Apple Picking in and Around Asheville: The Best Apple Orchards
When autumn arrives in the mountains of North Carolina, one of the best opportunities for a fun time in nature is to explore Asheville’s apple-picking scene. Sure, you could just buy local apples at a farmers’ market, and believe me, I do that too, but the experience of trekking into the orchards, searching for the best apples, and filling up a box or two to bring home for apple pie, apple butter, and just eating straight cannot be beat!
The climate and soil make orchards near Asheville, NC, really incredible, though most are slightly closer to Hendersonville or farther out of the city rather than being apple picking in Asheville proper.
Finding the best apple orchards in Hendersonville involves deciding what matters to you: Do you want to sip apple cider and watch a local bluegrass band play with amazing views? Do you want to enjoy the day relaxing while your kiddos explore corn mazes or indoor barn playgrounds? Do you want to eat your weight in apple cider donuts? All this and more is possible in the various apple orchards near Asheville!
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Making the Most of Your Visit to Apple Orchards in North Carolina
- If you have a particular timeframe in mind, check to make sure which apple orchards are open. Some u-pick farms get such a surge of interest that they have to close for a bit to let more fruit ripen. While this is more common in some of the berry farms nearby, it’s still worth thinking through. The window for u-pick apples is narrow, usually August to early November at the latest, and on the edges of that timeframe, calling ahead will help you make sure you have a great day out in the orchards.
- Keep in mind the weather. Too cold or too wet, and you’ll want to pick an orchard that has some places to warm up and dry off in addition to getting your apples.
- It’s easy to under-commit or over-commit to how many apples you want, and many places have you buy a box and fill it as high as you can or else weigh your apple-picking spoils as you exit and pay per pound. Check on the pricing and think about how quickly you can realistically eat or cook with apples – or give them away as gifts! Extending your picking mission can be a fun way to give some neighbors or coworkers a simple indication of gratitude or welcome.
- Directions sometimes only get you so far for apple orchards near Asheville, which may be remote from the local cell towers. Grab some directions from the apple orchard’s website and put them in your phone or print them out just in case GPS leads you astray in the middle of apple country.
- While we’re including a lot of apple orchards near Asheville that make u-pick apple picking into a big autumn festival, don’t discount roadside apple stands either. If you realize you didn’t get as many apples as you wanted as you’re driving away, one of these stands may be able to fill in the gaps, and anyone short on time can get locally-harvested goodness at these humble farmstands.
- What’s the big deal with apple cider donuts? If you haven’t had one, that explains why you’re asking the question! Not only are these donuts typically peak-freshness (often only made during cider season), but they also have a characteristically-apple-y sweetness that makes them a destination in themselves. If you see that an orchard features these, don’t pass it up.
- While it’s not an apple orchard, one of the best fall festivals in the area is actually very close to Asheville and benefits the good cause of Eliada Children’s Home. If apple picking near Asheville isn’t your cup of tea, but you want a hayride, a corn maze, and all kinds of kids’ activities, check out this non-profit festival that opens for much of the apple-picking season!
The Best Apple Orchards Near Asheville, NC
1. Go Apple Crazy at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard near Hendersonville
Until I stepped foot on Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard property, I had no idea there were so many varieties of apples, much less apples grown right here in the Asheville area.
The orchard sports a huge map that gets updated regularly. When we visited, it showed which sections of the five different orchard plots (at that time) had which kinds of apples growing and also showcased which ones were in season and which had already been picked. This helps you choose the sections of the property where apples are at prime picking!
Beyond the apples themselves, Stepp’s keeps families entertained at all ages. Older kids and teens will get a kick out of the huge, pretty challenging corn maze and the apple cannon (it is what it sounds like; a really loud cannon that shoots apples at targets), while little ones tend to love hayrides and the bouncy pillow that they can crawl and jump on.
Stepp’s offers various passes and options for either making a full day of your trip with all-attraction passes or singling out what matters most to you. Later in the season, there are also pumpkins available!
2. Get Lost in the Corn at Granddad’s Apples in Hendersonville
One of the farm-fun activities that draws the most crowds is a corn maze: something about getting fully lost inside and finding your way back out again is a great way to enjoy the perfect autumn day and make some memories with family members of all ages.
Like many of the orchards along the Hendersonville area “Apple Alley,” Grandad’s Apples is a thriving country store during the year and blossoms into a fun family attraction during picking season. Beginning in the fall, a pumpkin patch opens up, the silly and fun corn maze becomes available, and the cow train takes small visitors for a journey around the property.
Launching the apple cannon is always a fun addition too. The bakery is a must-visit. The delicious hot cider donuts are as close to heaven as we’re likely to get in apple country.
3. Let the Kids Run Wild at Jeter Mountain Farm
I think it’s the smartest thing for an apple orchard near Asheville to offer an indoor playground – it basically guarantees a crowd even on days when the rain makes u-pick apple picking a little less appealing.
Jeter Mountain Farm’s farm-themed indoor playground keeps little children active while their families can keep an eye on them and sample apple-related treats or coffees. There’s plenty of u-pick fruit, from berries and peaches to grapes and pumpkins, in addition to the apples (there are 20 different varieties!).
While they have lots of the activities that many other apple orchards near Asheville offer, they are also a wedding venue, and one of the best apple orchards in North Carolina is a truly beautiful setting for a wedding. Plus, they make their own hard cider, a fresh and delicious treat for the over 21 set. The 1813 Smokehouse makes for a great lunch spot while you’re visiting too!
4. See the Fall Foliage at Justus Orchard
Autumn leaves are one of the most impressive attractions at the Justus Orchard, with the beauty of the rolling hills around the orchard simply breathtaking. It makes every apple you bite into after a day of apple picking here just that much more special.
This orchard includes u-pick apples, u-pick blackberries, a pumpkin patch, and so much more. The farm has been in the family for four generations, which I think makes it feel just that much more special.
With little ones, the hit of this place is often the animals, between the ducks in the pond and the various farm animals who live around the orchard. They even set up a “cow train” through the property during the busy apple-picking season.
The bakery and shop offer plenty of apple-related sweet treats but also other veggies that are grown right on-site. This is also a good location for finding multiple apple varieties, with Gala and Pacific Gala maturing as early as August, all the way through to Pink Lady, Arkansas Black, and EverCrisp apples coming ripe in October.
Don’t be afraid to try the jumping pillow and apple cannons to feel like a kid yourself again!
5. Learn Something New at The Orchard at Altapass in Spruce Pine
While this orchard is a bit of a hike (not actually – think gorgeous mountain drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway) from Asheville, it made the list because it’s just always a good time.
They prioritize heirloom apples and use as few chemicals as possible in the process, all while creating an environment friendly to the honeybees and other creatures that lived in the mountains of North Carolina long before its current human residents.
The Orchard at Altapass picking experience is good, with trails clearly marked and guides to help you only pick from the ripest and most ready options in the orchard. Along the way, you might learn a bit about the fascinating history of apple trees and how varieties are bred over time.
The Pavilion is one of the nicest options for live music during the busy season, and timing your visit with a concert day is a great way to relax after tromping through the orchards and picking in the morning. Whether you want shopping for various value-add goods – like apple butter and pastries – or you’re in it for a rocking chair on a porch and some excellent fiddling, you’ll find what you want at Altapass.
6. Chug-Chug Into Mountain Fresh Orchards for a Train Ride
The trackless “Apple Express” ride combines two things children love: apples and trains! At the Mountain Fresh Orchards farm market, you can pick up tickets for this adorable train ride that may be simple to us older folks but is absolutely delightful to little kids.
While not a u-pick farm at this time, Mountain Fresh grows 17 varieties of apples, saving you the journey into the orchards if what you really want is a farmstand that will supply you with the best apple pies in town and perfectly ripe apples of your favorite varieties.
There’s also all kinds of other goodies to pick up, making it a great stop when you’re in Apple Alley and looking for gifts to take home with you. They’re also a go-to for fall decorations like pumpkins that can liven up your home with autumn cheer!
7. Sip Fresh Cider at Coston Farm and Apple House
Not everyone gets the difference, but cider fresh off the presses is a totally different and totally wonderful flavor experience. Stop by Coston Farm for pre-picked fresh apples and for tasty cider made only days before you sip it during peak season.
They have a beautiful gift shop and plenty of tasty baked goods featuring their local produce. They also have a great pick-your-own orchard open on weekdays during the season, making it a great field trip for kids or a good place to spend a couple of hours of a school break.
They offer a variety of educational information about the apple growing industry on their website, allowing you to get your children (or yourself!) educated on this interesting industry and farming as a career. Fun fact: they also grow apples that end up in Gerber baby food!
8. Have a Blast at Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock
Whether you just want to pick out the perfect bags of apples for your upcoming baking and eating or you want to get out and pick your apples personally, Sky Top Orchard has you covered.
They offer fun activities for the family, such as the hayride, bee train, and apple cannon, and quite a lot of people swear by their apple cider doughnuts (fresh is best!). In addition to picking apples here, Sky Top offers cherries, peaches, Asian pears, and grapes in their appropriate ripening windows, so check to see what is available before you head out so you can get the best bumper crop available.
Caramel and fudge apples are also available, as well as fresh apple cider, jams, jellies, and local honey – there’s even locally-made kettle corn, a salty-sweet popcorn treat. Just in 2022, gem mining was added to the property, and kids will love visiting with barnyard animals like goats, sheep, peacocks (!!!), ducks, geese, and chickens.
There’s a nature trail and a playground, making it a truly complete day of fun that is sure to tire out the whole family for the ride home.
Can’t Get Enough Apples? Don’t Miss the Apple Festivals
While Asheville apple picking is certainly part of the draw of the best apple orchards near Hendersonville, many people are just there for the apples: eating them, cooking them down for apple butter, baking them into delicious treats, or just celebrating that we have a wonderful local industry to support with our purchases and our stomachs.
A great way to enjoy this while also getting out to see some local downtowns is to visit apple festivals. Here, the best apple orchards of Asheville and its surrounding areas come to one place to share their bumper crops, let you purchase pre-made goods, and enjoy live music and a street fair atmosphere all at the same time.
I find that apple festivals are a great time to pick up gifts for gift baskets (some preserves even are great for Christmas gifts) and take in some special exhibits too.
Explore the North Carolina Apple Festival of Hendersonville
Held on Labor Day Weekend for over 76 years, the North Carolina Apple Festival is a labor of love. You’ll find thousands of apple enthusiasts visiting to participate in the 8K and fun run, the bike tour, the car show, and the pancake breakfasts.
Many vendors sell apples, of course, but there are also arts and crafts shows, an apple recipe contest (definitely bring your best for this one! I’d love to be one of the judges.), and sidewalk sales from Hendersonville shops.
There are plenty of musical entertainers as well as a parade for the King Apple. Local orchards do special tours and exhibits on Apple Festival weekend, so if you have explored the more than 200 vendors, you can always drive out to one of the orchards to keep the apple fun going.
And before heading to the festival make sure you check out our list of the best restaurants in Hendersonville.
Taste Your Way Through the Waynesville Apple Harvest Festival
The small town of Waynesville in nearby Haywood County is a perfect place to soak up the October weather while enjoying excellent local dance and music performances and, of course, eating apples during the Waynesville Apple Harvest Festival!
Craft booths and food vendors dot the downtown during this 35-year-strong festival, helping people find great local artisans for unique gifts and reuniting old friends in a charming hometown-style festival. If you like mountain views, you’ll find few better than the views around Waynesville while you’re eating a fresh caramel apple and enjoying world-class bluegrass music!