Apple Hill and American River Rafting Pair Well

Posted September 20, 2022 by Lenka Bostian

A whitewater rafting trip makes for an excellent friends and family outing all by itself. If you are looking for ideas to complement your rafting adventure on the American River with an extended time spent in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, we’ve got one wonderful and delicious suggestion for you: Apple Hill.

“Apple Hill” is a term used for the area just east of Placerville and about 20 minutes from the South Fork of the American River. It is famous for its apple and other fruit orchards, vineyards, and Christmas tree farms. The Apple Hill Growers Association groups together over 50 local family farms that are scattered in the rolling hills above the river canyon.

Come for the apple fritters, stay for the rafting (or vice versa)

While the Apple Hill ranches welcome visitors year-round, this destination is especially popular during the harvest season when you can pick your own fruit straight from the trees, sample delicacies made out of the fresh produce, and much more. Fortuitously, fall is also a great time to go rafting on the American River, so combining the two is easy as apple pie!

Speaking of apple pies… Those from the local Apple Hill farms and bakeries with fresh apples piled mile high and a delicious crust on top are tough to beat! Except maybe for the apple fritters or donuts chased down with freshly pressed apple cider. You can spend a nice morning touring the orchards, barns and farm stands, filling your bellies and enjoying the picturesque countryside, then head down the hill to the Coloma-Lotus Valley for an afternoon of splashy whitewater. The Express trip on the Lower “Gorge” section of the South Fork American River conveniently starts after lunch and offers 12 miles of smiles on the Class II and III+ section of the river.

Finish your day with a picnic and a sip

The Gold Country around Placerville and Camino is also famous for its sprawling vineyards. The wineries dotting the land may not match the opulent grandeur of their Napa Valley counterparts, but their focus on good quality wine and personable service make them worth your visit. After a morning thrill on the Class III Express trip on the Upper “Chili Bar” section of the South Fork American River, take the short drive up to Apple Hill where you can spend the rest of the day chilling with a picnic and a nice sip of wine. And if you prefer the liquid gold over wine, the region’s many craft breweries should satisfy your post-river trip thirst equally well. (It should not need to be noted, but please enjoy responsibly and don’t drink and drive.)

The ultimate fall getaway in the foothills

Family-oriented weekend activities, such as corn mazes, pumpkin patches, and train rides attract a lot of visitors to the Apple Hill community during September and October. We recommend getting there early in the day, or better yet – visiting on a weekday. That way you can enjoy all that Apple Hill has to offer along with a river trip during one of the best times of the year to raft. 

Rafting trips on the South Fork of the American River are available on multiple days of the week during the months of September and October (check this season’s schedule). For a truly magical fall getaway, consider an overnight rafting trip on this amazing river combined with a stay at one of the many local charming accommodations before or after your Apple Hill visit.

Get away for a day or get away for a week. American River rafting and Apple Hill really do pair well and fall is a great time to experience both.


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