Apple Picking near LA? You Bet There Is!

Apple orchards near Los Angeles where families can pick their own apples in fall
An apple a day keeps this little girl smiling. Photo courtesy Riley's Farm

“Apple picking in LA?” your Northwest/Midwest/East coast friends scoff? Well you can tell them that California is the second largest apple exporter and the fifth largest apple producer in the United States. While it may not feel like fall in the Valley—where it was always 103 degrees yesterday—there are some apple-picking day trips nearby that feel like a seasonal retreat. (And when your bag runneth over, check out these tempting apple recipes...)

When I volunteered to help drive my son’s class 90 minutes east on the 10 freeway for a field trip, I braced myself for what I was convinced would be a long, grueling day, with third grader music requests not helping. But as we entered Oak Glen, I could already feel the freeway stress melt away. The crisp air, the changing colors, the rolling hills covered with apple trees—it felt like an oasis filled with everything I love and miss from the Midwest about fall.

Oak Glen is on the way to Palm Springs, about 8.5 miles northeast of the 10 freeway. While there are many apple-picking options in the area, our class went to Riley’s Farm. Upon entering, I was immediately lured to a stand with the most beautiful apple pies this side of my Aunt Maxine’s farm kitchen in Wisconsin. (These mountain- shaped, apple-stuffed pies are so popular you often have to pre-order them to make sure you get one.) But I digress. We were greeted by a friendly young tour guide, dressed in period clothing, who shared interesting local history, including how the farm was originally purchased for $8 along with a saddle, a chicken, and a jug of whiskey.

Time for kids to learn what does grow on trees. Photo courtesy of Riley's Farm

Next we bounced through a lovely hay ride tour of the farm and orchard, picking up lots of apple facts along the way (like apparently some grocery store apples are genetically engineered to last unappealingly years on the shelf), and then enjoyed learning about 19th century farm life, complete with authentic turn of the century cabin and tools. (Did you know the expression ‘sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite’ comes from when hay-stuffed mattresses – potential bedbug haven – were laid upon ropes that had to be tightened by turning a crank at the end of the bed?) The kids tried on period clothing and did some of the chores as they would have been done then. We had the most fun, though, making our own cider at the big cider press with fresh picked apples. To this day, my son still says it’s the best apple cider he’s ever tasted.

Riley's has one of the largest orchards in The Glen, where you can pick your own apples on Saturdays, choosing from just shy of one hundred different varieties grown there (especially heirloom varieties), some on trees more than a hundred years old. Other orchards in the area are absolutely worth exploring as well, particularly the ones listed below. We recommend calling ahead, to be sure that there are apples available and picking allowed on the day you want to head out.

While the farms offer many apple picking and family-friendly activities, when all is said and done, I’m going back for the pie.

The double crust five pound apple pie from Riley's Farm is not to be missed. Photo courtesy of the farm

Riley’s Farm
12261 S. Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, California 92399
(Apple picking Mon.-Sat. 10am-4pm)

Riley’s Apple Farm (separate from Riley’s Farm)
12201 S. Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
(Apple picking Sat-Sun. 10am-4pm)

Riley's at Los Rios Ranchos grows 23 varieties of apple, 8 available to pick yourself. Photo courtesy of Los Rios Ranchos

Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho (apparently a big extended family)
39611 Oak Glen Road #13
Oak Glen, CA 92399
(Apple picking Thurs.-Mon. 9am-5pm)

Stone Pantry Orchard
11993 S. Oak Glen Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399
(Apple picking Sat. and Sun. 10am-5pm)

Stone Soup Farm & Heritage Orchard
12131 S. Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA 92399
(Apple picking begins the first weekend in October)

Willowbrook Apple Farm
12099 S. Oak Glen Road
Oak Glen, CA  92399
(Apple picking starts October 6)

RELATEDCheck out more SoCal pick-your-own options.

Tractor rides at Willowbrook Apple Farm. Photo courtesy of the farm


Originally published September 29, 2011

Top photo of girl holding apples courtesy of Riley's Farm