Bar none, one of the best things you can do in North Carolina in the fall. Get picking.
As the air finally begins to cool in North Carolina, summer’s heat gives way to crisp fall days that beckon visitors to the state’s orchards for apple picking. And apple lovers have plenty of options.
In fact, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the state ranks seventh in the nation in apple production, specializing in varieties such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty and Stayman.
Want to plan a picking trip? Check out our guide to some of the state’s best apple orchards. And be sure to check each orchard’s website for the latest information on which apples are ripe for picking.
Knob Creek Orchards and Creamery, Lawndale
Using money he received from the GI Bill after World War II, Raymond Crotts took his passion for apple trees to the next level by enrolling in farming classes to learn the best ways to grow fruit trees.
In 1958, he and his wife Loree purchased the land for Knob Creek Orchards and Creamery. Today, their children and grandchildren run the farm, offering u-pick apples in the fall (as well as strawberries, peaches and blackberries during the summer).
Pickers can also score produce, jelly and honey made on the farm, as well as the creamery’s fresh ice cream served in homemade waffle cones.
Apple Hill Orchard and Cider Mill, Morganton
In operation since 1955, this family-owned orchard has welcomed thousands of visitors to harvest its more than 20 varieties of apples, from sweet Golden Delicious to tart Granny Smith. After picking, head to the farm market for homemade apple pies, doughnuts, muffins and more. And don’t forget a jug of fresh cider—the farm presses several 600-gallon batches of the spiced beverage during the peak season.
The Orchard at Altapass, Spruce Pine
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Orchard at Altapass offers u-pick apples and stunning mountain views. The nonprofit orchard specializes in heirloom apples—Aunt Rachel, Grimes Golden, Virginia Beauty and more—raised with minimal chemicals. Meander from the orchard to walking trails that crisscross the land or head to the pavilion to enjoy outdoor concerts by local musicians.
Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock
Families can make a day of it at Sky Top Orchard, which not only offers more than 20 varieties of apples, but also a duck and goose pond, a barnyard, a playground and a bamboo forest. Picnickers pack a lunch to enjoy at one of several picnic spots, making sure to stop by the orchard’s doughnut shop for freshly made apple cider doughnuts, apple cider slushies and even Sky Top Hard Cider.
Justus Orchard, Hendersonville
Situated south of Asheville, Justus Orchard grows classic varieties like Gala and Fuji, as well as heirloom apples such as Arkansas Black and Stayman Winesap. Picking is open August through November, and the orchard also has a pumpkin patch with pre-picked gourds available September through October. The orchard bakery serves homemade goodies from fried apple pies to candy apples. And families will enjoy all the kid-friendly activities, such as a playground, the cow train and a jumping pillow.
Millstone Creek Orchards, Ramseur
Located less than 20 miles east of the North Carolina Zoo, Millstone Creek Orchards draws families for fruit picking, children’s activities, live music and more.
While the 2021 crop was diminished by a late frost, apple lovers can still pick the remaining fruit with reservations or sign up for the Apple Orchard Adventure, which includes a hayride, apple cider pressing demonstrations, apple tastings and cider slushies. And on the way home, stop by Granny’s Kitchen for cakes, doughnuts, breads and more made with the farm’s apples.