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Stories from the valley

Visiting Apple Hill

Contributed by Eileen Javora Boeger

What would Autumn be without a trip to Apple Hill? If you’ve never been, think farms, orchards, and vineyards dotting rolling foothills of the Sierra. Ranches are tucked in between, with all the fall goodies you can think of: warm apple cider, pies and donuts to name but a few. Ask a local and they’ll let you know November is the absolute ideal time to visit. The October crowds have thinned, the days are finally crisp, and the leaves are still hanging on with all of their vibrant color. 

hand holding a bag of apple donuts in front of a large bushel of apples

I usually start my tour of the farms at Rainbow Orchards. This farm has been around since the 1970s and still has all the no-fuss vibes of when it was founded.  Their standout is the apple cider donuts, served hot. Order up a half dozen, and peek inside the bag. The steam carries the cinnamon and sugar aroma right up and you won’t be able to resist. Take a few minutes for them to cool, then sit on the picnic tables and bails of hay outside the old barn to enjoy. It is worth it to also take home some of their apple cider made from apples picked from the orchard just feet away. Most days you can see them making it inside the barn. It’s made fresh and non-pasteurized so you’ll want to take a cooler with you to keep it cold. 

shelves full of large boxes of apples

Our next stop is at Larsen’s Apple Barn. This is the longest family owned Apple Hill farm. The place is filled with activity as more than 20 varieties of apples come through the doors to be sorted on long stretches of conveyor belts and machinery from an older era. Grab a dozen or so samples of apple varieties you won’t find anywhere else. Take them home for snacking or make some applesauce. We like to stop by the bakeshop for lunch. My favorite is their hot chili served with cornbread.  

person sitting at a table with an apple pastry and glass of wine

A trip to Apple Hill wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Delfino Farms. The bakeshop is like no other, filled with pies and treats but the best part, all goods are made in full view. You can watch as the dough is turned and rolled out, as the apples are mixed and steamed with cinnamon and butter to make the filling. It smells dreamy. Their unique “Walkin’ Pie” is a must; It’s a smaller-sized pocket pie filled to the brim with apple pie goodness topped with cinnamon sauce and is perfect for two. Go for the a la mode, you won’t regret it. Sit and enjoy the beautiful view overlooking their orchards and the American River Canyon. 

Don’t forget a frozen pie to take home for a holiday meal and make a stop a one of the more than half dozen wineries to pick up some wine too! It’s a complete, joyful day and a great visit.