Updated: April 2019
Lovely Historic Apple Orchard With Nice Walking Trails
The Historic Orchard at Altapass with its over 3,000 apple trees, some more than a century old, is situated at Milepost 328.3 just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at an elevation of 2,849 feet (868 meters).
Built by the railway in 1908, whose tracks below the orchard are still in use today, the farm also functions as Appalachian Cultural Center, preserving not just the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but also its rich history in art, music, and dance.
You can also browse the red painted store, located in the former packing-house from the 1950s. It offers an array of local and regional products, such as jams, jellies, preserves, syrups, dips, pickles, and relishes as well as crafts, books, and toys.
During the harvest season between September and October, the store also offers freshly picked apples from the orchard.
Buy a bag from the store, grab a picking pole and venture into the orchard and pick your apples from circa 40 different varieties. It is much fun.
The orchard is also a favorite migratory stop for monarch butterflies. Clouds of monarch butterflies pass through in September and October on their way to Mexico.
The orchard also runs its own Monarch Butterfly Preservation Program, which raises butterflies in terrariums and tags them before being released. Some of their tags have been discovered as far away as in Mexico.
The orchard has planted plenty of milkweeds to help the monarch butterfly population grow naturally. The milkweed plant is the only natural larval plant for monarch butterflies.
Several short, easy to moderate trails lead through the orchard delighting hikers and photographers with picturesque views of the mountains and oddly shaped 100-year old apple trees.
There is no admission to walk the trails.
The Clinchfield Railroad
Originally, the South & Western Railroad Company ran a line from Johnston City TN to Spruce Pine NC, where it ended.
Attempting to connect the coal fields in Kentucky with the lower southeastern states through Spartanburg SC, the railroad decided to extend the line south from Spruce Pine NC through the McKinney Gap.
From 1905 to 1908, approximately 4,000 workmen, mainly immigrants from Russia, Germany, and Italy, blasted and hammered their way through the mountains, laying 13 miles (21 km) of railroad tracks and building 18 tunnels. This section was later called The Loops and the McKinney Gap renamed to Altapass, meaning high pass, marking the highest point of the railroad line between the coal region around Elkhorn City KY and Spartanburg SC.
When the line opened in 1908, the railroad was renamed to Carolina, Clinchfield & Ohio Railway.
Besides Marion NC, Altapass became an important stop and featured a resort hotel and golf course, bringing tourists to the area.
Although passenger service was discontinued in the 1910s, the line was heavily used to transport coal, lumber, and minerals to markets in the southern states.
This railroad line is still in use today.
May to August:
Wed. to Sun.: 10am to 5pm.
Mon. to Sun.: 10am to 6pm.
May to October.
Free admission to hike the trails.
Pick Your Own:
Bag: around $10.
Free on-premise parking.
The Historic Orchard at Altapass is family friendly.
Several picnic tables are located to the south of The Gorge View Annex building.
Live music performances are hosted in the Hefner Pavillion on most Saturdays and Sundays.
The Historic Orchard at Altapass offers several short, easy to moderate trails with picturesque mountain views.
Firm running shoes (at a minimum) or hiking boots (best) are recommended. Please use your own discretion.
The store and the Hefner Pavillion are accessible by wheelchair.
Restrooms are available.