7 Best Apple Orchards in Hendersonville NC To See This Fall

young woman and younger sister pick apples in hendersonville nc

Apple picking has become a family tradition, and Hendersonville has some of the best orchards (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

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We took our kids to an apple orchard when they were very young, and it was a surprise hit. They loved the hay ride and even the apple picking. As a result, visiting orchards is now a family tradition.

When searching for orchards, we couldn’t locate one on our side of the mountain. However, we discovered the apple orchards located in the mountains of Western North Carolina around Hendersonville.

I’m not sure why my kids like it so much. I guess for them, it’s just a fun family outing. They don’t even eat very many apples. We always pick more than we can eat.

Heck, we usually spend the next couple of weeks giving away as many apples as we can.

Read Also: The Smoky Mountains of North Carolina: 6 Best Places to Visit


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What time of the year is best to visit orchards?

This year, we went earlier than usual. Generally, we go when fall is in full bloom, sometimes even waiting until the precipice of November.

But my wife Leslie loves the Honeycrisp and it is an early apple. If you want to pick Honeycrisp, you can’t wait for fall. In fact, late August and early September can be pushing it for the Rolls Royce of apples.

Two Kids Enjoy Gathering Grapes at an Orchard in NC
Orchards are often visited in the fall but Honeycrisps, grapes and other crops will be available earlier in the year (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

What are the best apple orchards in Hendersonville, North Carolina?

I’ll rank the top ones below, but I want to say that none of these are bad options.

I’m ranking based on personal favorites, but every orchard we’ve been to in Hendersonville has been professionally run, accommodating, friendly and welcoming.

Typically, they are family businesses run by generations of people who put hard work and care into these farms. My family is happy to go apple picking at any of them.

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young girl aims appel cannon at hay bales
Our crew enjoyed aiming for the hay bales using the apple cannons (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

1. Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard

Stepp’s doesn’t have the reputation as some of the other orchards, but I think a lot of that has to do with proximity to the interstate.

You have to drive past multiple orchards – or at least their signs – to get to Stepp’s.

For us, we found Grandad’s first and enjoyed it. It became our go-to orchard for family trips.

In fact, we only turned to Stepp’s when Grandad’s was too crowded or not doing U-Pick because it was too late in the season.

And then, every time we missed the boat at Grandad’s – either being too late or now too early – Stepp’s was there for us with U-Pick options open.

This orchard has 26 varieties of apples and now they’ve added grapes – which were quite fun – and sunflowers and zinnias to make your own fall floral arrangement.

My daughter Sofia – who began this tradition with us before she entered kindergarten and has now graduated high school – particularly enjoyed the flowers this year.

Plus, the apple cannons were in fine working order. Stepp’s has moved into my personal top spot.

apple orchard with green apples
Grandad’s Apples is usually one of my “top picks” (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

2. Grandad’s Apples

Located on Chimney Rock Road, Grandad’s is probably considered the premier U-pick destination in the Hendersonville area.

It’s located on a beautiful plot of land. You walk through Grandad’s barn, look out over the orchards and corn maze and see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. It’s really quite something. Grandad’s is a well-run agribusiness.

However, this year we did not do our homework. Grandad’s had not started U-pick apples the weekend we arrived, and the much beloved apple cannon wasn’t scheduled to open until Labor Day weekend.

The lure of the Honeycrisp had brought us out too early.

Still, I think if you polled the members of our family, Grandad’s would pull several first-place votes.

3. Jeter Mountain Farm

Located on Jeter Mountain Road, this is a little more upscale facility that also serves as a perfect wedding venue. Seriously, it’s crazy scenic and beautiful.

Still, it’s also a working orchard with 25 varieties of apples, peaches, blackberries, raspberries and elderberries as well as sunflowers, zinnias and pumpkins.

I’m also partial to Jeter’s selection of hard ciders that feature hand-pressed fruit from the farm in every batch. In addition to the tap house and market, there’s a playground, a smokehouse and a coffee house. There’s live music on the farm every weekend as well.

Pumpkin Growing on the Vine
Orchards usually offer a wide variety of flowers and produce. Pumpkins are often a popular choice as fall approaches (photo by Kim Grayson/TheSmokies.com)

4. Justus Orchard

This option is another beautiful orchard with scenic views of the mountains. Honestly, Hendersonville is one of those places that you visit and find yourself thinking, “Why don’t I live here?”

U-Pick items include a wide variety of apples, pears, blackberries or pumpkins. The Apple House store features a wide variety of local jams, honey and homemade goodies.

Grapes on a Vine at an Orchard in NC
Some orchards offer beautiful U-Pick grapes that are beautiful and also taste good (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

5. Sky Top Orchard

Sky Top Orchard is especially convenient if you’re staying in nearby Flat Rock. This orchard – which was founded in 1967 – stays open later in the year than most. You can visit until the last Sunday after Thanksgiving.

It has a nice variety of U-Pick as well, including apples, peaches, cherries, Asian pears and grapes. The Bee Train provides a fun ride for youngsters and the older in your group will enjoy the tractor-pulled hay ride.

The Barnyard features animals such as goats, sheep chickens, peacocks, ducks and geese. Also, there’s a nature trail through a bamboo forest.

6. Coston Farm

This is another successful agribusiness model with U-Pick apples, a market and more. The gift shop and bakery are top-notch.

However, there’s not as much of the “other” stuff to do on-site.

7. Creasman Farms

This is more of a working farm than a true agribusiness. U-Pick on this family farm is a little limited. The U-Pick orchard is open Sundays only from 1 to 5 pm in September at the time of this writing (after Labor Day) and October.

They also sell their apples at their farmer’s markets on Wednesday or Saturday.

The orchard grows over 40 varieties of heirloom and new apples but not all are available for U-Pick. They do have U-Pick Honeycrisp, so if you miss out on some of the other orchards, you might come to Creasman on a Sunday afternoon.

Apple Trees Loaded with Fruit at an Orchard in NC
Apple season in general is mid-August to late October (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Are apples ready to pick in Hendersonville NC?

Apple season is usually mid-August to late October. The orchards have a schedule so that different types of apples ripen throughout the fall.

But if you want the Honeycrisps, plan to go in the summer.

What other things can you pick in the Hendersonville apple orchards?

It depends on the orchard and the season. We went in August this year, and in addition to the Apple picking, Stepp’s had U-Pick grapes and sunflowers – though technically you cut both.

Later in the fall, you can go to the pumpkin patch and pick pumpkins.

Depending on the season and the orchard you might find U-Pick peaches, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or Asian pears available as well.

Do we have to pick the apples?

No. You can just go buy them. It’s usually cheaper that way. But where’s the fun in that?

Apple Cider Donuts at an Orchard in NC
Many orchards have a bakery and store as well as rides and activities for the kids (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

What else is there to do at the orchards?

Activities will vary slightly from orchard to orchard. In general, you can expect corn mazes and a big inflatable for bouncing – I think it’s called a jumping pillow.

There are wagon rides and/or cow train rides. Many of the orchards have enough apple cannons that you could lay siege to Hendersonville if you wanted.

Most of the orchards have a country store in a large barn where you can pick up apple and orchard-themed items plus a variety of jams, jellies and butters.

Usually, there is a bakery as well with things like apple cider donuts, turnovers, fried apple pies and regular apple pies.

A variety of apple cider drinks are available. The apple cider slushies are quite good. Grandad’s has a little ice cream shop as well.

Finally, most of the orchards are equipped with rocking chairs and benches and plenty of places to sit and vibe. The views from most of the Hendersonville orchards are quite beautiful as you look back out across the mountains or valleys.

There is often a picnic area available with nice views.

View of the Mountains from an Orchard in NC
One of the best things about visiting some of the North Carolina orchards is the great view of the mountains (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

When is the best time to go?

Well, the North Carolina Apple Festival is held on Labor Day weekend, and it’s four days of apple-themed fun. If you grew up in the Midwest like I did and fruit-themed fall harvest festivals are your thing, it’s probably the best time to go.

However, it’s also probably the busiest and most crowded time to go.

If you’re not in it for the festival rides and music and are just interested in a fun orchard experience, I would say go in late September or early October when fall really gets in the air.

grave site for members of church of st john
St. John in the Wilderness is close to Hendersonville, NC (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

Is there anything else to do in Hendersonville?

Downtown Hendersonville is a fantastic destination filled with a variety of great shops and restaurants.

We stayed at a VRBO once in a Presbyterian compound called Bonclarken in nearby Flat Rock. As a result, I became mildly obsessed with the family in the nearly century-old black-and-white photos on the wall.

It seems the patriarch, Swede Johnson, was a multi-sport athlete who hailed from Minnesota but went to prep school at Stony Brook in New York.

Nearby is a beautiful, historic church called St. John in the Wilderness, built by South Carolina’s elite who built getaway homes in the Carolina Mountains to escape the summer heat.

We noticed the church because of the historic graveyard, which included a section for the slaves, who were allowed to worship there with their owners. Their graves were marked simply with small crosses.

If the historic graveyard isn’t your thing, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site is nearby. They have a nice railroad museum and an aviation museum.

Honeycrisp Apples Growing on a Tree in an Orchard
North Carolina has about 35-40 varieties of apples (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

What apples are grown in North Carolina?

There’s a bunch. Some of these orchards boast 35-40 varieties of apples. Controversy be danged, I’m ranking North Carolina apples. Let’s go!

1. Honeycrisp

Stop me if you’ve heard this before … these are the Rolls Royce of apples.

2. Granny Smith

This may be a controversial opinion, but I like the sour snap of a Granny Smith.

There are some who would besmirch this perfect fruit. Also, their size makes them an excellent option for their apple cannons if you really want to get serious about doing some damage.

3. Fuji

When we can’t get Honeycrisp, we get Fujis which are quite a bit sweeter but very good.

4. Pink Lady

These are crispy, pink and delicious.

5. Gala

The Gala is another sweet apple. I’m told they have hints of vanilla, but I remain skeptical.

6. Rome

Rome apples are a little sweet and a little tangy. They are the barbecue sauce of apples.

7. Jonagold

These apples are large, sweet apples, descended from the lesser Golden Delicious.

8. Cameo

The Cameo is a strange little apple and especially good straight off the tree. It’s a little sweet and tart but with a hint of pear.

9. Arkansas Black

This is a great apple for those who put off their apple picking until mid to late October. It’s a little sweet, a little tart.

10. Splendor

The Splendor is a sweet apple that’s meant to be eaten fresh, not used in cooking.

11. Golden Delicious

This is a staple of grocery stores everywhere. It’s significantly better when fresh and one of the best apples for eating due to the mild flavor.

12. Mutsu

The Mutsu is not the most flavorful of apples.

13. Cortland

These can be good for cooking. They’re snappier when first harvested.

14. Red Delicious

These are the apples you get from the houses that don’t want to give out candy at Halloween. It’s certainly not an acceptable switch.

15. Stayman Winesap

It’s a good apple for making cider.

But since you can buy excellent cider at all these orchards, you shouldn’t pick this one unless you have no other choice – or just want to pick a variety and try a lot of things, even the lesser apples.

Do you have a favorite orchard in the mountains? Let us know in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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