I’m a mountain guy. At least once a year (preferably in the fall), I need to make the trip to see the leaves and the ridges and feel the crisp air and fill my soul up. The Orchard at Altapass is by far my favorite place for this.
I took my family up there this past weekend, and if you’ve got some time, you should too. If you’re going to do it this year, it has to be this weekend. The farmhouse/store closes for the year on Sunday (November 1). Plus we’re getting away from peak leaf season at that elevation, so soon the views won’t be as good. The orchard will be back open in early May.
This spot has been an apple orchard since around 1900, and was once much larger than it is today. The Blue Ridge Parkway cut the orchard in two in the 1930s, and the lower half was eventually sold to the Carson-Trubey family in 1995 for preservation. It’s still a working farm where you can pick apples, but the atmosphere is what it’s all about now. Co-founder Bill Carson did a TEDxHickory talk about it a few years back that’s worth a listen.
Take a look around the place. I’ll discuss logistics later.
How to experience Altapass
First, get out of the car and walk around. Soak up the views.
You’re probably hungry, so grab some lunch. I’m not going to lie to you and say that this stuff is gourmet, but it is solid and gets the job done.
Take it out to the back porch and sit at the picnic tables.
Next, head inside to the farmhouse where the store is. Shop for books, jams, jellies, cider, fudge and other country knickknacks. Learn some history while you’re in there, too.
Most every weekend, there will be live music. Bluegrass, folk type stuff. Plenty of room to dance if you’re into that.
You’re now going to walk through the orchard. That’s a given. But decide now whether you’re going to pick apples while you’re out there. It’s the same price to buy a bag versus picking a bag at the store. Then head out on the trail.
That’s a pretty solid few hours right there. If you’ve got some extra time, pay $7 per person for a hayride and hear stories about the history of the area, including some good ones about the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Kings Mountain.
1025 Orchard Road
Spruce Pine, NC 28777
It’s going to take between two and two-and-a-half hours to get there. Be sure to plan your route ahead of time.
The best way is most likey going to be taking I-85 South over to U.S. 321 North to I-40 West over to Marion, and then U.S. 221 North.
Google Maps is probably going to tell you to take Peppers Creek Road at the end of the route. This is a very narrow, unpaved, winding route up the mountain. If you’ve got a truck and like adventure, this is pretty and fun. If you have a Civic, you should probably avoid it.
I’d recommend jumping on N.C. 226 North over to the Blue Ridge Parkway east.
What else can I do there?
The Blue Ridge Parkway is always worth taking a drive on. Spruce Pine is right nearby (about a 15 minute drive), and it has a lovely downtown. A couple places to check out:
The Pizza Shop & Dry County Brewing Co.
Spoon cocktail lounge