Apple Picking in Oak Glen, California

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Looking for fall fun in Southern California? Head up to the mountains and enjoy hiking, barbecue, and apple picking in Oak Glen, California.

I was born and raised in a suburb just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where fall is a thing (along professional sport heartbreaks). When autumn descends on the Midwest it’s an event. The maple leaves explode with color. Football season is underway. Haunted houses and cornfield mazes pop up like crazy.
Midwestern Pumpkin Patch

Ah, the 90s in the Midwest. Pumpkins, tie-die, and soccer uniforms.

Being a displaced Ohio girl, the onset of pumpkin spice lattes always leave me feeling nostalgic. Unfortunately, Southern California still hits the 80s in October, and palm trees don’t change color with the seasons. Luckily, the mountains aren’t far…and the weather does cool down at the higher altitudes.

If you’re in Southern California and you want to take a break from the beach for some Midwestern-style fall fun…head to the mountains. Specifically, Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho in Oak Glen, California.

Full disclaimer, here: Oak Glen caters to the tourists who come up from Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. This means two things: 1) It’s delightfully kitschy, and 2) It gets crowded fast.

Apple picking in Oak Glen, California

There are a number of different places to explore in Oak Glen, but our trip took us straight to Riley’s (side note: The Riley family is extensive in Oak Glen, so there are a lot of businesses with this name…we specifically headed to Los Rios Rancho and the associated farm). We knew the crowds would pose a potential problem, so we left early and arrived a full 40 minutes before the store opened at 9am.

Apple Picking in SoCal

We weren’t the first people there, but we were pretty darned close.

The decision to leave early worked in our favor. Not only did we score a parking spot right in front, but we were able to enjoy the grounds in relative solitude.

Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho provides access to more than just apple picking. While that’s a definite highlight, there’s plenty else to explore. There’s a shop with apple everything. There’s a bakery and barbecue joint. There are botanical gardens with a good twelve miles of hiking trails.

While the shop and bakery opened at 9am, we had to wait until 10am before we were allowed to pick the apples. So we opted to wander around the botanical gardens, following the well-kept paths and enjoying the mountain views.

No chance of getting lost here!

The California scrub keep it from feeling like a true Midwestern fall, but it’s still pretty close. The crisp air, the smell of apple and pumpkin cooking, the crunch of hay and leaves underfoot…yeah, it’s pretty perfect.

It’s not quite autumn in Ohio, but it’ll do.

At 10am we crossed the street to the U-Pick apple area. The farm grows multiple types of apples on a rotation, so they’re always opening new orchards up and never run out of areas to pick. We were given 5 lb. bags to fill and directed to the Fuji and Red Rome apples. And then…it was apple picking time!

We spent some time filling our bags, strolling past pumpkin patches, and sidestepping the wormy apples underfoot. It didn’t take long before we had collected enough apples to last the entire season. Satisfied with our haul, we paused to let a group of hay riders pass, then returned to the store for a barbecue (and apple cider) lunch.

So. Many. Options.

By the time we finished eating the crowds had grown substantially. We headed out around noon, and there was a solid line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot, waiting for their turn to take part in the fall festivities.

Of course, we continued to enjoy our haul once we got home. Tara and I tried our hand at homemade pumpkin pie and it was delicious. And our dog, Scout, love apples, so he appreciated the treats!

Riley’s at Los Rios Rancho: What you need to know

If you’re planning on a trip to the farm, here’s what you need to know:

• The farm opens at 9am, but the U-Pick apple orchard portion of the farm doesn’t open until 10am. For that rogue hour you can explore the botanical gardens (it’s free) or visit the shop.

• The U-Pick apples are charged by the pound, and the price differs based on the type of apple. Expect $3-$4 per pound.

• It gets busy fast. We recommend getting there as early as possible, even if it means getting there before they open.

• It’s worth checking out the trails. Most people visit for the farm experience, but the botanical gardens have an impressive set of trails with plenty of signage and opportunities to learn about the area.

• Get the apple cider. Seriously. You won’t regret it.

And if you make your way to Riley’s  during one of the other three seasons, never fear. They have a host of events all year round. To see a full list of their seasonal events, head to their website.

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