Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Waterfalls and Apple Picking

Fall is around the corner and apple-picking season is here. Harvest periods for different varieties will be staggered through the end of October, but it's not too early to grab a basket and a wagon and head out to an orchard now. Charlotte offers a number of options close to town, but consider making an adventurous day of it.

Here's how:

Start with a hike at South Mountains State Park, a little under an hour and a half west of Charlotte and less than 20 minutes away from the Apple Hill Orchard and Cider Mill in Morganton, NC.

I recommend the 2.7-mile-long High Shoals Falls Loop trail, which starts in the Jacob Fork parking area. The trailhead is in the last parking lot you come to when you use the Jacob Fork entrance to the park.

The High Shoals Fall Loop trail is rocky and super steep in areas, which makes it both challenging and exciting. But it is definitely worth the climb as the trail traverses the Jacob Fork River and swings by the High Shoals Waterfall for an up-close viewing. Follow the blue circle blazes. (See park map)

On the way up, you'll climb natural and man-made steps, bordered by railings in the more treacherous areas. The back stretch on the way down is wide, gravel surface, still steep in areas, but less technically challenging. In the quiet of the morning, we spotted a handful along the pathway.

You'll find water, bathroom facilities and shaded picnic tables at the South Mountains State Park parking area. You can also easily access the Jacob Fork River there for rock-hopping and exploring.

When you've finished your  hike, jump in the car for a short drive to the apple orchard. Apple Hill Orchard is headquartered in a classic red barn with a country store. The rows of apples are easily accessible and the folks running the orchard are friendly and very helpful. There's plenty of parking and clean restrooms at the orchard.

And, bonus: Apple donuts and cider slushies! A lovely way to end a day of fresh air and fall fun.

How to get there:
The Jacob Fork parking area of South Mountains State Park is located at 3001 South Mountain Park Ave., Connelly Springs, NC, 28612. Follow the entrance to the last parking lot you come to to access the High Shoals Falls trailhead.

Apple Hill Orchard and Cider Mill is about 20 minutes away, located at 5205 Appletree Ln., Morganton, NC, 28655. NOTE: The turn from Pleasant Hill Ave. to Appletree Ln. is easy to miss! The road runs through a church parking lot. Keep an eye out for the Apple  Hill Orchard sign that notes the turn.

Don't forget to take:

  • Water: Stay hydrated! You can refill at the facilities at the trailhead parking lot.

  • Snacks: It's a challenging trail; don't run out of steam! Also consider packing a picnic lunch.

  • Backpack or bag: Something lightweight and comfortable to carry your essentials.

  • Bug spray: There are still some mosquitoes hanging around. Plus, ticks are always a threat.

  • Shoes: Comfy sneakers or hiking boots. Or, if you want to get your feet wet in the creeks, consider Keen sandals.

  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: The hiking trail is fairly shady, but he orchard is not.

  • Wagon: The orchard has some, but invites you to bring your own if you don't want to wait for theirs to become available on a busy day.


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