By Jennifer McGraw

EL DORADO COUNTY (CBS13) – Apple Hill is one of the top tourist attractions in the county, but now attendance at the annual fall event is falling.

“We count on these two big weekends as most farmers do up here because this is the only time you make any money,” said Jim Visman, owner of High Hill Ranch right off Highway 50.

As the leaves start to fall families begin to flock to Apple Hill.

“We bring grandkids, kids, everyone in our family knows where Apple Hill is,” said Laree Bermudez of Galt.

“It’s fun for the kids to run around and play and be outside, they can see where all the apples are grown,” said Aubrey Scheib who brought her two young sons Thursday.

There’s plenty of fun and plenty to eat.

“I had two donuts, one orange, and this apple,” said 8-year-old Max as he took a bite. “They’re juicy.”

With 50 farms along the foothills of the Sierra, there’s a lot to see, but your first stop likely to be High Hill Ranch.

“We drove an hour and a half to come here,” Scheib said.

Just about everyone knows Apple Hill is well worth the wait, but the Visman says traffic this year has been so bad, it’s driving away customers.

“Saturday morning, no cars coming in, 10 o’clock still no cars coming in,” he said.

Visman has been growing apples for decades and this past weekend, sales plummeted. He said that CHP closed Carson Road which is a direct street to his orchard.

He says a new county shuttle bus that’s meant to prevent traffic jams is taking up an extra lane and stalling drivers.

“The shuttle bus should be considered another car and shouldn’t take precedence over everything and send customers back on the freeway,” he said.

Visman says they’re working out the kinks with the county, but says to beat the traffic plan ahead.

“You guys, if you’re coming, get out of bed early and get here before 11 a.m.,” he said.

A shuttle that was supposed to help the hill’s growing popularity farmers say is now falling flat.

“Life is stressful when you come up here or you forget about that you have a great day, aside from you might be stuck in some traffic, other than that it’s a wonderful place to spend the day,” Visman said.

The county has the shuttles in place to help reduce parking congestion and environmental impact, El Dorado Transit will be operating free shuttles every Saturday and Sunday for the month of October.

The shuttles will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. taking visitors from the Sierra Pacific Industries Parking lot, located at 2796 Larsen Drive in Camino, to 11 different stops.

Transit will be operating four buses on a 10.8-mile loop. Buses will leave in 15 to 20 increments.

The shuttle stops at these 11 locations:
• High Hill Ranch/Fudge Factory Farm,
• Rucksack Cellars
• Boa Vista Orchards
• Goldbud Farms
• Abel’s Apple Acres
• Lava Cap Winery
• El Dorado Orchards
• Delfino Farms
• Apple Pantry Farm/North Canyon Cider Company
• Larsen Apple Barn (Sundays only)
• Rainbow Orchards

For more information, you can visit the website at http://www.eldoradotransit.com or call El Dorado Transit at (530) 642-5383.

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