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America's Best Apple Picking Farms

Sky Top Orchard, Zirconia, North Carolina

Lynn Kauffman

Sky Top Orchard, Zirconia, NC

Sitting squarely atop Mount McAlpine in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sky Top is aptly named—with an elevation of 2,900 feet, it’s one of the highest peaks in the area. From the grounds, you can see the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Pisgah National Forest, 10 miles away.

What to Pick: About 25 different apple varieties are grown at Sky Top. According to orchardist David Butler, the combination of warm days and cool nights on the mountaintop allows the fruit to thrive. Among the best PYO offerings are the Honeycrisp, Gala, and Arkansas Black—a tart and tough-to-grow late-season heirloom.

Most Unusual Offering: The orchard’s stainless-steel cider press is run weekly; cups of fresh cider (cold and mulled) and half-gallons can be purchased on-site.

Bells & Whistles: A barn full of peacocks, turkeys, chickens, sheep, and goats; ponds with ducks and geese—one with a bamboo-forest nature trail around it; and a Plexiglas-enclosed live beehive.

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