Oh Hill Yes!

Apple Hill Farms, Wineries, and Bike Trail in Placerville

California's closest thing to fall in New England happens only 40 miles up the freeway from Sacramento. Apple Hill near Placerville in the foothills is a charming autumn classic. It’s much more than just a hill—it’s a collection of over 50 local farms, ranches, and wineries. This Gold Rush region is truly golden in autumn with the turning colors. 

Start with a Donut

If your donut experience doesn’t go beyond Krispy Kreme, then you’re in for a treat at Rainbow Orchards, home of the hot apple cider donut. This warm, fried apple cider treat is light and oh-so-tasty. The sprawling outdoors lawn with plenty of picnic tables evokes an ambience rivaling a Vermont farm in fall, with crisp air and crisp apples.

Rainbow Orchards Apple Hill

The airy Bake Shop and Apple Barn is where you can order a dozen donuts or a few singles and a hot apple cider or coffee. You can also pick up apples and pie. Also on site, outdoors wine tasting and bbq food stands (at least, when we visited on a recent Saturday). When the weather’s chilly and you’ve got a hot donut and apple cider, sitting at a picnic table surrounded by fall foliage, you just feel like you’re … seeing a rainbow!

Tip: Arrive early; it gets busy!

Explore the El Dorado Trail

Step out of the car and onto the trail. The El Dorado Trail is a multi-use trail through the county with 12.5 paved miles. There are several ways to start the trail. If you’re looking for a nice bike ride or walk through the beautiful foothills, then start at Jacquier Road trailhead (map) and head east.

Bike The El Dorado Trail in Apple Hill Placerville

You’ll have pavement for 3.5 miles (7 mile round-trip). Pedal the trail that ascends so gently it’s almost imperceptible (though you may have to switch to an easier gear). You’ll pass over the freeway on a pedestrian bridge (no cars). Keep rolling amid a forest flanked by charming gold country homes, and a forest filled with the earth tones of fall. The pavement eventually runs out, a good place to turn around. Or you can continue onto the wide dirt trail that’s flat and uncomplicated. Flip it whenever you’re ready. A bonus: The ride back is mostly a coaster—very little pedaling required … wheeeeeee!

TIP: For those who may be more serious about their bike rides and seek a longer route to ride, start the El Dorado Trail from downtown Placerville.

Foothill Swirl

El Dorado County is one of California’s oldest wine-producing areas. The wine here is diverse and delicious, and pairs beautifully with the dramatic views. Bring your own lunch and sit outside at Placerville’s historic Boeger Winery (reservation is recommended).

This historic winery has ties back to the Gold Rush days where it once was a fruit and nut farm as well as distillery and winery. Today it’s known for its Barbera, Zinfandel, and lovely estate grounds with several picnic tables, patio-style seating, and small fire pits for groups who want to be extra toasty while tasting. Pop into the old blacksmith shop for a real throwback. Tip: Book ahead!

Lava Cap Winery Apple Hill Placerville

If you like your bold reds combined with even bolder views, then head for Lava Cap Winery. This family-run winery high in the foothills prides itself on mountain-grown grapes planted in unique volcanic soil (the “lava cap”). Book a patio table or nab a picnic table on their sprawling grounds overlooking vineyards and out to the rolling hills. Do a tasting or order a bottle. We liked the Barbera.

Pie in the Sky

Delfino Farms has a lot going on: It’s got a bakery, a winery, a cider distillery, and panoramic views over the autumn-clad foothills.

Delfino Farms Apple Hill Placerville

Check it all out, but don’t miss getting a slice of the Walkin’ Pie with a scoop of ice cream. We’re not sure if it’s the apples or the incredibly crispy crust that makes this thing so damn good. But damn, it’s good! Bundle up (there are picnic tables to enjoy your treat outside) and go!

Walkin’ Pie with a scoop of ice cream Delfino Farms Apple Hill Placerville

Brew Crew

If your idea of holiday cheer is beer, head to Jack Russell Farm Brewery for a seasonal IPA, a hard cider, or some tasty mead. Enjoy it at one of the picnic tables dotting the expansive outdoor space. Sunsets here are beautiful but you'll want to be bundled up, there are no firepits here ... but the pink glow of the setting sun will warm your heart. Awww.

Jack Russell Brewing Co. Apple Hill Placerville

Christmas Tree Farm Bonus: While driving in Apple Hill you’re going to pass a Christmas tree farm (or four). We’re just saying … holiday rooooad!

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In the episode "Pandemic Autumn Outings" Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss their trip to Apple Hill!

Check out the Apple Hill website for maps, news, and open hours.

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  2. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

    View
  3. Kirby Your Enthusiasm

    Just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin is one of the Bay's most-accessible secluded beaches. Kirby Cove is accessed by hiking or biking a 1-mile fire road down to the beach, where the reward is an all-time classic Golden Gate view.

    View
  4. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Adventure for your earbuds. What's new in the world of the outdoors? Listen to Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss local hikes, beaches, bike rides, camping spots and all kinds of travel and adventure in California and beyond!

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

    View
  4. Border Field State Park

    Border Field State Park is the southernmost point in California as well as one of the last beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the state. Visit this natural refuge for a 4.5-mile hike featuring important history and wildlife habitats, plus stunning SoCal beach scenery.

    View