I have a lot of extended family up in Sacramento, which is how I found out about Apple Hill. Over the years we've come to set aside the first weekend in October to visit Apple Hill during the apple harvest. Those of us in the Bay Area drive up and then we carpool and caravan with the folks in Sacramento.
Apple Hill is located in Placerville off Highway 50 and Carson Road. It's not a hill: it's a series of events put on by a group of growers. The apples are great. You can buy them or go to a pick your own activity.
We plan the day based on what we like to do. We often pack a picnic lunch since there are grassy areas and picnic tables, but you can also buy food there. Since we had young children with us, we went to the stop that has a train ride. Other stops have pony rides and hay mazes. Some activities like the petting zoo are free: others charge, so plan your trip with your budget in mind. You can check the Kids' Activities web page for pricing.
We had teens in our group too. The stops are small enough that it was no problem for them to spend some time on their own and then rejoin us when it was time to go to the next stop. Cell phone reception can be spotty, so it's best to agree on a time and place to meet. I'd like to thank my lovely niece Amanda (one of the aforementioned teens) for contributing two photos to this article that she took during our trip.
I always buy apples and the triple berry jam at Stop 1, which also has fabulous fudge. I'm not much of a fudge person, but it's a popular favorite in our group. Other favorites are the caramel apples and apple donuts. Most places take credit cards, though there's a bit of a wait for the processing. I prefer to pay with cash because it's quicker.
If You're Planning to Visit
Highway 50 can get crowded at the approach to Apple Hill. Some exits might be temporarily closed, but signs direct you to the right exit. There's a free shuttle during the month of October, and there are people who can direct to parking, which is free.
Be prepared for dirt and gravel paths. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you won't mind getting dusty. A number of people had dogs on leashes, so if you like to travel with your dog that shouldn't be a problem.
We had wonderful weather this year, but we've had just as much fun when it has been cold and damp. Apple Hill is open even after the apple harvest is done. You can also check out wineries and Christmas tree farms there. There's a schedule of events on the website.