As the waning notes of summer give way to the sights and sounds of fall — the changing colors of the leaves rustling and falling gently to the ground, woodsmoke curling from chimneys near and far as wood crackles in fireplaces — there’s something else that beckons us into the new season.
And there’s no better place to visit an apple orchard than the state of Washington, where the fruit has been cultivated for two centuries. Just keep reading, and you’ll find out about some of the best apple orchards in Washington.
Washington is Well-Seeded With Apple Orchards
The first Washington apple orchards were planted in the 1820s, and groves filled with the fruit — sweet, tart, and in-between — now cover 175,000 acres of the state.
Washington apples are found growing mostly along the Columbia River, which runs north to south across the middle of the state, but there are apple orchards everywhere in Washington.
Many Washington apple orchards, sometimes also home to other fruits and vegetables, are open to the public. They offer a variety of “you-pick” options and other experiences for couples, families, or serious cooks looking for the freshest Washington apples.
More than 30 types of this versatile and many-faceted fruit are grown in apple orchards in Washington, and depending on which you choose, they’re suitable for multiple roles from baking and cooking to use in salads and sauces.
As an added bonus, many varieties of Washington apples are available for most, if not all, of the year.
Practically speaking, though, the best time to visit apple orchards in Washington is the late summer and early fall, with September and October being the best times for a trip for the you-pick experience.
Many you-pick operations also offer fall season activities during those weeks, like hayrides and pumpkin carving, as apple-picking season bumps up against Halloween.
Times, circumstances, and pricing for picking from one Washington apple orchard to another will vary, so checking an individual orchard’s website or its Facebook page is advisable before setting out on your apple-picking adventure.
For now though, just keep reading, and you’ll find out about some of the best apple orchards in Washington.
Best Northern Washington Apple Orchards
Bellewood Farms, in Lynden, is a working farm that offers you-pick apples. Bellewood Farms specializes in growing the Honeycrisp variety of apples, which are particularly juicy and boast a sweetness that brings apple cider to mind.
Not quite your taste? Well, don’t fret, because Bellewood Farms offers nearly 20 other varieties of Washington-grown apples.
Bellewood Farms is set apart from other apple orchards in Washington by the fact that it is home to the first apple distillery in the state. The distillery produces award-winning apple-made spirits, including brandy, vodka and gin.
Bottles of the various spirits can be purchased at the distillery’s tasting room, or at the farm’s online shop.
Bellewood Farms is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Skipley Farm, in Snohomish, is offering more than 50 varieties of apples for picking this year, notable among apple orchards in Washington.
Early-harvested varieties of Washington apples, like the Gravenstein (desserts and other culinary applications), William’s Pride (all-purpose, best eaten fresh) and Lodi (tart, with a sweet-tinged aftertaste), are available in mid-August.
By September, mid-season apples like the Honeycrisp, along with the Zestar (with a hint of brown sugar), the Kidd’s (dessert or fresh eating) and the Alkmene (tangy, with an aftertaste like honey) are available.
Beck’s Harvest House and Orchard
This northern Washington apple orchard, in Colbert, offers cherries, peaches and other fruits in addition to apples. In addition to you-pick opportunities, Beck’s Harvest House and Orchard has a full calendar of events.
Coming up just in August, for example, is the Food Truck and Fruit Festival, offering an array of food trucks, live music, and stunning views of Mount Spokane.
Best Central Washington Apple Orchards
Curran Apple Orchard
Curran Apple Orchard, in University Place, was created as a hobby orchard in the early 1950s. Today it offers residents and visitors a multitude of opportunities not routinely available at other apple orchards in Washington.
People can pay to adopt trees in the 7-acre orchard, and in return for taking care of their tree, can harvest from it. The orchard has more than 200 trees featuring more than 15 varieties of apples.
Public apple picking is allowed from designated trees in the orchard, and only at a specific time of year. Off limits to the public for picking are trees that are taped or that “do not pick” signs.
Public apple picking at Curran Apple Orchard is held in conjunction with the “Cider Squeeze.” That’s the day the public is invited to the orchard to share in the bounty of annual harvest. As part of the “Cider Squeeze,” members of the public can have the apples they harvest pressed into cider.
Live music also accompanies the harvest celebration at Curran Apple Orchard, surely one of the more unique apple orchards in Washington.
Located in Ellensburg, Hilltop Orchard offers a you-pick option, but orchard staff also will pick boxes of apples is about 25 pounds of fruit.
Like a number of Washington apple orchards, Hilltop Orchard is a small family-owned and family-operated business that grows more than just apples. In addition to the popular Gala apple, Hilltop Orchard grows Bartlett and Anjou pears, and also grows raspberries and strawberries.
Thompson’s Farm, in Naches, also operates a farm store at 9950 Old Naches Highway. The farm itself is only open on select dates in October for you-pick apple picking, but those October dates also include a wide variety of other fun things to do.
For instance, visitors can experience the firing of a “pumpkin cannon” that sends pumpkins to their slimy destruction every hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
And if that’s not enough fun for you, there are pig races held regularly, usually after the pumpkin cannon is fired — but only if the pigs are willing, social media posts for the Thompson’s Farm Pumpkin Patch caution prospective visitors.
School tours of the farm give youngsters a chance to participate in a hayride, try to make it through a corn maze, and even to get a pumpkin — as long as they can carry it — to take home for Halloween carving.
Best Southern Washington Apple Orchards
Wilson Banner Ranch
Wilson Banner Ranch, in Clarkston, is a family heritage farm owned and operated by the same family for 130 years, offering frequent you-pick opportunities for an array of its fruit and vegetable crops, including apples.
The Washington apples and other fruits and vegetables grown at Wilson Banner Ranch are cultivated to produce minimal environmental impact, with practices such as minimal tillage and cover cropping.
Wilson Banner Ranch also has a pest management program focused on organically certified materials, and the orchard uses recommendations from Washington State University Cooperative Extension to inform its operations.
Wilson Banner Ranch offers tours during the month of October, and following the orchard on Facebook is the best way to keep up with its you-pick schedule and other events.
Bill’s Berry Farm
Bill’s Berry Farm, in Grandview, is a small family farm that hosts an apple festival each October that also provides an opportunity for visitors to pick Halloween pumpkins at the same time.
Touted as a place to go to enjoy the fall season, the family-owned southern Washington orchard features a pumpkin patch, hay rides, corn maze and homemade apple cider, in addition to apples, as temperatures cool and leaves change color.
Bill’s Berry Farm, which grows a variety of fruit, includes a country store that sells homemade donuts and pies made with fruit grown on the farm. The farm’s website and Facebook page have up-to-date information on picking seasons and events.
West Valley U-Pick
Located in Yakima, West Valley U-Pick lets visitors pick their own apples from mid-August to October.
In addition to the Honeycrisp variety ubiquitous in Washington apple orchards, West Valley U-Pick has Gala (America’s most popular apple, mildly sweet with undertones of vanilla and pear), Fuji (medium- to large-size, among the sweetest apples available) and Blondee (a crunchy yellow variety) apples available for picking.
As an added treat, your visit to West Valley U-Pick entitles you to free use of one of the orchard’s old-fashioned hand-cranked presses. With a little elbow grease, you can turn some, or all, of your freshly picked apples into apple cider. Jugs are available for purchase, or you can bring your own to get your cider back home.
What to Do With Your Love of Apples
Each fall, apples ripen on the trees — their green, gold, and red hues give color to the early fall, and their crisp sweetness beckons for their use in apple pies, or just as a refreshing snack. The simple act of acquiring apples for the kitchen can contribute to welcoming the season. This is especially true if you choose to forego the grocery store and head out to an apple orchard to pluck the fruit straight from the tree, and maybe enjoy a cup of apple cider after the work is done.
Excited for more apple content? Visit my apple trees page to learn more about apple planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!