Apple season is upon us: Pick-your-own orchards within 2 hours of Charlotte

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This article was first published August 28, 2015 and has since been updated.

I love fall as much as the next boot-wearing, hot latte-sipping fangirl, but let’s get to it when we get to it. By December we’ll be crying out for summer’s sweaty embrace and yet here we are in August listening to clever marketing messages that tell us it’s time to wrap up in our chunky sweaters and drink our pumpkin lattes instead of listening to our trusty meteorologists who tell us it’s definitely still 90 degrees out there.

What I’m saying is I am anti-fall until the true last day of summer, which this year falls on September 22. But there is one exception to this seasonal rule: apples. And the season has already opened.

apple doughnut

Maybe it’s for the fresh-off-the-branch apples. Maybe it’s for the hot-out-of-the-fryer apple doughnuts. Either way, it’s a Levans family tradition toward which I now gladly rush unseasonably early.

Because I grew up in northern Illinois where the temperatures start to drop considerably by September, I tend to miss apple season here in North Carolina because I’m quite literally waiting for the weather to chill out. I hold out through the end of summer and then through most of fall for a crisp, cool, grey, apple-worthy day only to find that by that time most of the harvests have been picked clean.

Lest I miss my favorite fall activity again, I’ve preemptively pulled together a list of where to pick apples near Charlotte and when they’re available. A lot of them are earlier than you might think. In fact, several orchards are already open.

Sky Top Orchard

If you wait until October for cooler weather (as I routinely do), you will miss most of the apples. So hurry up. It’s fall… sort of.

Apple orchards within 2 hours of Charlotte

NOTE: Many orchards are cash only. Apple availability updated as of August 11, 2017. Call ahead to confirm availability.

Sky Top Orchard

  • Location: Flat Rock, NC
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2-hour drive
  • 2017 season opening: August 9
  • Picking Schedule: Click here
  • Currently available: Early Mac, Gala, Ginger Gold
  • Available soon: Check the ripening schedule
  • Apple cider doughnuts? YES

Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill

  • Location: York, SC
  • Distance from Charlotte: < 1 hour-drive
  • 2017 season opening: U-pick season opening estimated early September (they’re predicting very limited 2017 season); Hard Cider Bar opens August 18; Farm Stand opens August 24
  • Picking Schedule: Click here
  • Apple cider doughnuts? YES (they also serve hard cider)

Windy Hill Orchard

Carrigan Farms

  • Location: Mooresville, NC
  • Distance from Charlotte: 45-minute drive
  • 2017 season opening: September
  • Picking schedule: Click here
  • Apple cider doughnuts? No

Apple Hill Orchard

  • Location: Morganton, NC
  • Distance from Charlotte: 1.5-hour drive
  • 2017 season opening: August 11
  • Picking Schedule: Click here
  • Currently available: Gala, Arlet
  • Coming soon: Honeycrisp (August 19); see full harvest calendar
  • Apple cider doughnuts? YES

Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard

  • Location: Hendersonville, NC
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2-hour drive
  • 2017 season opening: August 15
  • Picking Schedule: Click here 
  • Currently available: Ginger Gold, Gala
  • Coming soon: Check the ripening schedule
  • Apple cider doughnuts? YES

Blueberry Thrill Farm

  • Location: Gibsonville, NC
  • Distance from Charlotte: 1 hour and 45 minutes
  • 2017 season opening: opened in July
  • Picking Schedule: Click here
  • Currently available: Buckeye Gala, Stark Grand Gala, Ultima Gala, Summer Banana
  • Coming soon: Check the ripening schedule
  • Apple cider doughnuts? No

The Orchard at Altapass

  • Location: Spruce Pine, NC
  • Distance from Charlotte: 2 hours
  • 2017 season opening: opened in May
  • Picking Schedule: Click here 
  • Currently available: There are more than 40 apple varieties at the orchard; see more info
  • Coming soon: Check the ripening schedule
  • Apple cider doughnuts? No

Header photo of Skytop Orchard via Instagram

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Katie Levans Loveluck
| @katie_levans |
Co-Founder and Creative Director