The seasonal change from summer to fall is a sensory event for many of us. After the heaviness of the summer heat, there’s a briskness in the air, a depth of colors, a crunch underfoot — and the anticipation of tasting the autumnal harvest: apples.
One way to savor this fall experience is to pick your own apples — whether or not you already have a family tradition of picking apples to bake, preserve, or just sit down and eat. From Washington State to New Hampshire, here are some of the best apple orchards for picking your own in the US.
1. Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market — Fish Creek, WI
Door County, Wisconsin, is known for cherries, but this fertile area is also a perfect place for apple picking. At Lautenbach’s Orchard, you’ll find several varieties of fresh-picked apples throughout the season at the market, as well as the opportunity to visit the orchard and pick your own. This family-owned orchard provides bags for picking, and all apples are within reach, so there’s no climbing necessary. Pick your own Honeycrisp, Macintosh, Cortland, Macoun, and Jonagold apples.
Lautenbach’s recently started a new venture called Door County Cider Co. and has three different hard ciders available to taste and purchase in the market/tasting room. After picking apples, stop by the market for a sample.
2. Riamede Farm — Elmer, NJ
New Jersey is known as the Garden State for good reason, and come fall, it offers some of the best apple picking in thr country. At Riamede Farm, you’ll find 34 varieties from which to choose and pick, including traditional classics, modern varieties, or heirloom specialties. Although the apples begin to ripen in early September, each variety is at its peak at different times. The farm is open daily, but to find your favorite at its best, call Riamede to hear which apple varieties are available that day.
3. Applecrest Farm Orchards — Hampton Falls, New Hampshire
At Applecrest Farm Orchards, you can pick your apple and eat it too. Its intent is to provide a connection to your food, so in addition to the orchard, it offers a farm-to-table dining experience at the Applecrest Farm Bistro. Spend the day apple picking; then, taste a meal focused on using foods from that day’s harvest. Although the farm is open to the community for picking a variety of produce, apples are its namesake — so you’ll find 220 sprawling acres with more than 40 varieties. You can check the website for approximate dates on which different varieties will be ripe.
4. Jones Creek Farms — Sedro Wooley, WA
With Washington State providing 60 percent of the nation’s apples, it’s one of the best places to go apple picking in the US. One of our favorite Washington apple orchards is the environmentally aware Jones Creek Farms, located in the fertile Skagit Valley. You won’t find GMOs here or even plastic water bottles for sale. What you will find is 100 unique varieties on the organically maintained orchard. Jones Creek is open for apple picking from August to October on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
5. Rennie Orchards — Williamsburg, MI
Northern Michigan is particularly beautiful in the fall, which is the perfect time to take in the splendor and pick apples. At Rennie Orchards, you’ll find 19 varieties, including Honeycrisp. While you’re there, take a scenic hayride, check out the log cabin and teepee, or let the kids play in the hay-bale maze.
You’ll want to check local regulations, but while you’re in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we hear the Keweenaw Peninsula has rare varieties of apples that grow wild in abandoned old homesteads. You may not be able to pick your own, but the experience itself could be worth a visit.
6. Weston Orchard and Vineyard — Weston, MO
For a rural and family-oriented experience, head to the Missouri River Valley in Weston, Missouri, where apple picking is open through October. At Weston Orchard and Vineyard’s new apple orchard, you’ll find about 1,500 dwarf trees, so even the little ones can pick without a ladder. Other kid-friendly features include an “apple cannon” for shooting fallen apples at targets (such as rival college teams), a corn maze, and hayrides. Play areas have a bounce pillow, rat racers, hay mountain, low-ropes course, zip line, and even a spider web to play on.
7. Sky Top Orchard — Flat Rock, NC
Enjoy panoramic mountain views or explore a barnyard and bamboo forest at the Sky Top Orchard. There’s a hayride, of course, but you’ll also find a bee train with bee-themed barrels pulled behind a tractor. It’s open every day, except Thanksgiving, through late November or early December and has free apple-cider tastings daily. You’ll also want to try its autumn tradition: apple cider doughnuts.