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Being from Minnesota, an autumn trip for apple picking is essential.  Nope – I can’t let a tradition like this go.  Maybe it’s the apple donuts…or the hay rides…or the eating as many apples as you can while picking…or the opportunity to be outside.  No matter what the motivation, it’s worth a trip, albeit a little tougher to pull off in the Bay Area.

The answer: Apple Hill.  Just over two hours away, you’ll find dozens of apple farms in a small geographic area, all specializing in different things (with lots of overlaps).  Some are a tad commercialized for my taste, but, even with that, there’s no escaping that it’s fall and you are doing just what you should be doing.  Picking apples.  These apples can then be turned into so many marvelous things at home.  My favorite?  Apple crisp!

Here’s a picture tour of our day!

The first step in making cider – pick the apples

Step 2: wash the apples and hop onto conveyor belt to press

The squeeze – pressing the apples for the juice

The apple gunk left from the press – must make some good fertilizer!

Apples being cored and sliced for apple pies

They can make some mean apple pies in no time here!

Caramel apples and apple donuts prepared before your eyes

Most orchards stay open through November and pump out all of the good stuff, plus apples and pumpkins, until Thanksgiving.  Hint: go Thanksgiving weekend and you can pick your Christmas tree too.  Now that’s efficiency at its best!

Best cider donuts: Abel’s (not particularly quaint otherwise)

Best cider: High Hill Ranch

Best one stop shop: High Hill Ranch

Best for a picnic: Rainbow

Most helpful staff on apple and pumpkin info:  Rainbow

Note: We only stopped at 5 orchards on our journey, so my ratings are all relative.