There’s a long-standing debate among Auburnites about who sells the tastiest pie – Ikeda’s or Machado’s.

Let me tell you, I am not here to take sides, only to be grateful there’s so much deliciousness to be had in such close proximity – apple, peach, pumpkin, berry; all gifts of a bountiful foothill harvest.

But while we’re on the subject of dessert, I do want to mention another option for connoisseurs of fine pastry, just to mix things up: Apple Hill.

Sure, it’s about an hour’s drive along windy Highway 49 and east on Highway 50, but what a beautiful drive it is, especially in autumn. Travelers may spot horses, goats and deer roaming the green countryside, and the wooden gray posts that line the highway through historic downtown Coloma are decorated with cheerful red bows. Very festive!

For those who’ve never been, Apple Hill isn’t one place. It’s a drive on country backroads from one orchard to the next, kind of like wine tasting, but instead of sampling chardonnay and merlot, you’ll find yourself nibbling Pink Ladies, Winesap, Gingergold and HoneyCrisp apples.

For those with more savory tastes, there’s also mustard, salad dressing and barbecue sauce.

Each stop on the trail offers its own delights: Arts and crafts, fudge and cider doughnuts, tri-tip and hot dogs, or corn mazes and hay rides.

But you’ll know you’ve found the pies when the air is filled with the scent of golden crust, cinnamon, and bubbling, buttery fruit.

There are pumpkin pies, caramel apple pies and pumpkin apple pies, berry pies and cherry pies and sour creamy pies.

There’s a pie for everyone. Buy them freshly baked or take them home frozen and bake at your leisure.

Here are a few tips from a well-seasoned Apple Hill visitor:

  1. Go on a weekday, if possible: A traveler will have a kinder, gentler experience with the roads and parking on a weekday.
  2. Expect to wait in lines: Even on a weekday, lines for lunch and desserts may be long, but they move quickly. Take all your Zen. Take your friends, too. Divide and conquer.
  3. Take cash: Most shops accept plastic, but a few don’t, and some cash lines are shorter.
  4. Take your boots: You’re heading out to farms and orchards. There will be dirt, and sometimes even mud. It’s worth it.
  5. Take the kids – or don’t: There are plenty of fun activities for children, but the apple trail does intertwine with the wine trail, so if grapes are also your thing, hire a babysitter.

Just make sure you return with a piece of sweet pie – or at least a doughnut – to share.