Mile-high Oak Glen in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains has plentiful apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and berry farms that make this hamlet a harvest haven. One of the area’s smallest u-pick apple orchards is the 2.5-acre mom-and-pop-run Willowbrook Apple Farm. Cheryl, Rick, and their kids specialize in an heirloom variety grown on 101-year-old trees: deep red Stayman Winesap apples, known for their sweet juiciness. Show up at Willowbrook and someone in the family will give a brief orientation on how to pick the apples without damaging the trees. (It takes Cheryl three hours to prune a tree, and she spends all winter doing it, so remember: respect mom!) Then you’re off to wander the orchard and pick your own apples, with the San Bernardino Mountains as a backdrop. Once your bag is full, stay on-site and try your hand at making a custom cider blend using an old-fashioned press and a mix of apples from area farms. Compete with your friends to see who can make the juice the fastest by throwing the apples into the hopper, turning the crank to chop them, and squeezing the raw juice into a bucket. Dipped-to-order caramel apples await those who just can’t get enough. Be sure to get to Willowbrook Apple Farm soon: picking opened last weekend and only goes until the first frost, usually November. Time to hit the sweet spot!
BONUS: Stop at locals’ favorite, Law’s Oak Glen Coffee Shop (38392 Oak Glen Road in Yucaipa, 2 miles northwest on Oak Glen Road from Willowbook Farm). The bona fide diner serves a tasty warm apple pie with ice cream and cinnamon sauce.
Take I-10 to exit 94 for Beaumont Ave. Go north on Beaumont, which becomes Oak Glen Rd., for 8.6 miles. Willowbrook Farm is the second farm on the right as you enter Oak Glen Village. Here is a map. Open Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. For more information call 909-797-9484. Dog-friendly, with limitations on roaming!