Looking for fall vibes? Here are 8 places to pick apples within driving distance of L.A.

(Patrick Hruby / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, fellow Escapists, and happy first day of autumn.

Spend a few years in L.A. and you’ll start to notice — and appreciate — the subtle shifts in temperature as fall kicks into gear. We may not need to bundle up quite as thoroughly as our East Coast and Midwest brethren for homecoming bonfires and spooky graveyard tours, but change is still upon us.

Perhaps nowhere is that more evident than at the region’s apple orchards, which are currently welcoming locals and travelers to pick their own fruit. In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find eight orchards within driving distance of L.A. offering U-pick options. If you decide to go, check the farms’ websites and call ahead to make sure apples are still available.

What’s your favorite fall destination in Southern California? Let me know, and I may pass your recommendation along in a future edition of Escapes.

1. Avila Valley Barn

Distance from L.A.: a 3.5-hour drive.

Cruising up the California coast this autumn? Budget time for apple picking at Avila Valley Barn, just off U.S. 101.


It’s well-known among road-trippers as a spot to snag produce, pies and ice cream on a journey north to San Luis Obispo, Big Sur or beyond, and the Barn’s apple-picking season is in full swing.

Travelers can stop in for a chance to pick fruit and fuel up at the corn roaster, chicken shack, smoke house and sweet shop, all open daily.

560 Avila Beach Drive, San Luis Obispo.

2. Jack Creek Farms

Distance from L.A.: a four-hour drive.

To the north 35 miles is Jack Creek Farms, a fifth-generation family farm near Paso Robles. As of Sept. 16, the farm had Golden Delicious, Galas, Gordons and other apple varieties available.

In addition to apple picking, there’s a country store and activities for children, including a wooden train set, a “lasso a dummy steer” station and the opportunity to wave hello to the farm’s goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks.

Jack Creek Farms is open Friday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you’d like to pick apples, stop into the farm store to get set up with picking supplies.

5000 W. Highway 46, Templeton, Calif.

Planning a visit to Paso Robles wine country? Consider a brief detour to Jack Creek Farms, off California 46.
(Jack Creek Farms)

3. Los Rios Rancho

Distance from L.A.: a 1.5-hour drive.

Cider pressing, candle dipping, barnyard animals, botanical gardens and, of course, apple picking are on tap along with other activities at Los Rios Rancho, which describes itself as “Southern California’s largest Apple Farm in operation since 1906.”

With a sprawling property and lots of offerings, it’s easy to spend an entire autumn day exploring the farm. Los Rios Rancho recommends starting with a cup of specialty coffee at Wilshire’s Apple Shed, about three minutes from the farm, and wrapping up with a horse-drawn wagon ride and a slice of pie.

Los Rios Rancho is open for U-pick while produce lasts. Reservations are not required.

39611 Oak Glen Road, Oak Glen, Calif.

Many of the apple trees at Los Rios Rancho are more than 80 years old.
(Los Rios Rancho)

4. Ranchita del Reo

Distance from L.A.: a three-hour drive.

It’s been a rough year for apple picking in Julian — often considered Southern California’s autumn capital — with late frosts, drought and other factors resulting in the cancellation of many U-pick events.

One exception: Ranchita del Reo, an 80-year-old farming operation directly across from the local high school and county library.

Unlike other U-pick operations, visitors to Ranchita del Reo can choose among three “apple experiences,” which cost $25 per person (for example, one includes a honey varietal tasting with homemade cornbread and a cup of Ranchita del Reo’s blended apple cider, in addition to apple picking).

Ranchita del Reo is expected to be open starting Saturday, with regular hours Friday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Reservations for apple picking are required, though walk-ins may be permitted if space allows.

1711 Highway 78, Julian, Calif.

5. SLO Creek Farms

Distance from L.A.: a 3.5-hour drive.

Tucked between Avila Beach and San Luis Obispo is SLO Creek Farms, a 14-acre organic apple orchard, with U-pick open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday.

There, you’ll likely find apples you’ve heard of before (such as Granny Smith and Galas) as well as Braeburns, Jonalicious, September Wonders and Sundancers.

Visitors also have the chance to purchase hard cider at the farm stand.

6455 Monte Road, San Luis Obispo.

U-pick apples, U-pick flowers and hard cider are available for purchase at SLO Creek Farms.
(SLO Creek Farms)

6. Stone Pantry Orchard

Distance from L.A.: a 1.5-hour drive.

On a quiet stretch of Oak Glen Road, in between a wedding venue and another apple farm, lies Stone Pantry Orchard.

The small orchard cultivates apples, pears, blackberries and pumpkins, depending on the season.

General U-pick is open on weekends, Labor Day to Thanksgiving, according to the orchard’s website. In addition, guests can press their own cider, which can be purchased by the gallon and half-gallon.

11993 S. Oak Glen Road, Oak Glen, Calif.

7. Stone Soup Farm

Distance from L.A.: a 1.5-hour drive.

Before picking apples at this 130-year-old heirloom apple orchard, you’ll first take a brief tour and hear the story of Stone Soup Farm — as well as a few pointers on harvesting apples.

A quick spoiler: When picking apples, avoid pulling the fruit right off the branch, which can damage the tree. Instead, Stone Soup Farm requests that guests push up on the apple and twist until it comes off.

This 10-minute introductory tour is just one way Stone Soup Farm incorporates intentionality and respect for the Earth into its farming practices. In addition to its apple orchard, the farm includes kitchen gardens and flower lanes, designed to serve pollinators as well as visitors who can purchase produce from the farm’s shop.

Apple picking at Stone Soup Farm is planned to take place the first two weekends of October on a first-come, first-served basis, with limited capacity.

12131 Oak Glen Road, Oak Glen, Calif.

Stone Soup Farm includes an heirloom apple orchard, kitchen gardens, flower lanes and more.
(Stone Soup Farm)

8. Willowbrook Apple Farm

Distance from L.A.: a 1.5-hour drive.

Seek No Further. Sweet Sixteen. Stayman Winesap.

No, these aren’t over-the-top names for racehorses competing in the Kentucky Derby, but apple varieties grown at Willowbrook Apple Farm in Oak Glen.

The farm’s apple-picking season is expected begin in October.

Willowbrook Apple Farm is also home to a menagerie of barnyard animals, according to its website, including a mini-horse named Comet, a mini-donkey named Star, a giant bunny named Flopsy and other critters. Wave hello if you see them before or after apple picking.

12099 Oak Glen Road, Oak Glen, Calif.

Willowbrook Farm’s apple picking season begins in October.
(Willowbrook Farm)