To many, October means pumpkins and goblins. But in the tiny town of Oak Glen, about 75 miles east of Pasadena, it is time for apple harvesting, festivals, hayrides, jamborees, hiking and more.
Located in the San Bernardino Mountains, next to Yucaipa, Oak Glen is the apple capital of Southern California. The area has been growing the fruit and other crops for more than 150 years.
And not only is the place great for fresh fruit and family fun, but it also makes a great escape from the valley heat. Because it sits 5,400-ft above sea level, the town is usually about 15 degrees cooler than the cities below.
I began a recent getaway to Oak Glen at the Parrish Pioneer Apple Ranch, where I browsed a general store full of unique items, including apple butters, jams, jellies and ciders, wines, local recipe books, hot sauces, peanut brittle, fresh-made food and much more.
In front of the store I relaxed with a cold apple cider and a free concert by Yodeling Merle, a one man country band playing twang so smooth, he had all the kids dancing. From here I walked across the street and found a five-foot-tall ostrich standing next to a cage full of peacocks and a duck-filled pond.
Next to the birds I wondered around an actual 1876 farm house, surrounded by an old west saloon and cemetery built for cowboy stunt shows and fake gun fights. Near here, I discovered the charming, cottage-like Apple Dumplin’s Restaurant, where I lunched on home-made chicken and pasta and a slice of apple pie.
After lunch, I drove up Oak Glen Road, past wooded hills, apple orchards and New England-type landscape, to Oak Tree Village (www.oaktree-village.com), a 14-acre outdoor complex of shops, restaurants, old west “gun fights,” and other family fun. The highlight of the village is an animal park with goats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, zebu, as well as train and pony rides, gold panning, and ponds for public fishing.
Continuing my whirlwind tour of town I found a furry farm teeming with alpacas with big curious eyes and long necks. From here drove to Los Rios Rancho, southern California’s largest historic apple ranch.
Growing 20 different varieties of apples, the farm is a popular “u-pick” spot, where the public can pick the fruit off the tree themselves. Current apple varieties include Fuji, Gravenstein, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Macintosh, Mutsu, Red Delicious, and Spartan.
Besides apples, the farm grows pumpkins, berries and corn and boasts a general store with deli and bakery. It also hosts barbecues, country concerts, hayrides and sits next to an incredible nature trail.
The trail begins in the Los Rios Rancho parking lot and quickly passes through apple orchards and a short forest of incense cedars, spruce and other trees. The path then traverses wooden bridges and benches, an old barn, a willow-shaded stream, and meanders past numerous ponds with ducks, blackbirds, bluebirds, orioles, woodpeckers and other colorful birds.
For more info on visiting Oak Glen, visit www.oakglen.net.
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