Apple Picking :: Guide to Orchards in the Carolinas

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As summer winds down and fall approaches, one favorite family activity is going to pick apples at an orchard. 2020 circumstances have made for some changes to this, but for the most part, this outdoor activity is still something that is available to do safely.

Here are some things you may not know about apple orchards – 

Did you know that most pick your own farms grow dwarf trees?

That’s correct. You’ll be able to comfortably reach for the apples without climbing a single tree. Apples ripen from the outside of the tree to the inside, and most are within reach for a preschooler. 

Did you know that farmers love to share their knowledge?

Unsure which variety is best for your tasting or cooking plans? Farmers and their staff will tell you. Don’t know which color shading is indicative of ripeness? Ask the farmer before you begin!

Did you know that picking and caring for fruit is a multi-disciplinary lesson for your child?

Think of all the things to learn while walking down those rows of apple trees. What color should we pick? Gentle, now. Grab the apple and turn it slowly. Did the stem come off with it? Oh, good – it should stay ripe longer! Why? Hmmm … I’m not sure. Let’s ask the farmer! Don’t drop it in your basket. We don’t want to bruise it. Is your basket getting heavy? How many apples have you picked? I wonder if we can weigh them? How much will these costs? Is this enough to make a pie? We’ll need to keep these in a cool place when we get home – where do you suggest? Read some books about apples before you go and reinforce what you learned at the orchard. Some good ones to check out are Apples by Gail Gibbons, Apple by Dan Oldfield, and Ten Apples Up On Top! by Theo LeSieg.

Did you know that most pick-your-own farms have additional activities? 

Pack some snacks or a picnic lunch. Some places will have cider and other apple products to sell. Check your farm’s website. There may be a petting zoo. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to let them get lost in a supervised corn maze while you do a cider tasting … yes, apple picking is going to be fun for both children and adults.

Below are several u-pick apple orchards in the SC and NC area – with updated information on COVID precautions and regulations, if available. However, be sure to check their website and social media pages before you plan your trip to obtain the most current information. 

Bryson’s U-Pick Apple Orchard

1011 Chattooga Ridge Rd.
Mountain Rest, SC 29664
(864) 647-9427

If you’re looking for a full day or weekend apple adventure, then consider Bryson’s. They press their own cider and have free samples. This orchard has a wide selection of jams and jellies, canned goods, honey from bees, sorgum syrup and local vegetables when in season. Bryson’s is located in the beautiful Long Creek area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, three miles from the Chattooga River, fifteen miles from Oconee State Park, and six miles from Chau Ram State Park. Lakes Keowee, Jocassee,and Hartwell, along with over twenty waterfalls, and many marked hiking trails are just a few of the surrounding area attractions.

Chattooga Belle Farm

454 Damascus Church Road
Long Creek, SC 29658
(864) 647-9768

The farm has a variety produce through-out the seasons including apples and peach orchards, muscadines, scuppernongs, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. They have a variety of exotic fruits like persimmons, paw paws, Asian pears, figs, and more! In addition, they offer cabins for rent and have a bistro, as well as farm tours, a disc golf course, and a distillery. It’s also a wedding venue, so call ahead.

Justus Orchard 

187 Garren Rd.
Hendersonville NC 28792
(828) 974-1232

Enjoy a day in the country with your family, picking apples from dwarf-size apple trees. The orchard is open seven days a week 8:30-6:00 through mid-November with all of their usual fruits, goodies, pumpkins and plenty of delicious apples as the varieties ripen. The Bakery and Apple House will open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 8:30-5:00 with Blackberries, Peaches, Apple Cider Slushies, Apple Cider Donuts, Blueberry Donuts, Fried Apple Pies, Fried Blackberry Apple Pies, Jams and Jellies and more. Their Jumping Pillow and Playground will be open those weekends as well.

Per their website:
COVID-19 regulations, sanitation and social distancing will be required. Due to COVID, this year will seem a little different but we are excited to get the season started and see all of our customers old and new!

The Orchard at Altapass

1025 Orchard Rd
Spruce Pine, NC 28777
(888) 765-9531

There are over 40 apple varieties at The Orchard at Altapass. You can make a weekend of this trip. There is a restaurant that serves lunch daily and many local restaurants nearby. They offer hayrides, hiking trails, it’s pet friendly and there’s even a book club! Check out the events calendar before you go. There is often live music! 

Per their website: We remain under government recommendations and, physical distancing (not social—we encourage interaction) is required. All precautions have been employed—masks (in accordance with government mandate, all staff and visitors are required to wear masks inside the barn) and gloves for staff, distancing markers, sanitizer required before entering the store and recommended as you leave. Pets are permitted inside on a leash (no mask required). Bill is on premises telling tales and entertaining (although not tapping toes) visitors. He will be storytelling in coming weeks, although not on heyrides. The trails are open, and a revised map is being installed, but please respect other walkers and continue to physical distance. We hope that all of the above will be short term, but in the interim, the health and safety of our staff and our visitors are most important in decision making. The apples trees are still thriving and ripening. No matter what the climate of the planet, they’re ready for pickin’ as usual.

Sky Top Orchard

1193 Pinnacle Mountain Rd
Zirconia, NC 28731 (Flat Rock area, NC)
(828) 692-7930

Visit Sky Top Orchard and you’ll enjoy panoramic mountain views, orchard ponds with ducks and geese, a ‘barnyard’ area with sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys and more, a bamboo forest to explore, lots of picnic areas and, of course, a mountaintop of fragrant apple and fruit trees. This favorite among families in the Midlands also offers hayrides (without the hay in the truck, to help your allergies) and apple doughnuts. Click this link to plan your visit and view their downloadable map to see all they have to offer. If you can, plan your visit for a weekday. Sky Top can get very crowed on the weekends.

Per their website: To keep guests and our staff safe, we are requiring face masks (covering both nose and mouth) by employees and guests in our Fruit Stand. We thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

Changes Due to COVID:
 – Face Masks Are Required in the Fruit Stand.
 – We are asking guests to follow directional signage in the Fruit Stand in an effort to reduce cross traffic.
 – Social distancing on hayrides. Families will be asked to leave a safe distance between their family and other families.
 – Because we could not increase the distance on the bee train, we have discontinued that ride for this season.
 – We are propping open outside bathroom doors to reduce touch points.
 – We’ve added Plexiglas barriers between guests and staff at key contact points.
 – We have more sanitizing areas and are cleaning areas more frequently.
 – We have eliminated our sampling station.
 – At U-Pick, we have eliminated the need to bag apples after picking. When you purchase a basket to go apple picking, you get to the keep the basket.
 – We are also exploring the possibility of order ahead pick-up options. We’ll update as we make a decision.

Granddad’s Apples

2951 Chimney Rock Road
Hendersonville, NC 28792
(828) 685-1685

With more than 100 acres, there’s plenty to do on this family friendly farm! The farm and bakery are open for the 2020 season, every day, 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Most all family fun activities such as the cow train, corn maze and apple cannon are available to enjoy, except the Jump Pillow (due to social distancing requirements). There are also a variety of farmyard animals to see. 

Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard 

170 Stepp Orchard Drive
Hendersonville, NC 28792
(828) 685-9083

Enjoy a day on this 70-acre working farm and apple orchard on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina just outside Historic Hendersonville, near Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hillcrest Orchard was Hendersonville and Henderson County’s First Pick-Your-Own Apple Orchard. There are hay rides, a corn maze, and even an apple cannon! 

Based on their website: Your safety is very important to the Stepp family. You can enjoy spacious outdoor surroundings on our 100 acre farm with plenty of sunshine and room to run around.

For your safety please:
 – Wear a face covering in the Apple House.
 – Prepay for apples before picking.
 – Use sanitizer provided in various places.
 – Socially distance your group on wagon rides and around the farm.
 – Follow directional arrows and be aware of social distancing in the Apple House.
 – Disinfecting and sanitizing will be practiced regularly.

Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill

1860 Black Hwy
York, SC 29745
(803) 684-0690

Windy Hill Orchard is a family owned and operated boutique apple orchard and Hard Cider producer located in the upstate of South Carolina. Open every fall from mid-August until Christmas, they offer visitors, Award Winning Hard Ciders, Pick Your Own Apples, Fresh Pressed Apple Cider, Fresh Made Apple Products, and much, much more. Their cats are friendly and you should check their calendar for events, including live music.

Based on their website: We have been asked about our Fall Season and how it will be impacted by COVID-19. In short, we hope to have a “normal fall season.” However, during this pandemic we have all learned there still are many unknowns. Fortunately, we know there are practical and common-sense steps that we can all take to help get things back to “normal.”

Have you gone apple picking? Where did you go and what did you love about it?

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Mee Jean Sasine
Mee Jean is a divorced mom of three amazing kids: Alyssa, (11), Jacob (10) and Isaac (4). She moved to Columbia in 2002 after graduating from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. Once wondering how she could live in a small town, she now embraces it and loves her home in Northeast Columbia. She is a Marketing Proposal Manager at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina and loves being involved in the community and making Columbia the best place for her kids to grow up in. As a current board member on the Leadership Columbia Advisory Board and a graduate of Leadership Columbia Class of 2017, she has learned so much about Columbia. Mee Jean loves going to local events and supporting businesses around the city. In her free time, she loves hanging out with her friends, reading, watching Georgia football, running races (whether it be 5ks or Spartans), taking pictures and making memories (lots of selfies and hashtags), shopping, relaxing with some wine by the pool and sleeping. 

3 COMMENTS

  1. We have picked at Stepp and Justus. Both wonderful farms! One of my favorite fall activities to do with my family. Perfect day trip!

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