America’s Top Orchards

Pick your own apples, peaches and pumpkins at these family-friendly farms.

By Aarti Virani

Johnson Orchards

Yakima, Washington

The Yakima Valley is a hotbed of vineyards and fruit farms thanks to its intricate canal network. Beginning in late summer, amateur pickers can fill buckets with apples, pears and other seasonal treats at this century-old area mainstay. History buffs may enjoy a tour of its fruit-packing warehouse, built in 1916, while epicures can fill up on freshly baked pies—strawberry rhubarb, anyone?—at the beloved family bakery. 4906 Summitview Ave.; 509-966-7479; johnsonorchardsfruit.com

Chileno Valley Ranch

Petaluma, California

With its rolling pastures and heritage dairy barn, it’s no surprise this Northern California gem is a highly sought-after wedding venue during the off-season. But that wasn’t always the case: Owners Sally and Mike Gale inherited the property in shambles about two decades ago and spent years restoring its 19th-century charm. In the fall months, a visit to the organic apple orchards includes a farm tour, during which you can feed fallen fruit to the cows and sheep. 5105 Chileno Valley Rd.; 707-765-6664; mikeandsallygalebeefranch.com

Chileno Valley Ranch's scenic grounds. (Chileno Valley Ranch)
Northern California’s scenic Chileno Valley Ranch. (Chileno Valley Ranch)

Deardorff Orchards

Waconia, Minnesota

Honeycrisp, the star variety of apple at this tranquil lakeside sanctuary, was developed about 35 miles away at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. You can also pick some of the school’s most recent apple offerings, including Zestar!®, a crunchy and tart variety, and SweeTango®, a juicy offshoot of Zestar! and Honeycrisp. To get straight to business, let a tractor-pulled wagon usher you to the orchards. Or if you have plenty of time, you can start with a tasting at the on-site winery, which produces bottles with hardy grapes introduced by the University of Minnesota. 8282 Parley Lake Rd.; 952-442-1885; deardorfforchards.com

Sky Top Orchard

Flat Rock, North Carolina

Perched at the summit of Mount McAlpine, this 100-acre property’s fruit-and-vegetable picking comes with a side of panoramic vistas, not to mention a range of thoughtful kid-friendly attractions to explore, such as a bamboo forest, a duck pond and an expansive playground. When you’re ready to relax, you can grab a freshly squeezed apple cider slushie—or its warmer counterpart—and drink in the postcard-worthy views while you’re at it. 1193 Pinnacle Mountain Rd.; 828-692-7930; skytoporchard.com

Carter Mountain Orchard

Charlottesville, Virginia

Sweeping sunsets are part of the draw at this mountaintop plantation, which offers weekly live music, barbecue dinners and hayrides on summer evenings. If you visit during the day, you can pick your own nectarines, peaches, apples, gourds and pumpkins. And be sure to pop into the country store, one of Virginia’s most well-known farm markets, where shelves are stacked high with jars of jams, jellies and fruit syrups crafted from the surrounding orchard’s generous bounty. 1435 Carters Mountain Trail; 434-977-1833; chilesfamilyorchards.com

Beak & Skiff

Marietta, New York

Apple picking’s practically a community sport in this part of the country, and one of the prettiest places to practice is this 700-acre fourth-generation orchard along the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes region. Beak & Skiff caters to all members of the family against the rustic backdrop of rural New York. Among more than 250,000 trees, you’ll find pony rides for children and a new café. Don’t miss the wings, glazed with homemade apple-cider sauce. 2708 Lords Hill Rd.; 315-696-6085; beakandskiff.com

Beak & Skiff's welcoming entrance. (Beak & Skiff)
Driving up to Beak & Skiff in upstate New York. (Beak & Skiff)

Steere Orchard

Greenville, Rhode Island

Patrons have been plucking their own peaches and apples from this orchard, one of the largest in an area affectionately dubbed Apple Valley, for decades. In addition to a harvest that’s consistently delectable, visitors come for the exceptionally well-stocked farm stand, which sells some of the fluffiest apple-cider doughnuts and pumpkin breads around—great fuel for action-packed hayrides, offered for free on the weekends. 150 Austin Ave.; 401-949-1456; steereorchard.com

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: July 2016