A 501(c)3 Non-Profit

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Often during the early months of our season, people ask, "Where are all the apples?" Apples grow and ripen on a fairly strict schedule; however, it's all weather dependent. 2018 was disasterous due to a late freeze. 2019, hot, dry and about 2-3 weeks ahead of schedule. So if you're visiting early in the season (May-late June), don't expect to see crates of apples, or even be able to pick anything just yet. Although we are hoping for a moderate 2020 spring, Mother Nature is a strict and sometimes fickle old lady and doesn't make exceptions. If you aren't certain when your favorite apple will be ready for picking, check out the availability below. If you're still not sure, email us.  We're happy to help you plan your visit!

IN SEASON, apples are available at the store or for U-Pick (a favorite for the kids). Just purchase a bag at the store and you're on your way. (We supply picking poles so you can reach the ones in the higher branches.) The available apple trees are marked. Take a walk on the trails, find a tree or two, and please, give them a taste before you choose. 

PECK: $10 ~ HALF PECK: $6

(peck approximately 8 dry quarts)

Heirloom Apples

The children of some distant day, thus to some aged man shall say, “Who planted this old apple tree?” — William Cullen Bryant

At the Orchard at Altapass, the answer to that question is “The Clinchfield Railroad.” Creighton Lee Calhoun, noted pomologist and author of Old Southern Apples, defines heirloom apples as those varieties that were grown prior to the time when “groceries” became the main source of fruit for most people, which he believes was the late 1920’s. Many of our apple trees were planted by the original owners, making them heirlooms in every sense of the word.

The geography of the Orchard is well suited for apple growing. Located on a southeast-facing slope, it is frost free most of the time. On crisp spring nights when the blossoms are susceptible to frost, cold air slides down the mountain, where it is replaced at the Orchard by warm air. The rising sun likewise helps to protect the young fruit by quickly warming the slope at sunrise. 

The earliest apple to ripen is the Yellow Transparent in June, the latest, York. And in between bushels of the over 25 varieties available. Some of the favorites:

A Word About Our Apples

"Ugly apples" are caused by minimal use of chemicals. We are a 501c3 public charity dedicated to preserving the land and the life that exists on that land, which includes bees and butterflies. We tolerate surface damage to avoid harm to these innocent critters. The flavor of the apples remains if not enhanced by the lack of heavy chemicals. In addition to preserving our Orchard, we are surrounded by 3,000 acres of forest land forever protected from development. We are mindful of a larger responsibility. 

Our Varieties

  • York

    The York has a tart yet sweet taste, and keeps extremely well, becoming sweeter and mellower-tasting over time. It sweetens in flavor for 5–6 months after it is picked. The York Imperial is excellent for baking, cooking, apple sauce, cider, preserves, jams, dried apple slices, and juice, as well as eating fresh. AVAILABLE LATE SEPTEMBER

    In 1820, Quaker nurseryman Jonathan Jessop developed this variety on his Springwood Farm near York, PA, from grafts from John Kline's farm at Hellam, PA.  Jonathan’s Fine Winter was renamed in the early 1850s. Andrew Jackson Downing called it the  Imperial of Keeper due to its excellent storage ability and became better known as the York Imperial.

  • Rambo

    The Rambo has a greenish yellow skin, mottled and striped with a dull red and overspread with a grayish bloom. The fruit is medium-sized on average with a distinctive flavor and aroma. Rated very good to excellent for fresh eating, cooking and baking, jelly, and drying. AVAILABLE EARLY SEPTEMBER

    The origins of the Rambo apple cultivar are unknown. It may date back to the American colony of New Sweden, when in 1637 Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, a Swedish immigrant, arrived on the Kalmar Nyckel, supposedly carrying apple seeds in a box.

  • Jonagold

    Jonagold has a green-yellow basic color with crimson, brindled covering color. The apple has a fluffily crisp fruit. It is juicy and aromatic and has a sweet-sour taste. AVAILABLE LATE AUGUST–EARLY SEPTEMBER

    Jonagold is a cultivar of apple which was developed in 1953 in New York State Agricultural Experiment Station of Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a cross between the crisp Golden Delicious and the blush-crimson Jonathan

  • Stayman Winesap

    Cooks and cider pick our Staymans (locally called Stayman-Winesaps). They are also the choice of people who like hard, crisp, medium tart eating apples. AVAILABLE IN SEPTEMBER

    Dr. J. Stayman planted seeds of Winesap at Leavenworth, KS, in 1866. When the seedling trees were 2-years old, the best dozen young trees were moved near his house. The tree now called Stayman bore its first fruit in 1875. Stayman sent out scions of the most promising of these seedlings to nurserymen in various states for further testing. One variety was so superior that it eventually became known as Stayman’s Winesap. The original tree in Leavenworth was destroyed in a storm in 1899.


  • McIntosh

    McIntosh apples can vary in color from whitish yellow to greenish blushed with red. It is a crisp, juicy, aromatic variety. AVAILABLE IN LATE AUGUST 

    In 1796, 19-year-old John McIntosh had a disagreement with his parents over a love affair and emigrated from NY to Dundas County, Ontario, Canada. Finding some seedling apple trees on overgrown land, McIntosh moved them near his house. By 1820, one of these bore excellent apples. McIntosh learned how to graft about 1835, and began selling grafted trees, locally known as McIntosh Red. Around 1900, McIntosh became popular in the northern US. The original tree was badly damaged when the house burned in 1894. It finally blew down in 1910.


  • Golden Delicious

    Our Goldens have a red blush! This is because they are not picked before they are ripe and ready, making them crisp, sweet, and pungent—unlike most of those found in grocery stores. They are great for snacking, and very fine for pies, cobblers and baked apples. Golden Delicious hold their shape well when cooked. AVAILABLE MID-SEPTEMBER—MID-OCTOBER

    The original tree was found on the Mullins' family farm in Clay County, WV and locally known as
    Mullin's Yellow Seedling and Annit apple. Anderson Mullins sold the tree and propagation rights to Stark Brothers Nurseries for $5000, which first marketed it as a companion of their Red Delicious in 1914.

  • Grimes Golden

    People visit from miles away to pick this parent apple of the Golden Delicious. It’s sweet, delicate flavor is prized for eating, cider, and jelly. It makes particularly fine apple butter. AVAILABLE EARLY SEPTEMBER

    About 1790, Edward Cranford planted apple seeds on his farm in VA. In 1802, he sold his farm to Thomas P. Grimes who found one of the seedling trees producing fruit of a golden color, fine quality, and good keeping ability. Grimes sold fruit from this tree to traders who took flat boats to New Orleans. Despite its excellence, for half a century Grimes Golden was little known outside of its local area. It was not until it was highly praised in the The American Agriculturist magazine in 1866 that it became widely popular.

  • Gala

    Gala is a cross between Kidd's Orange Red and Golden Delicious.  A high quality apple with the potential to deliver really good flavor—punchy sweet flavor, described almost pear-like. Keeps well in storage. AVAILABLE LATE AUGUST–SEPTEMBER

    Gala tree was one of many seedlings resulting from a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Kidd's Orange Red that was planted in New Zealand in the 1930s by orchardist J.H. Kidd. Donald W. McKenzie, an employee of Stark Bros Nursery, obtained a US plant patent for the cultivar on October 15, 1974. 


  • Virginia Beauty

    Locally this is the favorite! With a tender fruit, a very heady apple taste, and aroma that deepens after it is picked and wrapped in newspapers for several weeks. Its color is wine with gold russeting at the stem. Locals make milkshakes from very ripe Virginia Beauties. It is also good for cobblers, pan-fried apples, and extra-sweet eating. AVAILABLE LATE SEPTEMBER

    Virginia Beauty is a good example of an apple grown for many years in a local area before its qualities were widely recognized. The original tree grew from a seed planted about 1810 in Zach Safewright’s yard within the Piper’s Gap District of Carroll County, VA. This original tree began bearing apples about 1826. Martin Stoneman, who did grafting for local people, took scions from the tree and grafted it throughout surrounding counties. It was first called Zach or Zach Red, but about 1850, Stoneman began calling it Virginia Beauty. The original tree stood until 1914.

  • King Luscious

    The largest apple we grow (it’s huge) is very juicy and sweet – fine for eating and for light cooking. AVAILABLE EARLY OCTOBER

    According to Vintage Virginia Apples (and others), King Luscious was found growing in North Carolina in 1935. Many other sources say it is a cross between Stayman and Wolf River;s ome say "is presumed to be," which is more accurate for a foundling absent DNA testing.


  • Ginger Gold

    The flavor is fairly mild, and a bit sharper than Golden Delicious but still sweet for an early variety.  It is equally good for eating fresh or processing. Reflecting a Golden Delicious parentage, it is a good keeper and will last several weeks in the fridge. Ginger Gold is generally considered one of the best early-season apples. AVAILABLE EARLY JULY

    Ginger Gold was discovered as a chance seedling growing near a Golden Delicious orchard in Virginia in the 1960s.  The color, shape, and distinctive long stalk all identify it as a relation of Golden Delicious, yet it has a much earlier season.  


  • Red Blaze

    We like to call the Early Blaze an “early Jonathan”. This summer apple is a cross between Jonathan and Grimes Golden, these semi-tart apples are crisp with just the right mixture of sweetness and zip for fresh off the tree eating. Smooth striped skin is cherry red and very attractive. It is an early apple, as its name implies, and is said to make the very best pies. AVAILABLE IN LATE JULY

    Probably originated in Mercer, Maine, before 1900.  


1025 Orchard Road

Spruce Pine, NC 28777

Blue Ridge Parkway
(mile marker 328.3)

P.O. Box 245
Little Switzerland, NC 28749


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