The Orchard at Altapass is a great stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway, at Milepost 328.3 (about 55 miles north of Asheville). It's between Mt. Mitchell and Linville Falls.
This 105-year-old apple orchard turned Appalachian Cultural Center celebrates the people, music, art, and natural beauty of the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina. Built by the Clinchfield Railroad in 1908, the Orchard sits right on the Parkway providing some most beautiful scenery around.
While you tap your toes to our authentic mountain music, a talented staff serves up fabulous ice cream and famous Orchard fudge, made fresh by Miss Charlotte right in the Orchard shop. Watch the entire lifecycle of Monarch Butterflies at the Butterfly Conservation Center as well as thousands of our busy tree pollinators in the the Orchard beehive.
The Orchard Food Wagon offers delicious sandwiches and snacks every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from noon to 4:30 (and Fridays in October).
Free live music programs are offered every Wednesday through Sunday afternoon, May through September, and weekend afternoons in October. If you're interested in clogging, just ask. Chances are there's someone around who would love to teach you!
Shop 'til you drop or relax on a hayride! After a trip around the dance floor, take a look at the local mountain art, jams, jellies, sauces, sweets, gifts, and more! You're never too old to take an Orchard hayride, where you gaze out at the picture-perfect views while listening to stories that have shaped this area for centuries. Oh, and don't forget the apples!
The Orchard is open May 1 through October 31
Monday, Wednesday-Saturday: 10-6 and Sunday: 12-6.
CLOSED ON TUESDAYS except open everyday on September 15-October 31.
The history of the orchard is long and fascinating. Their trees grow right along the crest of the Blue Ridge, the Eastern Continental Divide. The gap on the east side, McKinney Gap, is the lowest passage through the Blue Ridge for a hundred miles. Two rivers, the North Toe to the north and the North Fork of the Catawba to the south lie close beneath McKinney Gap on either side of the Divide. Geography has determined the history of the Orchard.
On September 29, 1780, the location that is now the orchard saw the passage of the Overmountain Men, coming from settlements in Indian Territory. During the rail building era of the late 1800's, the geography dictated this site would be perfect for a railroad. 1908 saw the completion of the Clinchfield Railroad. The last piece was the Clinchfield loops, consisting of 18 tunnels in 13 miles of track and built beside and below the orchard. It was the 'engineering wonder of the 20th century' when finally done. Four thousand immigrants crowded the slopes below the orchard to build the bed and tunnels. Many died in accidents, fights, murders. The raw lives and deaths of these men added another chapter to the Orchard story.
The name Altapass is a railroad gift. Alta meaning high, and pass noting McKinney Gap were combined by the Railroad to name the community which grew as a resort near the Blue Ridge Tunnel. The community disappeared as quickly when the Clinchfield discontinued passenger service and the the highway went through Gillespie Gap, bypassing McKinney Gap altogether.
When the railroad building was done, the Clinchfield Railroad turned the land it owned above the tracks near the Blue Ridge Tunnel into The Orchard. The land above the Loops was particularly well suited to apple growing, thanks to its geography. Located on a southeast-facing slope, the Orchard is 'frost free' most of the time. State champion apples were grown repeatedly at the Orchard, and at its peak 125,000 bushels of apples a year were packed and shipped out on the Clinchfield.
When the Blue Ridge Parkway chose its path, it too followed the ancient buffalo track and came through the middle of the Orchard, dividing it in half. The momentum for the Orchard was lost, and it began to decline. Neighbors despaired the loss and braced for the expected development of this beautiful place. The wild growth of the trees became a sadness for Parkway travelers who had seen it in better times.
When it was offered for sale in 1994, Kit Trubey bought the land and her brother Bill Carson with his wife Judy started the preservation of the place, including its apples and its memories. The half of the Orchard that lies above the Blue Ridge Parkway has been sold to the Parkway, to assure its perpetual preservation. The remaining land will be protected by conservation easement. The history of the Orchard continues.
Enjoy mountain music and dancing.
Sample Miss Charlotte's fudge - from Miss Charlotte herself.
Shop for books, shirts, and all types of souvenirs.
See flavors of jam and jelly that you have never seen before!
And don't forget the Sweet Potato Butter.
The hayride is a fun way to hear local stories and lore.
Enjoy the views from their back porch.
Pick up a variety of apples in late summer through Fall.