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Apple Harvest Adventures in the Smokies

apple orchard in the smokies

Apples, apple-picking, apple growing, apple pie-making, you get what I’m saying, have become somewhat synonymous with our mountain communities in large part because nearby Henderson County is the top apple producer in all of North Carolina AND is one of the top 10 apple-growing counties in the entire U.S. of A. Haywood County, NC, is tops in apples in North Carolina, as well.  And lucky for us, they are right here in our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.

Apple blossoms bloom every April, grow throughout the spring and summer, then are ripening and ready for picking starting in August, through October. When apple harvest time does come around, there is so much to see, do, experience and taste around here! Fun for all of the generations in your family, and memories to be made await you at any of the several orchards and annual apple festivals throughout our mountain towns.

apple orchard in the smokies

Our very own Waynesville, NC, hosts one of the “10 Best Fall Harvest Festivals in the Nation”, the Apple Harvest Festival which happens annually on a Saturday in late October combines two seasonal favorites into one gorgeous day.  As the leaves are changing into yellows, golds, oranges and reds, this small town celebrates everything apple at this premier arts and crafts event. Imagine a Great Smoky Mountain twist on all things apples! Admission is always free and you’re very likely to see well, apples, and live music, dogs in sweaters, apple treats, apple gifts, apple-themed arts and crafts, and fall family fun and apples.

For an entire weekend chock-full of all-apples-all-the-time, plan for the NC Apple Festival on Labor Day weekend in Hendersonville, NC. It’s been an A+ family festival for over 75 years and no wonder, with its Kiddie Carnival, arts, crafts, music, educational opportunities, aircraft rides, even a parade! It’s a serious celebration of the apple heritage that continues to be built within this community.

Of course, apples are the star of the show. Local apple growers set up on the street to offer you a vast variety of mountain-grown apples. The obvious choices are Red, Delicious, Golden Delicious, Stayman, and Rome Beauties, but this is your chance to also sample over forty varieties including Gala, Gold, Mutzu, Empire, and Fuji.

That’s just the beginning of the apple goodness. Fresh-pressed apple cider, apple cakes, apple pies, and other apple goodies, like fritters and turnovers, are available throughout the festival, so come hungry.

shops in downtown Waynesville NC

Apple-picking time is just around the time the mountain weather takes that turn to dryer days and cooler evenings while the leaves start their yearly descent. It’s a perfect time to visit Henderson County where some of the largest family-owned orchards specialize in welcoming you, your family and your friends to pick apples, wander the orchards, take a hey ride, enjoy apple-baked everything (apple cider donuts – iykyk), get lost in a corn maze and maybe pet some sweet-natured farm animals.

In Haywood County, Kt’s Orchard and Apiary has rave reviews and serves up homemade jams and jellies, honey from their own bees, and so many varieties of apples, including some heirloom. If you visit on a slower day, you may be offered a tour of the orchards and some apple growing education.

The Orchards at Altapass is another must have experience while visiting the Great Smokies during Autumn.  It was created as a preservation orchard and still has trees over 100 years old, and you best believe they have some of the best heirloom apples possible. This pollinator-friendly environment, where you can pick your own apples or buy them in the General Store, along with honey (from their hives), locally made jams, salsas, dips and pickled everything. Oh! And fudge. Did I mention the Kid’s Corner? And the hot apple pie?