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.
Tips for apple-picking as a family
- Many U-pick orchards are family-friendly. 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).
- Apples are usually poised for picking from September through the end of October, with the peak picking time varying from location to location, but some farms are starting as early as August in 2017.
- Really important! Call ahead before visiting to make sure the orchard you want to visit has U-pick open that day (hours and days can change based on 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 or apple baskets through the orchard.
- 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’ lunchboxes, 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 hay rides.
- Many farms have a no-pet policy for the safety and comfort of farm animals so make sure to check before bringing your pooch or other pet along for the ride.
Here are seven 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 an apple-picking day trip.
And a note about organic: While very 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.
1. 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. Opening day for U-pick was Aug. 19. email@example.com, 32260 Burrese Road, Sedro Woolley
Get pickin': Check their new blog for the latest updates on open 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. Hours are typically Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
2. Bellewood Acres, Lynden
Just outside Bellingham, Bellewood Acres 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 their new distillery’s tasting bar. Check out the pumpkin patch (with corn maze, corn cannon and more) Sept. 30–Oct. 31. 360-318-7720. 6140 Guide Meridian, Lynden
Get pickin': Bellewood offers 20 apple varieties including Sansa, Jonagold, Mountain Rose (pink inside!), Golden Supreme and HoneyCrisp. Apples are already available for purchase; U-pick opened Sept. 1, with open hours 8 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. Check the Facebook page for latest updates as U-pick will begin when the apples are ready. Bellewood also hosts fun music and tasting events.
3. 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 beat. Set along the Snohomish River, The Farm hosts U-pick apples and an enormous 45-acre pumpkin patch (open Sept. 25–Oct. 31). 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. 425-334-4124, 7301 Rivershore Rd., Snohomish
Get pickin': Hop on the wagon for a ride to the acre-wide orchard of Honeycrisp and Jonagold. Opening day for U-pick is Saturday, Sept. 17. U-pick is typically open weekends, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Check the Facebook page for updates.
4. The Stutzman Ranch, Wenatchee
Head to Stutzman Ranch if your kids love crunchy, juicy Fuji and Gala apples. If you get to the farm early in the day, you’ll have your pick of farm-fresh eggs, too. Pay a visit to their farm animals, and then watch surplus pumpkins get hurled through the air from a real pumpkin canyon. 509-667-1664 or 509-669-3276, 2226 Easy St., Wenatchee
Get pickin': Gala apples, Bartlett Pears and some varieties of peaches are ready for U-pick as of Aug. 25. As always, check the website before you go for availability. Open daily, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Last U-pickers allowed in the orchard at 5:30 p.m. $5 U-pick minimum charged for all pickers over age 12. Check the Facebook page for updates.
5. Apple Creek Orchard, Ferndale
Come to this farm 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. 360-384-0915, 5367 Barr Rd, Ferndale
Get pickin': Most of the trees here are Jonagolds. The farm opens for picking Oct. 1, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. every day except Wednesday. U-pick ends in late October. 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.
6. Skipley Farm, Snohomish
This newer 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 over 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. 206-679-6576, 7228 Skipley Rd, Snohomish
Get pickin': This farm recommends Bramley's Seedling apples for great pie and tart, crunchy eating. Also available for U-pick (check for current status on Facebook or by calling); William's Pride, Gravenstein, Summerred, Redfee, Pristine, Zestar! and Sansa. The farm is open Wednesday–Saturday, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Check for updates on Facebook or call before visiting.
7. 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. The last weekend in September and each weekend in October, Lattin’s celebrates Washington's apple harvest with a fun Apple Festival. 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! 360- 491-7328, 9402 Rich Rd. S.E., Olympia
Get tastin': You can visit daily from 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (4 p.m. on Sundays), but the Apple Festival is held the last weekend in September and each weekend in October, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Find Lattin's on Facebook.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2013 and updated for 2017.