Perched on the crest of the Blue Ridge atop the Eastern Continental Divide, the Orchard at Altapass occupies a unique spot in both America’s landscape and history. The Orchard has been a vital travel route since the earliest settlers began exploring these mountains. Buffalo and elk traversed here, followed by the Cherokee and eventually European settlers.
Early settlers defied British attempts to make peace with the Indians by disallowing settlement to the west of the mountains. Their resentment of British rule culminated when they formed the Overmountain Men during the Revolutionary War, marching to King’s Mountain and handing the British a stinging defeat recognized as a turning point of the conflict.
America’s industrialization came to the area in the 1890s. The Orchard’s location on the lowest pass through the Blue Ridge in the surrounding 100 miles ensured that the nation’s railroad barons would find it.
In 1908 the Clinchfield Railroad opened, complete with an engineering marvel: the Clinchfield loops, consisting of 18 tunnels in 13 miles of track built beside and below the present-day Orchard.
The arrival of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s was yet another key chapter in the Orchard’s history dictated by geography. Today the Orchard is one of the most popular stops along the Parkway.
In 1995, Bill Carson and his family purchased the Orchard and now operates it today as a non-profit dedicated to preserving local history and lore, heritage apple varieties, and traditional music, and storytelling.
To help preserve local culture the Orchard offers free live music Wednesday through Sunday in May through September, and weekends in October.
Take part in the ever-popular Storytelling Hayride, a 45-minute journey through time, which begins on the old path of the Revolutionary War soldiers called the Overmountain Men. The hayride continues through the orchard, past old and young trees, with spectacular scenery for the entire route. Hayrides are offered every Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to hayrides, the Orchard offers guided storytelling walks and guided nature walks on beautiful trails.
The store and music venue have been completely remodeled and there are now dedicated areas for: kids’ activities, history, butterflies, honey bees, and books. All proceeds from the store help to support the mission of the Altapass Foundation.
Location and Operating Hours
The Orchard is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 328.3, outside the town of Spruce Pine, NC. The Orchard is open 10 AM to 5 PM every day of the week except Tuesdays from May to October. The Orchard is open everyday of the week during the month of October.