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The absolute best orchards for apple picking in the South

When the temperatures begin to dip, leaves start to change colors and Southerners start heating up their fireplaces, you know that apple picking season has begun. Apple picking is one of the most popular (and labor intensive) fall outdoor activities there is.

Every season u-pick orchards open their properties up to the surrounding community and visitors. Hayrides, corn mazes and hot chocolate abound. Depend on how early in the season it is, there is also a good chance that pumpkins and wildflower bouquets will be available, too.

One of the best things about going apple picking, besides getting to eat all the apples you "accidentally" drop, is the exposure to different apple varieties that aren't usually available at local grocery stores. As the temperatures continue to dip, get ready to start picking at some of our favorite orchards around the South.

Virginia
Carter Mountain Orchard, Charlottesville
Sitting on top of an impossibly high mountain, Carter Mountain Orchard offers not only breathtaking views of Charlottesville, but also an incredible amount of apple varieties. Folks visit from as far away as Washington, D.C. for Carter Mountain's famous hot apple cider donuts, jam, jellies and wine. The place offers fun for the kiddos, too, such as a small petting zoo, face painting and hayrides. If you're planning a visit, try to arrive as early as possible. It gets pretty crowded. 

North Carolina
Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard, Hendersonville
Nestled inside of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard has been family owned and operated for four generations. At around 70 acres, this orchard is massive. When apples aren't available, the orchard operates as a full-time farm. If you choose to head over on a weekend there will be a canon that is used to propel apples into the sky. Stepp's also has an impressive nature trail and it allows dogs (on leash of course), which gives you the opportunity to bring along the whole family, fur-kids included. 

Texas
Henrietta Creek Orchard, Roanoke
This small husband-and-wife-owned farm has been up and running for over 30 years. The orchard offers a great, if no-frills, picking experience, but where it really shines is its educational program. It is constantly welcoming local school children in to learn all about gardening, bee-keeping and the principles of agriculture. 

Georgia
R&A Orchards, Ellijay
R&A Orchards has been open since 1947, and it has been serving the families of Georgia ever since. Though it is open year round, apple picking season is the one time people come from all over to experience the orchards. You'll also find a small goods store on the property that sells apple butter, and various jams and baked goods so you can take some of R&A home with you. 

Photo (Carter Mountain): Carter Mountain/Facebook
Photo (Stepp's): Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard website
Photo (Henrietta Creek): Henrietta Creek Orchard/Facebook
Photo (R&A): R&A Orchard website


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Ryan Hughley is an associate editor at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously. 

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