A Guide to Apple Picking in the North Georgia Mountains

Take a day trip to these apple farms and orchards this fall just a short drive from Atlanta

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 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.

This year apple picking might look a little different due to the ongoing heath crisis, as people don masks and keep their distance from others in the orchards. While picking apples is generally considered a safe outdoor activity during the pandemic, farms across the region have put measures in place to keep U-pick patrons secure in the orchards and inside markets and farm stores.

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 a socially distanced lunch on the patio at the farm restaurant. Afterwards, drive around the corner to the micro-distillery for brandy, gin, whiskey, and vodka made from the farm’s muscadines and apples. A $7 tasting flight features all of the distillery’s products and often comes with plenty of stories. 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 offers U-pick and WE-pick options. Open daily, Bryson’s is a no-frills picking experience, but the surrounding area features South Carolina’s largest concentration of waterfalls and hiking trails. The orchard store sells hand-pressed ciders, jellies, jams, honey from the farm’s beehives, and sorghum syrup. Check out the farm’s apple picking schedule here. 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. 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. Check Facebook for apples available for picking each week. 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 this year due to COVID-19 concerns. Instead, the orchard offers We-pick services, where fruit is picked by employees for customers. 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. Can’t make it north to Blue Ridge this year? Mercier just launched an online store with flat-rate shipping. Open daily at 9 a.m. Masks are required inside the store. Curbside pick-up available. Learn more about the orchard’s COVID-19 policies here.

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. Weekend trips to the farm include activities like milking cows, a petting zoo, shooting apples from an apple cannon, and even pig races, all of which are outdoors and socially distanced. The farm takes phone orders for cider and bakery items, too. Open daily at 9 a.m. Check the U-pick calendar here. Masks are required inside all buildings and indoor spaces. Read more about the orchard’s COVID-19 policies 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 ($14 per person,) 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. Masks are required indoors and when milking cows. Social distancing is enforced outdoors. 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 October. It’s an easy two-hour drive from Atlanta. A $9 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 available by the peck and half-peck. Most of Red Apple Barn’s attractions are outdoors, and the farm market is open-air. The farm has spread out the picnic tables and rounded prices on items in the market to the nearest dollar to avoid having to give out change. Check out the harvesting schedule here. Follow on Facebook for updates. Masks required on wagon rides and when social distancing can’t be maintained. Read more about Red Apple Barn’s COVID-19 policies here.

A hand holding a bright red apple still on a branch of a tree