Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Travel

Lessons Learned at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard

Growing up in Florida, I have seen plenty of orange groves and peanut fields, but I was nearly 30 before I ever laid eyes on an apple tree. I added ‘pick our own apples’ to our Fort Bragg Bucket List and couldn’t wait for our first fall in North Carolina and our chance to pick apples.

However, I had a LOT to learn about apple orchards before I could even get close to one. Here’s what I learned on our trip to Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard.

Scarecrows in the barn at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard.

Apples NEED the Cold

Thanks to a quick Google search, I knew that North Carolina was one of the top 10 apple producers in America. However, I {wrongly} assumed that you could find them anywhere in the state.

However, apple trees require hundreds of hours of cold weather to produce fruit. Thus, apples orchards are mostly located in colder climates. In North Carolina, that means that most of the apple orchards are located in the mountains. And that’s a 4-5 hour drive from Fort Bragg.

Girls walking through apple orchard in Asheville, North Carolina.

I found a few pick-your-own-apple orchards near Fort Bragg. However, by the time I found them (late October), their growing season and harvest was already over.

Apple orchards in warmer climates (like here in the Sandhills of NC) have earlier harvests than those in cooler areas. So, we missed out on apple picking in our first fall at Fort Bragg.

Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard is FUN!

The next fall, I was completely prepared for an apple picking adventure. I planned a camping trip to Asheville in mid-October and found the perfect pick-your-own orchard.

Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard in Hendersonville was more apple-pickin’ fun than we could have ever imagined! We shot an apple cannon, went on a wagon ride, found our way out of a corn maze, and the kids played on the playground. All before we even picked apples!

On the wagon ride at Stepp's Apple Orchard.

Apple Goodies are Delicious

All of that playing and fun worked us up an appetite. Thankfully, Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard has an apple market full of delicious goodies.

The girls loved their apple slushies and helped us pick out a big jar of apple butter from the market before running off to play again. My husband and I enjoyed hot apple cider, apple doughnuts, and the beautiful views from the picnic tables.

The beautiful views at Stepp's Apple Orchard in Asheville, NC.

Apple-Pickin’ Makes You Tired

Even though we had done all of these fun activities, we still hadn’t accomplished what we came for – which was to pick our own apples. We set off into the orchard to gather a basket full.

Tired before we ever started, we didn’t let that stop us from picking plenty of apples! [Pro Tip: Wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be doing lots of walking.] We picked a half-peck of Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples.

Girls with a basket full of apples.

The Trees are Short & the Fruit is HUGE!

I was surprised by how short the apple trees were. I was expecting to have to help the kids reach the apples, but they were able to pretty much fill the basket on their own.

The apples that we picked at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard were THE BIGGEST apples I have ever seen. Every 5 seconds the kids were yelling for me to look at the ‘biggest’ one, only to tell me again in 5 seconds that they found the ‘new biggest one’. These apples dwarf the ones that you buy in the store!

The apples at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard are HUGE!

Needless to say, we loved picking apples! Our visit to Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard was the highlight of our camping trip. We look forward to many more apple pickin’ adventures in the future.

Lessons Learned at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard | Finding Mandee
Apple pickin' at Stepp's Hillcrest Orchard in North Carolina | Finding Mandee
Fort Bragg Bucket List #129: Pick Our Own Apples

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