Fresno Fruit Trail – Fruity California Family FunMarch 14, 2011 No Comments
What small child doesn’t enjoy sweet, fresh fruit – ripe strawberries, juicy blue berries, apricots, plums…apples. And what small child doesn’t enjoy the experience of picking their own fruity treat. Our kids were raised to pluck the rosiest apple from the orchard when they were still so small they had to be lifted in our arms just to reach the lowest branch. Hours of simple – and nutritionally rewarding! – fun can be found in a field of berries. For our toddlers, the best part of an elegant spa stay was picking and eating the persimmons from the trees that decorated the hotel grounds. The best part of a trip to a harvest festival that included hay rides, clowns, a log cabin, streams to ford, and a cave to explore was – you guessed it, picking those apples.
Which brings me to a wonderful trip through Central California, to a land where fruit trees blossom under the green hills of the Sierra’s. Seasonally the area near Fresno, CA blooms with berries, stone fruits from apricots to cherries, citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, and apples – almost any time of year, spring, summer, or fall, you’ll find fruit to pick, taste, and enjoy along what’s known as the Fresno County Fruit Trail. The fruit trail always existed – growers have been selling their appetizing wares for many seasons – but six years ago it was officially named and tourists officially invited with an advertising campaign designed to appeal to families.
Roadside stands, shuttered for the winter, open up and friendly workers or family farmers display their wares and offer a wonderful opportunity to eat fruit grown right on the premises. Just prior to the fruit growing season the same by ways are lined with the Blossom Trail – cherry and apple trees in bloom are very beautiful in their own right.
And these Fresno County roads are a great way to enter Kings Canyon or Sequoia, two beautiful National Parks with tall trees, stunning meadows, and plenty of hiking trails that are easy for little feet to follow.
The first stop on the Fruit Trail is Simonian Farms just outside Fresno. This popular stop has a wide variety of produce for sale and a collection of antique tractors and wagons that kids love to scramble over. Simonian also offers a free and nicely detailed guide that diagrams a fruit trail route from Fresno into Tulare County.
In Reedley and Dinuba, you’ll find the most peaches and plums and olives, a fruit you may not think of as fruit, and one your kids may be less likely to enjoy – although our kids loved black olives practically as soon as they could chew. In Sanger, its citrus orchards – who knew Meyer lemons could be so sweet? All in all there are just under twenty-five fruit stops on the fruit trail. And while many stops offer chances to explore the farms where the fruit is grown or even pick some fruit, some are simply stands with a wide variety of fresh produce to sample and buy.
Along with a wide selection of delicious and inexpensive fruit – often less than a quarter of the cost you’d pay for these treats at the grocery store – the stands along the fruit trail sell other products that utilize fruit too, like soap and candles that integrate fruit pulp, fruit juice and jams, cider and wine.
At the Cedar View Winery, fruity wines are available for adult tasting while the kids can have the run of a pastoral grassy expanse with a mountain view beyond it.
Besides fruit and fruit products, there’s another kind of stand to explore along the trail. Housed in a produce stand that sells produce no longer, you’ll find the Art Stand near Kings Canyon National Park. Here the “produce” for sale is the fruit of artistic labors – local art created by artists from all over the central valley area. Much of the art when we were there featured depictions of the farm lands, fruits, and blossom trees in the area.
Come harvest time, your family will enjoy another look at the fruits of the valley, plus live bands, horse shoes, and carnival rides at The Big Fresno Fair rated as one of the top fifty fairs in North America. One of the hall marks of this fair is the extensive farmer’s market that runs through a section of the exhibit space – but what else would you expect from a region rich in the fruits of the valley.
Where to stay when traversing the fruit trail? Campgrounds and cabin rentals abound in both Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, and a combined trip with exploring these beautiful parks with their enormous sequoia trees and rock cliffs is a delight. But for a short and fruity weekend stay, Three Rivers at the entrance to Sequoia is a great destination. The town is named for the confluence of the North, Middle, and South Forks of the Kaweah River. The river itself offers lovely over looks, and in summer, gentle inner tube rafting from several small and sandy river beaches.
At the Sequoia end of town we enjoyed a stay at the pleasantly rustic Buckeye Tree Lodge. The rooms span the Kaweah River banks, and offer wide grassy spaces and picnic areas our kids love. Sycamore trees keep things shady, and the swimming pool is positioned between large rock boulders that provide a scenic setting. The rooms were large and airy. We loved the mountain views from the windows, and the iron work tables on the lawn that made a great spot to have some of our fruit bounty for breakfast. If you’re looking for a little more sustenance, we enjoyed the Pizza Factory in town for take out and the Sequoia Cidermill Restaurant, which had fresh cat fish prepared in a low key dining room.
Anyway you slice it: a trip to the Fresno Fruit Trail is a recipe for family fun.