After a dry summer, the apple crop started off early this year—which also means the season is ending unusually soon. There are just a couple of solid October weekends left for apple picking. Here’s where to find Fujis, Galas, and other varieties of fall’s favorite fruit, guzzle down cider, and scarf down a few warm apple dumplings.
3064 Hartland La., Markham; 540-364-2316; hartlandorchard.com
Best picking: The recorded message calls the crop of apples “especially large and pretty this year,” despite the drought. Like Marker-Miller Orchards (see below), Hartland grows the usual suspects but specifies which are good for eating (Gala) and which for cooking (Granny Smith).
Best snacking: Caramel apples and local honey.
Cider? Yes. Every weekend, Hartland pulls out the old-fashioned cider press.
Pumpkins? Yes (and hayrides).
High Hill Farms
933 Barley La., Winchester; 540-667-7377; thepumpkin-patch.com
Best picking: Everything from Red and Golden Delicious to Virginia-native Rome apples.
Best snacking: Jars of apple butter, churned the old-fashioned way in a copper kettle over an open fire, sell out quickly.
Cider? Still and sparkling.
Pumpkins? Yes, and pumpkin-pie fudge.
3035 Cedar Creek Grade, Winchester; 540-662-1980; markermillerorchards.com
Best picking: Red and Golden Delicious, Staymen, Fuji, York, and Granny Smith.
Best snacking: These folks love putting apples in the oven, hence the country store’s fresh-baked pies, cakes, turnovers, and dumplings. The biggest hit? Cider donuts—“our little niche we fell into,” owner Carolyn Marker says of the popular fried snacks.
Cider? Yes. It’s made by family friends at Rinkers Orchard in Stephens City.
Pumpkins? Yes, and there’s a pumpkin festival planned for October 27 with pumpkin rolls, bars, and pies.
11587 Poverty Hollow La., Markham; 540-364-3040; striblingorchard.com
Best picking: You’ll find 23 varieties, including Nittany and Crispin. An online guide explains which are available now (McIntosh) and which are already depleted for the season (Honeycrisp).
Best snacking: Stribling’s on-site bakery, open weekends, stocks fresh-baked apple-raisin bread and “hand-sized” apple cakes. People come year after year, begging owner Bee Stribling for his grandma’s cake recipe. “They can probably find it online anyway,” says Stribling, who’s not trying to keep it secret.
Cider? Yes, made on the farm.
289 W. Main St., Westminster; 410-848-5541; baughers.com
Best picking: Ida Red and Staymen are plentiful now. In a couple of weeks, expect Rome, Fuji, and York.
Best snacking: Hot apple fritters and jarred applesauce. You can also nosh on already-picked Bosc and Bartlett pears.
Cider? It’s taken very seriously here. Baughers even has a cider pledge, as strict as the Girl Scout’s: It throws away all inferior apples and double-sanitizes those used, first in chlorine, then in 170-degree water.
15600 Sugarland Rd., Poolesville; 301-977-3761; homestead-farm.net
Best picking: Because apples don’t all fall at once (Galas started in mid-August; Pink Ladies are just falling now), Homestead Farm has created an online timeline of expected apple arrival dates.
Best snacking: Caramel apples on the weekends. Owner Ben Allnutt jokes that “nobody wants to be in the same room as candy-apple people; they’re just stuck-up. . . . It’s a sticky job.” (He loves the candy-apple jokes).
Pumpkins? Yes, and they’re almost as important as the apples.
2415 Woodbine Rd., Woodbine; 410-442-2605; pickyourown.com
Best picking: Suncrisp, Magnolia Gold, and Fuji are available now. In a few weeks, there will be Pink Lady and Granny Smith.
Best snacking: Apple fritters, made from a farm-family recipe, are served hot in the country store.
Cider? Hot and cold, but only on weekends.
Rock Hill Orchard
28600 Ridge Rd., Mount Airy; 301-831-7427; rockhillorchard.com
Best picking: Staymens and Romes are here for the next couple of weeks, and there are still some leftovers of earlier varieties (Empire, Jonathan, Melrose, and Red and Golden Delicious).
Best snacking: No pies or fritters here. “We’re just a plain, small working farm,” says owner Dick Biggs. “We try to stay out of the big entertainment stuff.”
Cider? Yes, from nearby Baughers Farm.
Pumpkins? There’s a five-acre pick-your-own pumpkin patch.