Harvesting treats at Bierwagen’s Pumpkin Patch and Harvest Fest | TheUnion.com

Harvesting treats at Bierwagen’s Pumpkin Patch and Harvest Fest

You could drive all the way to Placerville or Wheatland, fight traffic and pay as much as $10 in parking to slake your thirst for apple cider and/or fill a burning need for a few pumpkins.

Or you could keep it local. Take the beautiful, winding drive to Highway 174 to the century-old Bierwagen's Donner Trail Fruit farm nestled in the rolling hills of Chicago Park, where fourth-generation farmer Chris Bierwagen hosts an annual pumpkin patch and harvest festival every day through October.

At the working apple farm (technically located on Lower Colfax Road), the Bierwagens host the pumpkin patch, open every day, and a snack shack that is open on the weekends. There is a hay pyramid and corn box for kids to play on, as well as farm animals to check out. The snack shack features a full lunch menu as well as caramel apples, Happy Apple pies, cakes and cookies. Admission and parking is free.

It was deceptively quiet right after noon on a recent Wednesday, with one family making its way back from the pumpkin patch with their prizes resting in a red child's wagon. But Chris Bierwagen said he was just taking a quick breather.

Earlier that morning, Bierwagen explained, the farm had hosted 80 students from Grass Valley Charter School.

"We do school tours almost every morning in October," he said. "It's a two-hour guided tour of the farm; it includes the apple orchard and the sorting shed, and they make cider."

Recommended Stories For You

The general public can show up any time between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to pick up a pumpkin or two, check out local honeys and jams, and sample some cider.

Bierwagen's presses its own raw unpasteurized cider for sale, producing about 1,000 gallons a year. It's so popular that the farm actually ran out earlier this week — Bierwagen was just about to jump back into some emergency cider production Wednesday afternoon.

The snack shack's goodies include the legendary apple fritter nuggets, which were invented by Bierwagen's sister, Teresa.

"That's the big attraction," Bierwagen said. "They're a little bit bigger than a doughnut hole — they're fried and then glazed with cinnamon sugar."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lkellar@theunion.com.

Bierwagen’s Pumpkin Patch & Harvest Festival

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through October

Where: 17437 Lower Colfax Road, Grass Valley

Info: 530-477-5992 or online