When the leaves turn and the crisp Fall air has finally arrived, what else comes to mind but the perfect caramel apple? Lucky for Atlantans, with the proximity of the Appalachian Mountains, you don’t have to travel far to pick your own fresh apples for all your harvest treats.
The town of Ellijay, in particular, proves to be a haven of fresh pick-your-own apples with a handful of orchards open to the public. Check out these three tried-and-true Ellijay orchard options:
- Red Apple Barn is a family farm that will take you on a trailer all the way from their apple barn to their orchards, where you can pick from a variety of apples to take home with you. Apples range from $4 for a quarter peck and $6 for a half peck to $11 for a peck, and for an additional $5 you can receive a tractor ride and tour of the farm. Red Apple Barn has 19 varieties of apples, including classic favorites such as Red Delicious, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp, as well as less familiar breeds like Rome Beauty and September Wonder. They even have a helpful taste guide to point you in the right direction when you go picking.
- Hillcrest Orchards offers visitors U-pick apples during the months of September and October– they even have trees small enough for children to pick from. Plus, they have plenty of family-friendly activities such as cow milking, a petting zoo, and a farmhouse museum. Hillcrest has 7 varieties of apple to choose from when picking - and plenty more in their market.
- B. J. Reece is a family farm with nearly 15 types of apples available, plus an on-site apple guide to aid you in choosing the best ones, as well as a calendar to know when they will be available for picking. In addition to the U-pick availability, Reece has a bakery and a collection of activities for children and families.
Ellijay is only an 80-minute drive from Atlanta, meaning it's perfect for a nice day excursion to the mountains. In addition to apples, most orchards also offer delis, bakeries, and shops with other berries and homegrown products on offer. Make a day of it and bring your own picnic basket, stock up on snacks at their stores and set up your blanket in the orchard. Word to the wise: also pack beverages to stay hydrated and sunscreen (even in October). You can use your picnic basket to store the apples you pick later.
Ellijay also makes a great place for a weekend getaway. There are plenty of inexpensive hotels to choose from, but to get the most out of your trip to the North Georgia mountains, we recommend taking advantage of all of the rentable cabins and small bed and breakfasts that can give you the best view of the Appalachians.
Ellijay is not the only option for apple picking in north Georgia. Mercier Orchards, a family owned and operated establishment in beautiful Blue Ridge, offers U-pick apples, its own market and hard cider and wine (that they grow, ferment and bottle on site). Between their market and U-pick season, Mercier has over 35 apple varieties grown at the orchard, and it's only an hour and a half from Atlanta.
Edited by Savanna Sturkie.