One of the best things to do to welcome fall is to take a trip to Apple Hill in the Sierra Foothills. It's important to remember that Apple Hill is not one spot, but a zone more or less just to the east of Placerville off Highway 50. It's a collection of orchards, wineries, breweries and other attractions like mini-railroads that keep families coming back year after year.
These are my 5 tips to help you on your way:
Go on a weekday
1. If you can go during the week and not on a weekend, do it. Apple Hill is really popular and busy on the weekends for a reason. It's an amazing collection of food, fun, and beverages that make it the perfect short weekend trip and you are back in your own bed at night. The issue is that there are a lot of people and cars on two-lane rural roads with stop signs.
Traffic honestly can get really bad so you end up stuck during peak hours on the weekend. If that is your only time to go, just plan on it and you'll be fine. If you can go during the week. the only downside is that some places are not open so you need to check ahead.
Here is a current check on traffic in the area with our partners at Waze:
Check the weather
2. Mother nature still rules and you may need to adjust your trip based on the weather. If it's really hot in September, some Apple Orchards might have an accelerated picking schedule and there may be limited options for the "you pick" apple spots. Also, some orchards work on a full bag of apples, and you can't just pick a few. So if you plan on picking apples, plan on giving some away to neighbors, co-workers or make a pie. One other thing to think about is early rain. We often get our first big storm of the season in October and that may make some areas muddy, or they might even close so watch that forecast.
Bring your own food
3. Bring at least some food with you so nobody gets "hangry." Most people wake up, drive up and plan on getting lunch at one of the ranches during the day. The only problem with that is that everybody has that same idea. I highly recommend trying some of the lunch spots at Apple Hill but I also highly recommend coming heavily "snacked up" especially for kids so you have something to munch on if you are stuck in traffic or your lunch spot is slammed. We've had amazing lunch experiences, and amazing picnic experiences as well.
Rome wasn't built in a day
4. And you don''t have to visit every farm in one day either. Don't try to do it all. When you see the map you might pick out four to five places you want to go but trust me, plans change. Remember that Apple Hill will always be there so two trips during the season is a great way to stretch it out, not feel rushed, and enjoy the area more. This is a rare and amazing place in California so who wouldn't want to go a few times. During a busy weekend, it's also just not a lot of fun getting to a spot, rushing through, heading out into traffic, parking and doing it again. Enjoy all these places and know if you miss it you can always go back.
Be prepared if traveling late in the day
5. Be careful late in the day. It's no secret that there are lots of places to get beer and wine at Apple Hill and some folks are hitting up more than a few wineries. I used to work at a winery and some people just straight up have no self-control when they are out of town, in a rural area, and they want to taste all of the wine. My only suggestion is to pay attention to your driving and others on these curvy mountain roads and be cautious. If you see the "Boot Fence" off Highway 49 in the area, here is the story behind it.
Before you go... In late August, farmers were preparing for apple season, which has officially arrived!