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Guide to Apple Hill

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Abel's Apple Acres

Abel's Apple Acres

Photo © 2008 Rowena T. Millado licensed to About.com, Inc.
Apple Hill is located in the western Sierra Foothills in El Dorado County. Just an hour’s drive from downtown Sacramento, this locale is filled with fruit orchards, breweries, tree farms, and wineries. It's a perfect out-of-town spot for a quick getaway.

Where Is Apple Hill?
Just head out on eastbound US-50 toward Lake Tahoe. As you pass Placerville, you’ll start to see several Apple Hill exit signs: the Schnell School Exit 48, Carson Road Exit, Camino Exit, Cedar Grove Exit 54, and Pollock Pines Exit 57.

Getting Around Apple Hill
If you are unfamiliar with area roads, make sure to print out the western (PDF) and eastern (PDF) maps provided by the Apple Hill Growers Association.

Keep in mind that driving the scenic roads in Apple Hill can be beautiful, but don’t forget to watch the road. Some of the roads can have sharp turns that can hide some on coming traffic if you aren’t careful. Also there are some blind spots when merging back on to the road when coming out of a parking lot.

You can also drop off your car at the two shuttle stops: one at the corner of the Schnell School Exit 48 and Carson Road, and the second is near at the Cedar Grove Exit 54 and Eight Mile Road.

Top Attractions
The name Apple Hill kind of gives away what this place is known for: apples. Visitors can either enjoy picking their own apples from the tree or from a convenient container. Among the variety of apples available are golden delicious, granny smith, pippen, pink lady, rome beauty, fuji, gala and mutsu just to name a few. Other types of fruit are several varities of pears like bartlett and bosc, pumpkins, cherries, grapes, plums and persimmons. A popular spot to find your perfect apple is Boa Vista Orchards (#3 on the Apple Hill Growers map).

Boa Vista Orchards
Address: 2925 Carson Road, Placerville, CA
Phone: (866) 684-7696
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., open all year. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Wine tasting hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You can find freshly picked tart Gravenstein apples to sweet Cameos to crisp Braeburns. Not sure one kind of apple variety suits your needs, happily ask for for a sample or seek out the sample cart that offers free slices of different varieties. At Boa, there’s more than one way to eat your apple. You can get it they way nature intended it, or eat it as a pie, sauce, fruit butter, wine, or fruit jelly.

This busy roadside stand (actually bigger than your typical stand) also has arts and crafts vendors, a grocery store, Christmas trees and a quick service counter serving food and hot pies.

If you can’t visit Boa in person, visit their online store.

Another key attraction to Apple Hill, especially during the Thanksgiving holiday, are of course, the Christmas Tree farms. The different varieties of trees grown in the area include noble fir, douglas fir, shasta fir, silver tip, white fir, canaan fir, swift river, cedar, and sequoia.

Many of the tree farms won’t just let your cut the tree down yourself, instead, once you find a tree, call for a “cutter” and someone will chop it down for you. After searching through several farms in the area, one off-the-map farm you should try in your next visit is Indian Rock Tree Farm.

Indian Rock Tree Farm
Address: 3800 North Canyon Road, Camino, CA
Phone: (530) 622-4087
Hours: During the holidays until Christmas, 8:30 a.m. to dark
Cost: Charge by the foot, depending on the species of the tree
The Indian Rock Tree Farm is a jewel of a find. As they are members of the Christmas Tree Growing Association and not with the Apple Hill Growers Association, you won’t find them on the popular map.

Once you pull up into the parking lot, you’ll find a small hill full of newly-cut trees and very friendly and helpful staff who will give you a choice. You can either park right there and shop for a cut tree or follow a staffer’s direction to drive down the lot, over the tiny bridge, and up the path of another short hill to the clearing into their secluded forest of thousands of trees just waiting to be picked.

They have an array of firs as well as cedar. Unlike other tree farms, Indian Rock charges by the foot. Also, once you pick your tree, you can also reward yourself with hot apple cider or hot cocoa.

After footing up and down a hill to find your holiday tree or browsing aisle after aisle for jars of fruit preserves, the pangs of hunger will hit you. So head on over to Abel’s Apple Acres (#38 on the Apple Hill Growers map) for food, fudge and family fun.

Abel’s Apple Acres
Address: 2345 Carson Road, Placerville, CA
Phone: (530) 626-0138
Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Labor Day Weekend to Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving Day hours, 10 a.m. to noon. Christmas Eve hours 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed Christmas Day. Pony rides hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Hay maze hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and holidays.

This is a favorite eating and resting spot for many Apple Hill visitors, as evidenced by the lack of parking spaces on some days. You can fill your belly in more ways than one at Abel’s. At the quick service counter, pick up a plate of barbecue or garlic fries. To satisfy your sweet tooth, reach for one of the more than 20 types of caramel apples, homemade pies, and fudge.

Once you’re done eating, take the path leading down to the pony ride, hay maze and pumpkin patch as well as wooden cut outs perfect for cute photo opportunities.

Etc.

Also, don’t miss the famed apple milkshakes at High Hill and the apple cider doughnuts at Rainbow Orchards. I have yet to try these tasty concotions, but I would be remiss if I had left them off this list.

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