The Best Places to Go Apple Picking Near San Francisco
Right up there with our favorite fall traditions—cozy sweaters, pumpkin patches, PSL everything—is good, old-fashioned apple picking. And while it’s not the same as apple picking on the East Coast, Sonoma County has a long history with the fruit. It once had 17,000 acres of apple orchards and was known all over the country for its Gravenstein variety. But once the vineyards came in (a much more lucrative crop for the region), orchard acreage nearly dried up. Today, only about 2,300 acres of apple trees remain in Sonoma County. The good news is that there’s still a handful of places offering up fresh, crisp, juicy apples for the picking.
Whether you take the whole family, friends or your significant other, u-pick apples are just the way to make the mental shift from summer to fall. Besides, who’s ever turned down an apple cider doughnut? Here are some of the best places for apple picking near the Bay Area, along with some of the other awesome seasonal experiences they offer.
Editor’s Note: Before you go, be sure to check each orchard’s current COVID-19 measures, like masking policies, reservation times and available food services.
1. LUCKY YOU ORCHARDS IN RIPON (1 HOUR 20 MINUTES FROM SF)
Bring the family to Lucky You Orchards for u-pick apples, a scenic tractor ride and a lesson on apple farming in California. The orchard opens on September 25 for picking and they’ll have plenty of sweet and crunchy organic Fuji apples, which have a long history at the farm. The u-pick season is expected to run until the end of October, when Lucky You will host a big Halloween bash to finish out the season’s harvest. Reservations aren’t required but are encouraged to guarantee your spot on the tractor.
21611 Carrolton Ave., Ripon, CA; luckyyouorchards.com
2. APPLE-A-DAY RATZLAFF RANCH IN SEBASTOPOL (1 HOUR 20 MINUTES FROM SF)
Get ready for a very special treat at Ratzlaff Ranch. Original owners Ken and Marlene have been pressing their famous Apple-A-Day apple juice for a quarter century, and the liquid gold has won more awards than any other juice in Sonoma County! After you pick your apples—they grow Gravensteins, Goldens, Reds and Romes—stock up on at least a few bottles of the medal-winning cider to get you through the fall season.
13128 Occidental Rd., Sebastopol, CA; appleadayranch.com
3. SMOKEY RIDGE FARM IN PLACERVILLE (2 HOURS FROM SF)
It doesn’t get much more charming than Smokey Ridge Ranch in Placerville. Come for the eight varieties of u-pick apples—including Jonagold, Mutsu, Winter Banana and Honeycrisp—and stay for the farm-made wine and hard cider, plus farm-to-fork boxed charcuterie lunches (meats, cheeses, nuts, olives and farm-fresh jams) served on weekends through November. Relax on the patio, enjoy side-by- side apple tastings and sip on hard cider while taking in the views.
2160 Carson Rd., Placerville, CA; smokeyridgeranch.com
4. HARRIS FAMILY FARM IN POLLOCK PINES (2 HOURS 15 MINUTES FROM SF)
We’re so relieved that this historic, 150-year-old farm in Pollock Pines was spared by the Caldor fire, and they’re currently open for u-pick apples, pears, blackberries and even pumpkins! While you’re there, stock up on pies, turnovers, strudel and jams from the bake shop. Harris Family Farm is the farthest east from the highway in the Apple Hill region east of Sacramento, so plan to make a whole day out of it—there’s a great picnic area in the orchard and nature trail through the woods.
2640 Blair Rd., Pollock Pines, CA; harrisfamilyfarm.com
5. CASARI RANCH IN BODEGA BAY (1 HOUR 10 MINUTES FROM SF)
Sebastopol, Watsonville, Apple Hill—we know all the usual Northern California spots for apples, but if you’re looking for the unexpected, check out Casari Ranch near Bodega Bay. Think sheep and wild horses at this stunning coastal ranch and farm, where you’ll be encouraged to channel your inner cowgirl spirit. The orchard here has tall, heirloom apple trees and u-pick appointments can be made by emailing owner Ariana Strozzi Mazzucchi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
14390 Highway 1, Valley Ford, CA; casariranch.com
6. EARTHSEED FARM IN SEBASTOPOL (1 HOUR 15 MINUTES FROM SF)
Formerly Gabriel Family Farm, the newly minted EARTHseed Farm is the first all African American-owned permaculture farm in Sonoma. The 14-acre solar-powered organic farm and orchard is rooted in Afro-Indigenous permaculture principles and built on a long legacy of traditions of people of African descent. Open for u-pick by appointment only, the farm grows Gilbert Golden Delicious, Gala, Braeburn, Fuji and Rome apples. Reservations are available on a week-by-week basis for Saturday u-pick days, and they do not book more than a week in advance. There’s a $25 charge per group, but the fee goes towards supporting this incredible practice.
3175 Sullivan Rd., Sebastopol, CA; earthseedfarm.org
7. GIZDICH RANCH IN WATSONVILLE (1 HOUR 30 MINUTES FROM SF)
Come for the apple picking, stay for the freshly baked pies, apple dumplings, apple slush and apple popsicles (a favorite with the kiddos). The orchard also packs up boxed lunches that come with a sandwich, cookies, chips, fruit and a drink. Make a day out of it and feel like a kid at camp again. U-pick apple season is open now (you’ll find Pippin, Fuji, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious varieties) and usually runs through mid-October. Reservations aren’t required, but Gizdich is limiting the number of people in their u-pick areas, so be prepared for a longer-than-usual wait.
55 Peckham Rd., Watsonville, CA; gizdich-ranch.com
8. CLEARVIEW ORCHARDS IN WATSONVILLE (1 HOUR 25 MINUTES FROM SF)
Located only a few miles from the ocean in a beautiful, terraced setting overlooking the valley of Watsonville in the Santa Cruz basin, Clearview Organic Orchards is a true gem. The u-pick season is currently open (through the end of October) for organic Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp and Mutsu apples and pumpkins. While you’re there, be sure to pick up local honey, fresh-pressed apple cider and at least a few fresh-baked apple turnovers. Reservations are required and a $5 fee is good for a car of up to eight people.
646 Trabing Rd., Watsonville, CA; clearvieworchards.com
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