Apple Hill; apple pie, family fun, crisp days and history galore!


Author's spouse, Susan, poses upon 300 lb. pumpkin at Boa Vista's Pumpkin Patch!

Crafter’s Barn at High Hill Ranch is popular with holiday shoppers!
Lone angler awaits trout bite at High Hills Ranch trout pond, looking out upon the High Sierra in distance.
Lifesize stagecoach and horse art await visitors to Apple Hill this fall (photo courtesy Sally Kulik)
Sutter’s Mill replica, site of first CA gold discovery, awaits visitors at Marshall Gold Discovery Park, just miles from Apple Hill.

Apple Hill, celebrating 50 years of the Apple Hill Grower’s Association, over 50 ranches, Mother Lode gold and lumbering history and lots of kid’s activities – what’s not to like?

This year, Apple Hill celebrates its 50th anniversary of the association that promotes the popular fall and winter destination, perched at 3,000 feet in the Sierra foothills.  Long a haven for apple growers, whose apple orchards thrive in the rocky soil and foothills climate, Apple Hill has long been a haven for families seeking fall fun, good food and holiday memories.

We have taken our grandkids there several times, but this visit we took the time just to explore, the two of us.   We quickly realized, with California history at both east and west ends of Apple Hill, fine dining and lodging options, the area presents a marvelous long-weekend destination.

We began with two favorite Apple Hill destinations, High Hill Ranch and Boa Vista Ranch, to get our bearings and to see what was new with these favorites.

High Hill Ranch, 2910 High Hill Rd., Placerville, opens a week before Labor Day and closes December 24. It’s a haven for crafters, every type of apple product, from pies to cider to more in a lovely setting looking into the distant Sierra.  We split an apple fritter the size of a pie plate, yum! For kids, a fish pond offers fishing, purchase a fishing permit for $3.50; fish caught go for nine dollars/pound and $6.50 rents a pole.

Another favorite, Boa Vista Orchards, 2952 Carson Rd., Placerville, is just a mile west of High Hill Ranch, with large pumpkin patch, wine tasting, crafts, large variety of apple products for sale.  We purchased a huge apple pie for later consumption.

Nearby Christmas tree farms like Harris Tree Farm and several others offer fine holiday trees, such as white fir and silver tip varieties.  And, like their Apple Hill partners, they offer hot chocolate and a host of apple and berry pies to round out the experience.

A wealth of events and activities await explorers in late October to November, from the Apple Hill Harvest Run, Nov. 2, to the Chestnut Festival, Harvest Festival and other fun activities (see full calendar on Apple Hill web site, below).

This visit, we went in search of kid’s activities, history, good food and lodging.  We found all nearby!  EL Dorado Orchards on North Canyon Rd. is famed for its smoked turkey sandwich. Through middle of November It offers kids train rides on the Apple Hill Railroad; we watched scores of kids and adults chug their way through the ranch in delightful fall weather.

History, good food and lodging await visitors on the eastern edge of Apple Hill in the historic town of Camino.  The town features the popular Forester  Restaurant and Pub and Camino Hotel/Bed-and-Breakfast. The Camino Hotel dates to the 1880s, once serving as a logger’s barracks for workers at the Michigan-California Lumber Company, now silent. Remnants of the towns logging days are present throughout the hotel – and to preserve history and offer quiet for guests, the rooms have no phones and no TVs.

History also reigns supreme in the Gold Rush town of Placerville, just west of Apple Hill. Take a stroll on its wonderfully preserved historic Main Street, lined with buildings dating to the late 1800s.  Just opposite the historic bell tower is a restaurant favorite, the Powell Steamer Company, with a variety of fish dishes, oysters on the half shell, great clam chowder and specials of the day.  Just down the busy street is the historic Cary House Hotel, a good place to stay in the heart of the energetic downtown.

From Placerville, Coloma and the James Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is just six miles north on Hwy. 49.  Site of the first California gold discover in 1848, the park offers the reconstructed Sutter’s Mill, where gold was found, and a wealth of the town’s history dating back 165 years!

Apple Hill is a perfect destination for family fun right through the holidays.  Tour the apple and Christmas tree ranches, watch the colors changing in the trees and explore the history that surrounds the area.

What’s nearby: Placerville, stately Gold Rush center with historic downtown, just a few miles west on Hwy. 50; Coloma and James Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park, site of first California gold discovery, just six miles north of Placerville on Hwy. 49.
How to get there: From Stockton, Apple Hill is 90 miles, a little less than two hours; go north on Interstate 5 or CA Hwy. 99, then east on Hwy. 50, just past Placerville, to the Apple Hill turnoffs.

What to bring: Binoculars, camera, good walking shoes!

To plan your visit: For insight into Apple Hill, complete with October and November activities, see, 530.644.7692; for Placerville businesses and hotel/motels,, 530.672.3426; for Coloma and James Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, see the California State Park’s web site:  Museum and Visitor Center: 530-622-3470.  Address is 310 Back Street, Coloma, CA 95613.

For more inspiration on other travel destinations in California and the west, see my blog, http//, or contact me at 

Happy travels in the West!

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