Apple season opens in Oak Glen, ‘mile high city’

Derek Morris fills hard cider bottles at Los Rios.

When Enoch Parrish planted his first Oak Glen apple orchard in 1876, little did he know that Oak Glen would “blossom” (pun intended) into a major player in the California apple industry. Today, California ranks as the fifth largest apple producer in the country.

Parrish was the first to grow apples in Oak Glen. In 1866, Parrish traded several mules and a wagon for his 160 acres of land. His original stock barn is still standing today and is the oldest surviving stick-frame building in San Bernardino County. When Parrish first arrived, he grew potatoes because they were a quick crop to produce, and pioneer farmers knew that they could earn a decent amount quickly with the crop. Getting the first apples to grow in Oak Glen required some hard work. To get the soil just right to produce apples, Parrish had to lay seven miles of drain tiles to wick extra moisture from the ground before he could plant his first orchard.

Today, over 100 varieties of apples grow in Oak Glen. One variety, the Vasquez grows only in Oak Glen. Juan Vasquez developed the hybrid variety apple in the ‘60s; he was the head foreman of the Parrish ranch at the time.

The annual Oak Glen apple season began Labor Day weekend. The season runs from now until Thanksgiving and is a great close-to-home getaway that allows families to beat the heat, grab some home-style apple pie, candied and caramel apples, and cider.

“Oak Glen has a feel, like no other place in Southern California,” said San Bernardino resident Paula Bailey. “It is such a quaint area, particularly during apple season. I love it so much, I bought into Oak Glen Retreats just so I could spend more time here.”

It is hard to argue that point, and people across Southern California must agree, as Oak Glen draws a whopping 300,000 visitors yearly.

Many days in Oak Glen offer a refreshing breeze and a bit of relief from the Southern California summer heat. Additionally, Apple Annie’s Bakery has a Mile-High Apple Pie (It weighs a massive five pounds.) or perhaps a visit to the Village Candy Kitchen for a treat that will please even the most finicky sweet tooth.

There is no shortage of orchards to pick your fresh apples from.

Moms Country Orchards Manager Kelly Warren said, “Business is good. We were prepared for a good crowd as all the rain we received produced an amazing and abundant year.”

Make a stop at Village Candy Kitchen for some glorious confections to take home. No matter which direction you look in the store, there is a decadent temptation. A giant double fudge mixer turns two kinds of fudge in the back of the shop. Exquisitely decorated apples coated in chocolate, candies, and caramel line the shelves.

Dawn Campbell, owner of Village County Kitchen, said “Business is brisk.” and that “it was a good opening day.” 

Los Rios Rancho is such a treat for visitors to Oak Glen this time of year. It is bustling with families in the picnic area tossing footballs and Frisbees, children eating sweets and drinking fresh-pressed cider and the unmistakable smell of great food cooking on a wood-fired grill wafting through the air.

A good reason to visit Los Rios Rancho is that you can enjoy all it has to offer in the shop, and then take one of the most beautiful easy hikes in southern California in the Oak Glen Nature Preserve. Once inside you will find a botanical garden, a pond with cattails, benches to sit on and a dock to walk out on and take in all the sights. The Wildlands Conservancy saved this property from being a housing development when it purchased the land from the family of the Rivers brothers.

Devon Riley, who is in charge of business operations at Los Rios, said that a panning for gold attraction and an expanded bakery are in the works. Moreover, you will find some great treats here as well, and may also catch a glimpse of Derek Morris bottling some hard cider.

One of the last stops on the road is Riley’s Farm; the workers dress in historically accurate colonial clothing and preserve the history of the original colonies. Take a few hours and drive up for a visit. It is a fun way to spend time in nature and explore historic Oak Glen.

Apple season runs through Thanksgiving. For further information, directions, entertainment schedules, etc. visit www.oakglen.net/

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