Tips to get you started

It’s not autumn (or late summer) in the Northwest without a trip to pick your own apples! And are we ever in luck: Washington state produces about 60 percent of the nation’s supply of apples, from super sweet to pucker-worthy tart varieties.

Most of the region’s apples are plucked from orchards in the Wenatchee Valley, about two hours away from the Seattle area. As the Wenatchee River snakes eastward from Leavenworth it is flanked on both sides by one pear or apple orchard after another.

Fruit trees in this part of Washington produce billions of apples annually, each one picked by hand. Varieties range from the ubiquitous Red Delicious to sought-after heirlooms like Maiden Blush and Golden Russet to wildly popular newcomers such as Honeycrisp.

For cider-pressing and more apple fun, check out these sweet fall apple events for families.

Tips for apple-picking as a family:

  • Find family-friendly spots. Many U-pick orchards are kid-friendly (click through to the pages that follow for recommendations). Some keep small trees that offer low-hanging fruit so that kids can reach the apples without assistance, and others have small step ladders (make sure you help little ones up onto them and stay close by).
  • Time it right. Apples are usually ready for picking from September through the end of October, with the peak picking time varying from location to location, but some farms start as early as August.
  • Call or check online to make sure the orchard you want to visit has U-pick open that day (hours and days can change based on the availability of crops). Facebook pages often give more up-to-date information than websites.
  • Bring along your own bags, baskets or boxes in case the farm has run out of them.
  • Pack rubber boots because the orchards may be muddy, and consider bringing a wagon to tote kids.
  • Think about how many pounds of apples you want to end up with before you start picking. You might want a few pounds for the kids’ lunch boxes, and several more for baking and preserving.
  • After apple-picking, kids will love to sample farm activities such as pressing cider, petting farm animals and going on hayrides.
  • Check on the pet policy before bringing Fido. Many farms have a no-pet policy for the safety and comfort of farm animals.

Scroll through to discover great places to pick (or taste) apples and celebrate the apple bounty in Washington State this fall. Head to Eastern Washington if you want to turn apple-picking into a fall weekend getaway, or stay close to home and make it an apple-picking day trip.

And a note about organic: While few U-pick apple orchards in the region have gone through the process of having their orchards certified organic, many of them implement organic and natural growing practices in their orchards. If this is important to you, feel free to call ahead and ask about their practices.

Jones Creek Farms, Sedro Woolley

Jones Creek Farms is a small, family-run operation in the fertile Skagit Valley, an area that was once dotted with apple orchards. It’s your best bet in the Puget Sound region for heirloom varieties of apples, as they have more than 100 unique varieties on their organically maintained orchard (mix a few different kinds together in the crockpot for delicious apple butter). Beyond apples, the farm offers U-pick Asian pears, squash and pumpkins.

Get pickin’: U-pick is open from mid August through October. U-pick hours (new this year), are Friday–Monday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Check the website for updates on U-pick hours and availability. Varieties include Akane, Belmac, Bramley’s Seedling, Dayton, Kerri Pippin, Liberty, Pristine, Scarlet Ohara, William’s Pride, Moulton’s Pride Crab, Arlie Red, Gold Rush and more (check the products page on their website for full listing). Pears and plums also available for U-pick when ripe. Garlic available for purchase.

Find it: 32260 Burrese Rd., Sedro Woolley; jonescreekfarms@yahoo.com

Bellewood Farms, Lynden

Just outside Bellingham, Bellewood Farms is a favorite for kids and adults alike. Little ones will enjoy a ride aboard the “Apple Bin Express,” a mini train that transports pickers to the U-pick area in the huge, 25,000 tree apple orchard. Parents will love stopping at the Country Café and Bakery for a delicious meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) followed by a stop at the distillery’s tasting bar.

Get pickin’: As of late August, Bellewood was open for U-pick; check the Facebook page for U-pick hours. Also, check out the pumpkin patch (with a corn maze, corn cannon and more) from late September through Oct. 31. The Country Cafe, Farm Store and distillery are open daily from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. in the fall. Bellewood offers 20 apple varieties including Sansa, Jonagold, Mountain Rose (pink inside!), Golden Supreme and Honeycrisp. Bellewood also hosts fun music and tasting events. 

Find it: 6140 Guide Meridian Dr., Lynden; 360-318-7720

The Farm at Swan's Trail, Snohomish

For a quick trip from the Seattle area, The Farm at Swan’s Trail southeast of Everett can’t be beaten. Set along the Snohomish River, The Farm hosts U-pick apples and an enormous 45-acre pumpkin patch. After your wagon is piled high with fruit, let the kids loose to find their way through an intricate corn maze, in the shape of Washington state, then visit pigs and ducks at the petting zoo. There’s also a mini-train for kids, a playground and more.

Get pickin’: You can pick apples starting in mid-September. Hop on the wagon for a ride to the acre-wide orchard of Honeycrisp and Jonagold. The apple U-pick is typically open weekends, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Check the Facebook page for updates. The pumpkin patch (and related activities) is open from Sept. 21–Oct. 31.

Find it: 7301 Rivershore Rd., Snohomish; 425-334-4124

The Stutzman Ranch, Wenatchee

Head to Stutzman Ranch if your kids love crunchy, juicy Fuji and Gala apples. Earlier in the summer, you can also pick nectarines, peaches, cherries and table grapes. If you get to the farm early in the day, you’ll have your pick of farm-fresh eggs, too. In the fall, pay a visit to their farm animals, and then watch surplus pumpkins get hurled through the air from a real pumpkin canyon.

Get pickin’: As of late August, Red Gold nectarines, Bartlett pears and Gala apples are available for U-pick. Grapes and more apples will be ready soon. Open daily, 9 a.m.–6 p.m., but always check hours and availability. $5 U-pick minimum charged for all pickers over age 12. Check the Facebook page for updates.

Find it: 2226 Easy St., Wenatchee; 509-669-3276

Skipley Farm, Snohomish

Skipley Farm is a working farm so don’t expect any manicured areas for wedding receptions or pumpkin cannons but there is plenty to pick, with more than 200 varieties of apples in the field, both unusual and the better-known Fuji and Honeycrisp. Other fruit and berries may be available depending on the season. Kids will love to visit the chickens, ducks and rabbits after picking.

Get pickin’: As of late August, Gravenstein, Redfree, Summerred and Ellison’s Orange are available for picking. Check hours on Facebook or call before visiting. This farm recommends Bramley’s Seedling apples for a great pie and tart, crunchy eating. Also available for U-pick are William’s Pride, Redfee and Pristine.

Find it: 7228 Skipley Rd., Snohomish; 206-679-6576

Apple Creek Orchard, Ferndale

Head to Apple Creek Orchards, north of Bellingham, to pick popular Jonagolds, a cross between Golden Delicious and the blush-crimson Jonathan apples that are perfect for both baking and snacking (but not for storing). This family farm also offers other fruits, vegetables, eggs and honey. Once you’ve filled your baskets, visit with the farm animals. Apple Creek has chickens, geese, ducks and guinea hens walking about to the delight of apple-picking children.

Get pickin’: Most of the trees here are Jonagolds. The farm is open for picking typically in October; check the website for hours. You can eat as many apples as you want while you are picking and any that your children can get in their pockets are free. Find the orchard on Facebook.

Find it: 5367 Barr Rd., Ferndale; 360-384-0915

Curran Apple Orchard, University Place

Curran Apple Orchard is a public orchard within the city of University Place, to the southwest of Tacoma. Its seven acres hold some 200 trees growing 15 varieties of apples. The orchard is open to the public for free picking. Just follow the rules: Trees with signs or markers have been “adopted” and the apples on those trees are reserved for the adopter. Please do not pick them. Windfalls are reserved for gleaning groups that gather them for animal feed — they may be contaminated and not suitable for human consumption anyway.

Find it: 3920 Grandview Drive W., University Place

Get pickin’: Most of the trees here are Jonagolds. The farm is open for picking typically in October; check the website for hours. You can eat as many apples as you want while you are picking and any that your children can get in their pockets are free. Find the orchard on Facebook.

Find it: 5367 Barr Rd., Ferndale; 360-384-0915

Lattin's Country Cider Mill and Farm, Olympia

Although this farm doesn’t have U-pick apples, Lattin’s is well worth a harvest season trip for kids of all ages. Lattin’s celebrates Washington’s apple harvest with a fun Apple Festival, typically held the last weekend in September and each weekend in October. Taste fresh apple cider and take a tractor-drawn wagon ride to pick pumpkins. Kids will love the plethora of farm animals to pet, plus pony rides, face painting and more. Don’t miss the delicious home-baked apple fritters!

Get tastin’: You can visit daily from 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (4 p.m. on Sundays). Apple Festival held from late September through October. Check hours and special events on Facebook.

Find it: 9402 Rich Rd. S.E., Olympia; 360-491-7328

This post originally appeared on ParentMap.com