By Greg Aragon
Fall is here and that means pumpkins, turkeys and trees full of beautiful colors. And in the tiny town of Oak Glen, about 75 miles east of Pasadena, the season is also 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 heat of Los Angeles County. Because it sits 5,400 feet above sea level, the town is usually about 15 degrees cooler than the cities below.
A friend and I recently snuck away to Oak Glen and had a great time browsing around old stores, apple orchards, small petting zoo and a pumpkin patch. The town can be experienced via a five-mile loop of more than 30 ranches, farms and businesses that encircle it.
Our getaway began at the Parrish Pioneer Apple Ranch (parrishranch.com) where we walked around 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. While here we relaxed with a cold apple cider and watched children dance to the music of a country singer. After the show we bought a large pumpkin from the store’s patch.
We then walked across the street and found a farm teaming with cute little goats and sheep and furry llamas, grazing on a hillside. Near them was a pen full of roosters, peacocks and a large turkey. Next to the birds we wondered around the Parrish House, an actual 1876 farmhouse that is now an antique store/gift shop. The house is surrounded by an old west saloon and cemetery built for cowboy stunt shows, fake gun fights and currently a live pirate show.
The free pirate show features costumed swashbucklers telling tall tales and interacting with the audience. This is a fun show for kids and their parents. After the show we had a couple burgers and an incredible slice of homemade apple pie at Angus McCurdy’s restaurant and bakery.
After lunch, we drove up Oak Glen Road, past wooded hills, apple orchards and New England-type landscape, to Oak Tree Village (oaktreevillage.info), a 14-acre outdoor complex of shops, restaurants, old west “gun fights,” and other family fun. Highlights in the village include the fresh baked five-pound mile high apple pie and hand dipped Caramel Apple at the Village Candy Kitchen; and a chance to feed animals in the animal park and fish for trout in the trout pond.
Continuing our whirlwind tour of town we drove to Los Rios Rancho (losriosrancho.com), 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 jamborees, with pirate shows, gospel singers, mountain music and more. The place also 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.
Another fun spot in Oak Glen is Riley’s Farm, where Riley’s Farm Theatre Company is currently celebrating “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow,” Washington Irving’s timeless story of harvest, romance, and good-natured fun. When visitors arrive they can enjoy a homemade appetizer soup of corn chowder or pumpkin, then hop on the hayride and take a trip in the countryside with several of the Sleepy Hollow townsfolk. For more information, visit rileysfarm.com.
Oak Glen is located about eight miles north of I-10 Freeway near Yucaipa. Apple Season runs through Thanksgiving weekend. For more info, visit oakglen.net.