Welcome to fall in Georgia, the perfect time to squeeze in a trip to the North Georgia Mountains, the heart of Georgia’s apple country. Here’s your guide to apple farms in Georgia to create the perfect fall adventure! Apples were introduced into the local economy by John W. Clayton in 1903 where the cool mountain air produces tart, crispy apples in dozens of varieties. Generations later, family farm stands and orchard houses dot the roadsides.
As a young family, we began annual “apple runs” over 20 years ago and it continued as we became empty nesters. With the city of Ellijay only a few hours away, if traffic cooperates, you can make the trip in a day. However, I guarantee you will want to spend at least a weekend exploring all the area has to offer. Here are my favorite stops and tips for a successful adventure:
Leave behind the traffic and stress of the city and head north on I-575. Continue until the interstates end for a straight shot into the Blue Ridge Mountains. These mountains live up to their name with beautiful hazy blue vista views. The first apples houses can be spotted on 515 between Jasper and Ellijay. Grab a few apples and then continue north.
Poole’s Bar-B-Q, home to the Pig Hill of Fame is a roadside landmark featuring over 3000 plywood pig cut outs placed on the hillside in the shape of a large pig. The barbecue is classic Georgia style.
Historic Ellijay was founded in the 1850’s when cooler temperatures in the higher elevations were a draw during the hot months. Today, you can shop antique and gift shops in the original storefronts. Grab a gourmet sandwich and a bowl of homemade Tomato Basil soup at Cantaberry on Main.
The Ellijay Lions Club Fairground is host to the 45th annual Georgia Apple Festival on the second and third weekends in October. It features a parade, antique car show and more than 300 vendors selling homemade and hand crafted items.
Take Highway 52, also known as “Apple Orchard Alley,” out of Ellijay. Don’t miss the beautiful Cartecay River as it curves on your right on the way out of town. The rolling hills and pastureland are a beautiful drive any time of the year. The majority of the county’s apple houses are along a 10-mile stretch of this highway. Each house is a little different but all offer a variety of apples, picked and u-pick, along with jams, salsas, hand pies and baked goods.
Cartecay Vineyards is located on Clear Creek Road off Hwy 52. The vineyard, on a farm dating back to 1890, grows 13 acres of vines. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy live music on the Chimney Patio, featuring the 1890 circa chimney.
Family owned Hillcrest Orchards, founded in 1946, is currently training the fourth generation to work at this major agritourism destination. The 21st annual Apple Pickin’ Jubilee, a u-pick apple festival opens there Sept. 10. Activities include pig races, petting farm, wagon rides and more. This year they debut the only apple maze in the southeast. Hundreds of apple trees have been planted using the french espalier system to form apple tree walls and a maze of paths similar to the popular corn mazes. The maze, for all ages, includes games, puzzles and plenty of cute selfie stations.
Enjoy the scenery as you continue along Highway 52 to Amicalola Falls and Burts Farm and Pumpkin Patch in Dawsonville. Burts is a field of orange pumpkins of all sizes and colors. Take a hayride that meanders for 2 miles through the mountain farm, pumpkin patch and fields of flowers. Less than a mile away is Amicalola Falls. The 729-foot fall is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. Hike the total 604 stairsteps or ride to the top for beautiful views.
Your next stop is Dahlonega. In 1828, this town was the heart of the first major gold rush in the US. Shops and restaurants circle the square that features the old courthouse which now houses the Dahlonega Gold Museum. The Smith House, open to visitors since 1899, is always a treat featuring country cooking served family style.
At this point you can continue your adventure or head home taking Georgia 400 back to the city. To continue, loop back up to Hwy 515 via Hwy 60 towards Blue Ridge and Mercier’s Orchard. Either way, enjoy your apples and the memories you have created!