Seasons may not seem to alter in SoCal (great for when you want to hit the beach in November, but sad when you’d like to carve some pumpkins…) but luckily, 80 miles East of the big city and nearly a mile high up in the San Bernardino mountains is a small, quaint agricultural community named Oak Glen.
Although it’s far in distance from the famous Fall colors of New England, Oak Glen’s bright red maple trees and historical atmosphere draw out a spirit of harvest themed fun in Southern California.
This fall wonderland is home to an abundance of family-friendly activities including apple picking, cider pressing, historical re-enactments, and a down-to-earth country spirit.
Begin your journey with a grand tour de Oak Glen Road, also known as the “heart of apple county.” This a scenic loop travels through the area a total distance of 20 miles showcasing the community’s orchards and farms.
The village of Oak Glen itself is a 5 mile section of this road that passes through apple farms, shops, restaurants, nature trails, bakeries, cafes, and home-made ciderys, with a multitude of historical landmarks.
Conner and I visited Oak Glen to get a taste of the apple cinnamon spirit, and began our journey at Riley’s Farm.
Riley’s Farm is a working apple orchard and living historical farm featuring pick-your-own fruit.
This property offers a plethora of “Adventures in the Old World” activities for guests including apple picking, candle dipping, archery, tomahawk throwing and more for a small fee. The property is pretty massive, and when we visited, parking was free- but I’ve been told that parking can be up to $5 during peak season.
Oak Glen Hard Cider Company
After Riley’s Farm we headed over to the Oak Glen Hard Cider Company. This multi-family operation has a story of strong roots to each other, and the area. As high school friends reunited through an interest in a similar dream, the Ross and Riley families came together to create and cultivate the cidery.
Part one of the cider creation process is handled by Devon and Shelli Riley, the farmer/operators of Los Rios Rancho- which is Southern California’s largest apple farm and an important part of a multi-generational story in Oak Glen.
Part two of the cider-making process – turning the juice into hard cider – is handled by Chris and Lisa Ross. These two had a dream to run a winery, after Lisa grew up surrounded by the vines of Paso Robles, but instead turned their efforts toward cider when one day the Rileys asked if the Rosses were interested in starting a cidery with them. The answer was (of course) yes.
Personally I’ve enjoyed the hard cider firsthand and can attest to its deliciousness. The cidery was offering tastings and allowing visitors to watch a cider pressing session when we visited. The apple berry cider was my favorite. Conner and I split the entire bottle outside in one sitting, while taking in the atmosphere of autumn in the changing leaves and crisp air.
Outside of cider the farm also offers a variety of tasty treats including candy apples, rice krispies, fudge, and plenty of souvenirs you can use to remember the experience, even when your cider is (quickly) gone.
Oak Tree Village
Our last stop of the day was at Oak Tree Village, located in the center of Oak Glen. Oak Tree Village has a shopping mall open seven days a week as well as an artisans circle which is open on the weekends. There’s even a petting zoo with lambs, goats and piglets for a ticket price of $6 a person.
Conner and I shared a slice of Apple Annie’s 5lb “mile high apple pie” a la mode. This legendary bakery also offers cinnamon rolls which are bigger than the size of your head, harvest appropriate “apple burritos” as well as an assortment of other tempting pastries. My apple pie slice had about a gallon of ice cream alongside it and was the most delicious fall treat I could’ve dreamed of.
In the village shops I had to resist the urge to buy all of the cute trinkets at the Artisans Circle. There was leatherworking, home-made jams, wood designs, quilts, candles, and much more.
I even threw a coin in the wishing well- and although I can’t say what I wished for or it won’t come true I can confirm that I had an amazing day visiting Oak Glen.
Apple season in Oak Glen is from August 31- December 1. During these months the town offers special activities for guests to celebrate harvest including U-Pick apples, berries, tasty pastries, historical re-enactments, and more. I would highly recommend a visit if you’re nostalgic for some colorful Fall foliage or you’re craving home-made apple treats and ciders with a side of a laid-back, rural country vibe right outside of LA.
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