking lots – we didn’t have any particular difficulties with parking. You may need to circle around a few times (especially if you’re visiting on a weekend), but be patient and you’ll get something!
- What’s the bathroom situation? Most farms and ranches have porta potties (they were relatively clean with handwashing stations nearby). If that’s not your thing (I get it), a few thankfully have real bathrooms, like Abel’s!
- How’s the cell service? Honestly, not great. Our phones dropped service so much throughout the weekend. I’d definitely recommend planning out your day ahead of time in case your service is spotty (and downloading Google Maps offline).
- What to bring to Apple Hill? Wear layers (no matter the season) and comfy closed-toed shoes, bring a cooler for produce and ciders, and come on an empty stomach!
- How much does it cost to visit Apple Hill? There’s no parking or entrance fees for any Apple Hill farms, orchards, or wineries. You just pay for what you order! Everything is a tad overpriced, but what do you expect? It’s super touristy and most farms are only open/busy 3 months or so.
Throw on that flannel and lace up those boots – we’re off to Apple Hill, California!
Best Things to Do at Apple Hill (Farms, Orchards, and Wineries)
Boa Vista Orchards
Boa Vista is one of the more popular Apple Hill orchards in the area (read: crowded). There’s cider and apple samples, plus pickles, jams, veggies, and chestnuts, plus a huge open-air food market (one of the largest in town!).
We had our first apple cider donut here (their bakery is fully stocked with all the fall foods). In my opinion, the apple cider donuts are good, but arguably not the best in the area.
Don’t miss pumpkin picking here in October – there’s a fairly large patch with tons of scenic views and cute photo ops.
It’s one of the only Apple Hill farms open year round (363 days a year!), so if you’re in the area outside of the fall season you can easily pop in and grab some sweets and veggies.
A slice of warm apple pie with a side of specialty cold brew?! Sign me up!
Grandpa’s Cellar is famous for their hot chocolate and cold brew flights – super instagram worthy and they tasted just as good. We went with a hot cocoa flight – the s’more and caramel flavors were my faves.
We also got an apple dumpling with cider sauce (delicious!) and apple crisp a la mode. I really wish we also got a churro with apple dipping sauce, but that may have been apple overkill, haha.
The space is so welcoming too – with 100-year-old apple trees you can eat under at the picnic tables. And yes, those apple trees are used for the farm’s pies, jams, apple butters, and apple sauces.
This seasonal Apple Hill bakery boasts a HUGE festive fall drink menu (larger than any other spot we visited), with apple cider slushies, pumpkin chai, and apple lemonades. Grandpa’s Cellar is also one of the only bakeries in Apple Hill that offers Gluten-Free baked treats, just FYI.
There was a crazy long line the weekend we visited (and then another 20 minute wait for our food after ordering), but it was so worth it! Get there early or you’ll wait! Check out the gift shop while you’re waiting for your food – they’ve got all the goodies, like jams, butters, sauces, and syrups, plus tons of holiday gifts (the Christmas dog toys were adorable)!
Drew Bean Farms
Hungry?! Head on over to Drew Bean Farms – it’s one of the only spots (I know of!) that has actual REAL food in the area (besides all the baked goods). So if you’re itching for a hot pastrami sandwich or some pulled pork sliders (ya know, actual food…), this is your spot. There’s also beer, wine, and hard ciders for the adults.
We ran over real fast to check it out (but were way too stuffed from Grandpa’s to order anything), and loved seeing everyone enjoying the outdoor fire pits and open grounds! Plus, their pies are kinda famous (using the original recipe from the Bodhaine’s in 1980).
Basically a one stop shop to get a meal in Apple Hill, grab a drink, and get your pies for the holidays!
Hidden Star Camino
A quaint barn and taproom with 24 different craft hard apple ciders on tap! I just loved all the charming farmhouse character – oh so quaint and rural. The atmosphere is so fun, with a separate play area for kids next door.
Come for the hard apple cider flights. And stay for some of the best French fries you’ll ever have (yes, even better than in Boise, Idaho the potato capital of the world). Or maybe we were just hungry, haha.
We loved the ciders we picked – blueberry/lemon, pineapple/lychee, blood orange, and semi-sweet peach. All so different yet refreshing. The Thunder & Lightning with bourbon whisky, ancho chili, and jalapeño pepper sounded super intriguing as well.
They also pour two nonalcoholic flavors for the kids or those not drinking. Perfect when you’re kinda thirsty and have had enough of all the apple baked goods for a bit.
If there’s one Apple Hill farm you need to visit, it’s this one. Yes, you can go apple picking (they’re an orchard afterall), but you come for one thing and one thing only. The WORLD FAMOUS HOT APPLE CIDER DONUTS.
There’s a reason I’m screaming in all caps – these little babies are absolutely legendary, and by far the most famous desert in all of Apple Hill. Easily the best donut I’ve ever had (and that says a lot because I’ve eaten my fair share of donuts, haha).
We sat under the apple trees and admired the fall foliage – the perfect ending to a perfect day. My favorite fall treat I got in all of Apple Hill — I would’ve brought a dozen home but that would’ve been super dangerous, haha (plus, they’re way better eaten fresh).
Rainbow Orchards is easily my favorite of all the Apple Hill orchards – I mean, I couldn’t stop talking about the donuts all weekend. They’re made fresh to order and are pure magic — sugary, soft, and delicious.
Besides the donuts, there’s a whole barn full of treats, including pies, cobblers, crisps, tarts, caramel apples, and apple butters. Plus homemade corn dogs and Tri Tip BBQ on the weekends. But really though, everyone comes for the donuts.
Larsen Apple Barn & Bakeshop
Oh, how I loved this quaint little stop! The longest family owned Apple Hill Growers farm!
What to get? The pear cider! I’m sure you’ve had apple cider before, but pear cider? That’s not as common at all! It’s way less acidic than apple cider, and a bit sweeter – I just loved it. I swear it tastes exactly like biting into a super juicy Bartlett pear (makes sense because that’s what it is essentially). Wish we could have brought a few pints home!
We also tried plenty of varieties of apples and pears (including a shinko Asian pear). They’ve got over 20 varieties of apples (think red delicious, pink lady, fuji, and rome beauty), plus grapes, dried fruits, and juices
There’s also a cute little bakery across from the apple barn where you’ll find apple dumplings, turnovers, and specialty pies (plus their “original apple turnover on the hill”).
Note that Larsen Apple Barn is closed Saturdays – we visited first thing Sunday morning and were their first customers!
High Hill Ranch
High Hill Ranch is the largest and most popular spot in all of Apple Hill – and it’s kinda a mob scene.
We got there about 30 minutes after opening, and it was insanely crowded with kids running everywhere (in November no less!). It was kinda overwhelming and the most crowded of all the farms in Apple Hill. If that doesn’t scare you, I’d pop in either at opening or later in the day — avoid midday at all costs.
The reason it’s so busy? There’s so much here and it’s super family friendly. There’s tons of activities (you could easily stay for hours with the kiddos) – think hay rides, face painting, pony rides, a large craft market, pumpkin patch, wine tasting (for the adults of course), and you can even fish for rainbow trout at the fishing hole.
We skipped the activities and went straight for the food, haha. High Hill Ranch is known for their wide variety of homemade apple pies, freshly baked apple donuts, and savory apple fritters. We finally decided on a massive apple fritter covered in walnuts — almost the size of our heads.
Parking fills up fast on weekends, so aim to get here close to opening if you can. Thankfully there’s staff directing cars, so it’s all pretty organized. And just FYI, you park right in the apple orchards here, so be careful where you step (there may be some squishy apples on the ground!).
If you’re looking for a more peaceful experience, I’d honestly go elsewhere.
Fudge Factory Farms
This candy store is right at High Hill Ranch, so I quickly popped in! Don’t miss the free fudge samples, wink wink.
While they’ve also got your typical apple pies and homemade jams (plus 27+ types of candy apples), you come here for the candy!
We tried a dark chocolate peanut butter cup and it was beyond delicious (and a nice change from all the apple stuff we’d been eating).
Apple Ridge Farms
Apple Ridge Farms is kinda like a mini High Hill Ranch in a sense, with a bunch of food stalls for BBQ (that ribeye steak sandwich looked delicious), bakery items (like strudels and caramel apples), and snacks like kettle corn and corn dogs.
There’s plenty of craft vendors (typically every Friday through Sunday), and tons of fun activities for kids, like gem mining and a maze.
But what really sets this Apple Hill farm apart from the others is the flower walk! Every September, thousands (and thousands!) of zinnia flowers bloom, and there’s a walking path right next to them. Depending on the weather, the flowers usually last until the beginning of November (they were still gorgeous the first weekend of November when we went).
There’s also a Country Store and separate Apple Barn with frozen pies (bring them home for later or freeze them for the holidays!), fudge, jams/jellies, and Christmas gifts.
Joan’s Apple Bakery at Delfino Farms
Delfino Farms is kinda 3 spots in one – Joan’s Apple Bakery, Edio Vineyard (for wine tasting), and Henrietta Stich (serving hard cider). We loved the outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards; such a beautiful setting
I had heard so much about Joan’s Famous Walkin’ Pie – a personal sized apple pie for on-the-go (but in reality, it’s pretty massive and more than enough for 2 people).
Honestly, we were slightly underwhelmed by the pie; yes, the flavors were on point (especially that flaky crust), but we really wished it was served hot instead of super lukewarm/room temperature. That cinnamon sauce on top was the chef’s kiss though – I kinda want the recipe!
Should you get it? I still think so, but ask bakery staff to heat it up and add a scoop of ice cream.
Edio Vineyards is located on the same property (but with a different parking lot). It’s open year round for wine tastings – you can sip your fruit forward wines on the gorgeous verandah overlooking the vineyard. We sadly missed this but it’s high on my list for next year (because you know I’m going back asap).
Oh, Pine-O-Mine! This has got to be one of the cutest stops in Apple Hill! Imagine a super cute barn with string lights, food trucks, and sometimes even live music. There’s a reason they do weddings here! It’s not as popular as some other orchards in Apple Hill, so typically won’t be as crowded.
Come here for apple picking and pumpkin picking, stay for the apple cider milkshakes! Yes, it’s as good as it sounds – a unique combo of the crisp sweetness of the apples with the creamy richness of milkshakes.
There’s also a great selection of local beers and ciders, with plenty of outdoor seating on the property. Such a great patriotic vibe and super dog friendly! We loved it!
Abel’s Apple Acres
Abel’s is such a classic Apple Hill stop! AND they have real bathrooms, haha (most Apple Hill farms only have porta potties)! Definitely one of the more popular orchards and bakeries in Apple Hill. This fourth generation family ranch has it all – butterbeer candied apples (YUM), creamy fudge, apple butter, apple cherry pie, apple fritters, and more.
If you’re hungry for some loaded fries, don’t miss the little restaurant out back (with views of the horses!).
My husband’s favorite pie is here – the caramel pecan apple crisp (we were way too full but he insisted on bringing some home, haha). And yes, it was still good 3 hours later!
24 Carrot Farm
One of our last stops in Apple Hill, California was at 24Carrot Farm – a super cute little farm stand with flowers, organic fruits and veggies (those blackberries and strawberries looked divine), and pumpkins. Plus the most delicious-looking heirloom tomatoes I’ve ever seen.
I have to admit I didn’t purchase anything, but if I hadn’t just stocked my fridge with veggies from the grocery store, I probably would have. All the produce looked super fresh and ready to eat.
There’s a tiny parking lot right in front (with enough space for half a dozen cars at most), but most people only stay for a few minutes so be patient and you’ll easily snag a spot.
We ended our weekend in Apple Hill at Boeger Winery to relax for a bit under all the fall colors. It was relatively quiet when we visited early afternoon on a Sunday; a nice change from all the busy crowds.
And while we didn’t make it into the tasting room itself, the grounds were gorgeous and I couldn’t contain my excitement with all the fall foliage! Highly recommend this historic and enchanting winery right in the Sierra foothills.
Hope this helps you plan the ultimate weekend in Apple Hill, California! Which of these Apple Hill farms, orchards, and wineries are you adding to your fall bucket list?!