The weather is cooling down, the leaves are changing and for many Sacramentans, it is time to head up the hill and spend a day dedicated to everything apple and everything fall.
According to the Sacramento Regional Research Institute, 500,000 visitors come every year to explore the farms and ranches that belong to the Apple Hill Growers Association. The area is famous for having excellent pies, incredible cider and tons of activities for kids and adults.
Located one hour east of Sacramento are rolling hills of apple orchards, vineyards and Christmas tree farms. In the western Sierra Foothills lie more than 50 farms that offer an opportunity for visitors to step back in time, enjoy the smells and tastes of the country and be with family and friends in the outdoors.
“Our motto is ‘Apple Hill all the time,’ and we encourage people to come and see how the farming life does dovetail into peoples’ real lives today. Come and enjoy a day where you get to know where your food comes from again,” said Ann Wofford, executive director of Apple Hill Growers Association.
The following is a snapshot of just a few of the ranches and farms that are popular destinations for visitors.
: (530) 626-0138
: Sept. 3 – Dec. 24
: Sept. 3 – Nov. 6: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Nov. 7 – Dec. 23: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Nov. 24: 10 a.m. – Noon
Dec. 24: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Pony/horse rides: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Weekends and holidays only)
Hay maze: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Weekends and holidays only)
Abel’s Acres has been owned by the Abel family since 1976. When visitors arrive at the farm, they are greeted by a well-stocked and busy barn filled with sweets, gift items, pies and more.
“I have always been a cook and a baker. I come up with the recipes myself,” said Evelyn Abel, owner of Abel’s Acres.
There is a deck behind the barn that overlooks trees, the horse and pony rides, hay maze and pumpkin patch.
“My kids and grandkids have both worked here,” Abel said.
Originally a pear farm, the Abel family tore out the pear trees and planted apple trees when they purchased the land.
“We have added, built on and improved since the beginning years. I started with just doing caramel apples and then bought used donut equipment from a donut shop going out of business,” Abel said. “We then did donuts and fritters. From there we continued growing until we became what we are today.”
Abel’s Acres has a large bakery and a wide selection of gifts and treats available for purchase.
“Their bake shop is great, and their frozen pies are really delicious,” visitor Anita Snodgrass said. “They even have pony and horse rides for the grandkids. What more could we ask for?”
What they offer
Pony and horse rides:
There is a fenced arena for pony and horse rides for kids. Guides walk the horses and ponies once around the arena. Coordinators advise calling ahead to ensure availability at (530) 626-0138.
The hay maze is made from more than 500 hay bails, according to the Abel’s Acres website.
There is a wide variety of pumpkins at Abel’s Acres pumpkin patch.
Cost: Priced according to weight.
A wide variety of gift items and souvenirs including books, crafts and clothing are sold here.
Seven different kinds of apples including Arkansas Black Apples, Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Rome, Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Fuji apples are sold.
Terri’s Country Cuisine & Barbecue:
Beef, pork, turkey and chicken sandwiches, garlic fries, burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, salads and soups are offered.
Cost: $5 to $10
Pies: old-fashioned apple pie, apple crumb pie, cherry apple pie, buttermilk apple pie, blueberry apple pie, pumpkin apple pie, strawberry rhubarb apple pie, buttermilk apple berry pie, pecan pie, cranberry apple pie and pumpkin pie.
Other sweets: apple fritters, dumplings, donuts, strudel, crisps, breads, cakes and cookies, caramel apples, fudge apples, carmellows, caramel popcorn and fudge.
The bake shop also has frozen unbaked pies and sweets that can be taken home. Apple-butter, apple marmalade, assorted jams and jellies, cider sauce and apple sauce are also sold.
Espresso drinks, apple cider, tea, mild, hot chocolate, lemonade and bottled water are sold inside.
Overlooking the pony and horse rides, hay maze and pumpkin patch, visitors can eat their sweets or barbecue lunch.
: (530) 647-0613
: Sept. 3 – Nov. 8
: Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday – Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Surrounded by tall pine trees and wide acreage, Apple Ridge feels like you are truly in the country. This a wonderful place to stop and have lunch, pick up some pies and bring the kids.
Apple Ridge Farms is a family-owned farm that has been under new ownership for the past three years.
“We stopped here because we love all the crafts. My 4-year-old loves seeing the animals. We are going to get some of their wonderful pie, also. We love this place,” visitor Gretchen Dunbar said.
Apple Ridge Farms has plenty of parking and a wide variety of attractions.
“Honestly, it is the most kid-oriented place on the hill. We have something for everyone. We have a plethora of crafters, a hay maze, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, pie shop, barbecue house, and a nature trail,” said Stephanie Tuso, gift shop manager and daughter to owners Kandy and Steve Tuso.
What they Offer
The hay maze is made from more than 500 hay bails, according to the Apple Ridge Farms website.
Cost: $3 per child.
There is a wide variety of pumpkins that are all different shapes and sizes.
Cost: Priced according to how much they weigh.
The restaurant serves sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, hot links and salads.
Cost: $5 to $10
Apple Ridge Farms has a collection of picnic tables scattered around pine trees. They are located right in the center of all the action and are conveniently next to the Barbecue House.
They offer whole pies, pies by the slice, apple cider donuts, cinnamon rolls, turnovers, strudels, apple wedges, caramel apples and carmellows.
There is a quarter-mile hike that leads visitors around the ranch and to other Apple Hill destinations.
From face painting and children’s clothing to jewelry and furniture, the craft tents at Apple Ridge Farms are packed with unique homemade items.
Sheep, rabbits, cows, chickens and goats are at the petting farm. It is free of cost and visitors can get close enough to the animals to smell and touch them. There are cups of feed that can be purchased for 50 cents for visitors to feed the animals.
The Country Store offers hot cider, frozen pies, jams, jellies, crafts, berries, peaches, apples and Christmas decorations.
The frozen pie selection includes apple, Dutch apple, triple berry, blackberry, cherry, peach, strawberry rhubarb, apple sour cream and blackberry sour cream.
Gala Apples, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty, Winesap, Jonathan, McIntosh, Arkansas Black, Pink Lady, Empire and Fuji are available for purchase.
: (530) 644-1973
: Sept. 2 – Dec. 24
: Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
High Hill Ranch is one of the busiest ranches in the area, but it is crowded for a reason. With a pond and grassy hill overlooking the Sierra Nevadas, this clifftop ranch is popular for its craft tents, fishing and wide selection of sweets.
“I love High Hill Ranch because I used to come up here with my family. Every time I come here, it makes me feel at home,” visitor Megan Klimmek said.
High Hill Ranch has been owned by the same family since 1967, said Linda Rose, office manager. “It is family fun for everybody.”
It bustles with people excited about the crafts, fishing, wine tasting, hay rides, cider, pies and pony rides.
“I have been coming here every year for 19 years. I love their crafts,” visitor Pam Bailey said.
With 13 acres of apple trees, High Hill Ranch has a wide selection of products that are homemade and sold.
“We came here because they have the most variety, samples, and they have amazing apple cider,” visitor Bessie Johnson said.
What they Offer
The Cider Shack:
The Cider Shack has selection of wines and beers. They offer complimentary apple wine and apple beer tastings.
There is a fenced arena that offers pony and horse rides to kids. There are guides who walk the ponies around the arena.
Hours vary: Call (530) 644-1973 to check availability.
Pond and picnic area with fishing:
There is a trout pond that is available for fishing. The pond is surrounded by grass with geese roaming about, and picnic tables are available for visitors to sit and enjoy the beautiful views of the Sierra Nevadas while having lunch.
Cost: $6.50 for pole rental and $ 8.50 per pound of trout
Hours: Open every day through Dec. 24
The Old Cider Mill:
The Old Cider Mill has large glass windows that visitors can look through to see workers making cider from freshly picked apples from the orchard. There are canisters with free samples of cider in front of the mill.
There are arts and crafts tents that sell jewelry, bags, decorations, collectibles, soaps, candles, holiday gifts and more.
The Pie Porch:
Traditional baked apple, unbaked apple, caramel apple, Dutch apple, sour cream apple, sour cream apple berry, caramel apple crunch, sour cream Dutch apple, apple berry, baked berry, apple cake, traditional pumpkin pie, apple pumpkin, pumpkin pecan, peach pie and marionberry pies are available.
Sweets: apple spice pecan honey butter, apple butter, applesauce, homemade caramel, caramel corn, cakes, caramel apples, apple fritters, apple donuts, apple cider, jams, jellies, spreads and more are for sale.
Espresso Bar: serves both regular coffee and handcrafted espresso beverages for visitors.
Cost: $2 to $4
Other featured items: acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, Indian corn and gourds.
On the weekends, hay rides are open to the public during business hours. The hay rides take visitors through the orchards and around the ranch property.
Cost: $3 per person
Duration: 20-25 minutes
Rhode Island Greening, Gravenstein, Jonathan, Jona Gold, Mutsu, McIntosh, Pippin, Pink Lady, Old Fashion Red Delicious, Empire, Gala, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith and Red Rome.
There is a wide variety of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.
Cost: Priced according to how much they weigh.
: (530) 644-2140
: Open Weekends Sept. 29 – Oct. 31
: Saturday – Sunday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Owned by the Cardanini family for 10 years, the Cardanini Pumpkin Patch is new in relation to the property’s history. Log cabins from the 1800s are scattered around the farm, and one has been turned into a haunted cabin for Halloween. Originally, the property was a potato farm. Through the years, it transitioned into a pear farm and then a decade ago into the Cardanini pumpkin patch.
They grow 15 different types of pumpkins that can be used for jack o’lanterns or for cooking. They also have Indian corn.
“We give people shears and wagons and send them to go pick out their own pumpkins. We do that so they can really have that country experience. We offer old-fashioned fun that is hard to find these days,” said co-owner Tina Cardanini.
“I love the bright orange pumpkins and seeing the little kids in the wagons. Cardanini’s really feels like you are in the country and away from it all,” said visitor Kendra Neipp.
What they Offer
There is a corn maze for kids and adults to go through.
Two pumpkin patches:
There are 8 acres of pumpkins and Indian corn.
A cabin is decorated with skulls, spider webs, goblins and goons for Halloween.
Kids can ride in small wagons through the pumpkin patch in order to find the perfect pumpkin to take home.
For a map of Apple Hill Growers Association farms and ranches, visit the website here.
For product and attraction guide to all 50 farms, visit the website here.
For Christmas tree farm information, visit the website here.
For additional information on the Apple Hill Growers Association, visit the website here.
There more than 50 farms to explore. Which Apple Hill spots are your favorite to visit? Please share your suggestions and experiences below.