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Apple Hill

Wine, hard cider, a bliss-out spa—and juicy, sweet apples

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Autumn in Gold Country means clear blue skies, fiery red grapevines, and an invigorating snap in the air. It’s apple season too, with more than 30 orchards and farms dotting the area east of Placerville, about a 2-hour drive east of San Francisco, known as Apple Hill. Visit u-pick farms and roadside stands centered around the tiny hamlet of Camino to sample tart Granny Smiths, thin-skinned Galas, and other varieties, many grown by a new generation of farmers. (Find them on this map.) Not to be missed is a local treat—cider doughnuts—that have delighted generations of sweet-toothed visitors to places like Boa Vista,  Rainbow Orchards and Apple Ridge Farms, among many others.

Another apple specialty? Hard apple cider. This longtime staple of the area varies with each of the family-farm producers that make up the Hard Cider Trail. Many of them offer unique brews, each with up to a dozen varieties on tap. North Canyon Cider Mill has been pouring its freshly pressed ciders for nearly four decades (in recent years with the help of a solar-powered cider mill), and Delfino Farms offers a “vintage cider” that’s a blend of Black and Granny Smith apples, as well as a blackberry version.

Other local finds include Jack Russell Farm Brewery (try the Farmhouse Ale), a handful of wineries such as Fenton Herriott and Lava Cap, and Time Out Spa, where (by advance reservation) you can get a bliss-out treatment. Or simply spread out a picnic blanket at High Hill Ranch, and nibble on oven-warm apple fritters or spread fresh apple butter on crackers—does autumn get much better than this?

Featured Apple Hill

An ocean shore

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