Apple-picking is the quintessential way to celebrate the coming of fall. The chilly mornings and sun-filled days make this a perfect time for a stroll, whether around your neighborhood or through your favorite apple orchard.
Here, in no particular order, are our five favorite you-pick-it orchards. See also: Boulder Farmers Market says goodbye to peaches, hello to apples
5) Ya Ya Farm and Orchard
6914 Ute Highway, Longmont
The picturesque Ya Ya Farm and Orchard is over a century old, and today uses organic practices to grow its signature variety of heirloom apples. Until the end of September, you can e-mail the farm in advance to take advantage of the you-pick-it program, which doesn't end at filling your bag with fresh apples — guests can meet the farm animals, take a hay ride, walk the orchard boundaries, and feast on apple cider donuts, too. You can even press your own cider here.
4) Camelot Farms
15911 Black Bridge Road, Paonia
Camelot Farms uses natural growing practices for its organic produce. In addition to apples that visitors can pick themselves, Camelot offers fresh herbs and eggs — and it's just a hop, skip and a jump away from Orchard Valley Farms and Black Bridge Winery, where you can find end-of-season peaches, heirloom balsamic vinegar and Paonia-made wine.
3) Happy Apple Farm
1190 1st Street, Penrose
Due to a late freeze in April and then the drought, Happy Apple Farm lost its apple crop — but you can still have your pick of fresh Fuji, Gala and Granny Smith apples that the farm shipped in from the Western Slope, and there are plenty of blackberries, raspberries and pumpkins that you can actually pick yourself. The on-premise country store boasts fresh-baked apple pies, fresh cider, blackberry cobbler and a vast selection of jams, apple butter and pickled vegetables.
2) Delicious Orchards
39126 Highway133, Hotchkiss
Hotchkiss is a long day trip out of Denver, but Delicious Orchards is worth the trip. It's home to Big B's expert cider-makers as well as a hard-cider tasting room,. And apple-picking doesn't get more scenic than here in the North Fork Valley, in the shadow of majestic Mount Lamborn. You can also pick up fresh tomatoes, peppers, grapes and squash from the garden.
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1) Apple Valley Orchard
448 K Street, Penrose
Somehow, Apple Valley Orchard's crop survived this tough year, and this charming spot still has apples ripe for the picking. When you arrive, head straight for the store, where you can meet the farm crew, try some fresh-pressed cider and grab a basket. Then make your way to the orchard, filled with Gala, Cortland, MacIntosh, Jonathon, Jonagold, and Fortune apples.