For many Atlantans, few activities conjure images of a crisp fall day than picking a bushel of apples in an orchard on a farm in the north Georgia mountains or southern Appalachian foothills.
The northwest Georgia town of Ellijay is famous for its apple farms and fall festivals, with legacies dating back to the early part of the 20th century. While the apple capital of Georgia does have the highest concentration of apple farms in the state, there are also great farms to be found across north Georgia, and even into northwest South Carolina.
While Georgia’s apple season runs from mid-August through December, its peak typically hits between late-September and mid-October. Sadly, several orchards suffered a significant loss of the apple crop this year due to a hard freeze earlier in the spring, limiting U-pick options at some farms. Without a bit of advanced planning, folks headed to mountain-side orchards in Georgia and neighboring towns in South Carolina right now may find trees picked clean. It’s best to call ahead to inquire about the apple supply and what’s currently in season at each farm. Thankfully, many orchards also feature a farm store filled with bushels of fresh-picked apples salvaged from the freeze, along with apple cider, jams and preserves, and apple cider doughnuts and other baked goods.
Here are seven farms and apple orchards to check out this fall, just a short drive north from Atlanta.
Chattooga Belle Farm — Long Creek, SC
Just a two-hour drive to the state line, this South Carolina farm includes multiple varieties of apples to pick in its orchard, along with pears, figs, and muscadines. During the summer months, Chattooga Belle Farms also offers berries and peaches for picking. Stick around the farm for lunch on expansive patio at the farm restaurant with sweeping views of the orchards and mountains beyond it. Afterwards, drive around the corner to the micro-distillery for brandy, gin, whiskey, and vodka made from the farm’s muscadines and apples. A tasting flight here features all of the distillery’s products and often comes with plenty of stories from the distiller himself. Head out to the covered porch or the fire pit to enjoy. Make sure to pop over to the field next door to check out the farm’s llamas and Boer goats, too. Email Shop@ChattoogaBelleFarm.com or call 864-647-9768 to have products from the farm shipped. Follow on Facebook for updates.
Bryson’s Apple Orchard — Mountain Rest, SC
Located three miles from the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River and two hours northeast of Atlanta, Bryson’s Apple Orchard usually offers U-pick and WE-pick options. However, due to a hard freeze earlier this spring, the orchard is only selling apples salvaged from its trees this fall. Open daily, the orchard store also sells hand-pressed ciders, jellies, jams, honey from the farm’s beehives, and sorghum syrup. Bryson’s and the surrounding area feature South Carolina’s largest concentration of waterfalls and hiking trails, too. Follow Bryson’s Apple Orchard on Facebook for updates.
Hillside Orchard Farm — Lakemont, GA
This northeast Georgia farm, just over an hour north of Atlanta, features apple picking, a farm bakery, and playgrounds and games for the kids. There’s even a farm train ride on the weekends and a corn maize. Adventurous kids will also enjoy stopping by the gem mine and hanging out with Miner Jim and Donkey or jumping onto a classic farm hayride. Hillside Orchard includes a full farmstead store with locally made jams, jellies, vinegars, and sauces. Sadly, Hillside also experienced a hard freeze this spring and isn’t offering U-pick this fall. However, people can still purchase apples salvaged from some of the orchard’s trees at the farm stand. Follow on Facebook. Order sauces, marinades, preserves, and vinegars online for shipping.
Mercier Orchards — Blue Ridge, GA
A little under two hours from Atlanta, Mercier Orchards might be north Georgia’s most famous (and most popular) apple farm to visit in the fall. But, the Blue Ridge institution isn’t offering U-pick again this year due to a hard freeze in April. However, people can still stroll through the orchards on weekends for photo ops and purchase bushels of apples from Mercier’s commercial orchards in the market. Call ahead to order apples, bakery items from the orchard store (don’t skip the hand pies or apple cider doughnuts here,) and hard cider. Grab lunch in the cafe there or head into the town of Blue Ridge for lunch or dinner, too. Open daily at 9 a.m.
B.J. Reece Orchards — Ellijay, GA
Less than two hours from Atlanta, the apples at Reece Family Orchards are crisp and ready for picking. With over 20 different varieties ripening during September and October, there will always be something worth picking at this Ellijay apple orchard. Like so many orchards in north Georgia and South Carolina this year, a hard freeze in April affected the apple crop on the farm. However, Reece Family Orchards is still offering some limited U-pick options. People should check the website weekly to see what’s available. Regardless of the U-pick situation this year, weekend trips to the farm include activities like milking cows, a petting zoo, shooting apples from an apple cannon, and even pig races. The farm takes phone orders for cider and bakery items, too. Open daily at 9 a.m. Check the U-pick calendar here.
Hillcrest Orchards and Farms — Ellijay, GA
Hillcrest Orchards, just two hours north of Atlanta, offers pre-sized bags for purchase to fill with apples from the orchards. Visit on the weekend to take part in the Apple Pickin’ Jubilee, which features U-pick, an apple tree maze, wagon rides, giant slides, mini golf, and duck racing. Try milking a cow or watch the pig races for some extra down-home fun at this farm. There’s a petting zoo, too. Visit the farm market and bakery to purchase bushels of apples, fresh apple cider, local honey and jams, and apple pies and fritters. Follow on Facebook for updates.
Red Apple Barn — Ellijay, GA
This weekend-only farm in Ellijay offers U-pick apples and flowers throughout the fall and pumpkins of all sizes in late-September and October. It’s an easy two-hour drive from Atlanta. A $9.50 admission fee grants access to a tractor ride to the orchard, flowers, a cup of apple cider and a doughnut, and plenty of farm games. U-pick apples are limited this year due a hard freeze in April, so the farm is only allowing picking a half-peck of apples per admission. Check out the apple harvesting schedule here and pumpkin patch information here. Follow on Facebook for updates.