Just as the foliage of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic reveals its more colorful side, so do the region’s orchards bear fruit of similar hues. For many, an October apple-picking trip begins with a hayride and ends with a mug of steaming mulled cider. Why not lace up your boots or hop on your bike and earn those treats with some exercise outdoors? Whether you want a family-friendly pick-your-own experience close to home or an off-the-beaten-path excursion, these eight orchard adventures have you covered.
FOUR SEASONS ADVENTURE TRAIL AND ROWE ORCHARDS
Stretching 29 miles from Dover–Foxcroft to Newport, Maine, this gravel rail trail is open to fall hikers and mountain bikers, as well as horseback and ATV riders. Park at the trailhead on Maine Route 7 in Newport. Take in views of Sebasticook Lake as you follow the trail northeast. For continuous lakeside views, we recommend travelling 3 miles to the northern shores of the lake before turning back. From the trailhead, it’s a 0.3-mile drive or ride north on Route 7 to Rowe’s House of Apples, where you can pick your own Cortlands and McIntoshes for a fee on weekends in September and October.
DISTANCE: 6 miles round trip
INFO: Four Seasons Adventure Trail; Rowe Orchards
Cardigan Mountain offers some of the most spectacular mountain-top views of fall foliage south of the White Mountains, and AMC’s Cardigan Lodge is a convenient basecamp for hiking and apple-picking. Take the Holt Trail from the lodge, then turn onto the Cathedral Forest and Clark trails to reach the Cardigan’s bald summit (2.6 miles). From there, continue onto the Mowglis Trail to reach neighboring Firescrew, another bald peak, then descend via the Manning Trail back to the lodge (5.7 miles total). You can stop at Cardigan Mountain Orchard on your drive into the lodge or head over after your hike—it’s just 2.2 miles down the road. The orchard grows more than 15 apple varieties and remains open for pick-your-own visitors through the end of October.
DISTANCE: 5.6-mile loop
INFO: Cardigan Lodge; Cardigan Mountain Orchard
The largest pick-your-own orchard in New Hampshire, Mack’s is also a destination on Londonderry’s Adams Pond Trail. Park on the dirt farm road between Pillsbury and Mammoth roads and throw on an empty daypack for carrying your apples back. Begin by hiking the 0.6-mile North Orchard Loop. Then head south 0.75 miles toward Adams Pond, crossing four bridges en route, until you reach the 0.8-mile South Orchard Loop. Head southeast toward Adams Road. The path will bring you to Mack’s U-Pick Station 2, where you must purchase a pick-your-own bag before picking. Once you’ve gathered your harvest, continue the loop around the orchard. Retrace your steps to North Orchard Loop and your car.
DISTANCE: 3 miles round trip
INFO: Londonderry Trails (PDF map); Mack’s Apples
This hike is for anyone looking to enjoy the beauty of apple trees without the crowds. Park at the High Ponds Farm trailhead off Vermont Route 58. Take Beaver Pond Trail southwest, past a series of critter lodges. At the fork, take a left on High Meadow Trail. This stretch of the hike curves along a field of wildflowers and apple trees. Enjoy the view of Jay Peak in the distance before continuing on Sunset Ridge Trail, which includes a steep 0.8-mile ascent. At Burnt Mountain’s summit (2,800 feet), enjoy two scenic overlooks surrounded by wild blueberry bushes. Descend via the same route. These trails pass through private land and hikers should refrain from picking the apples.
DISTANCE: 4.8 miles round trip
INFO: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont (AMC Books); Hazen’s Notch Association
Each Christmas in the mid-20th century, the queen of England enjoyed McIntoshes sent to her from Hilltop Orchards. Today this orchard boasts more than just royal reds. To begin your day trip on the property’s hiking and cross-country skiing trails—designed by U.S. Olympic biathlete John Morton—park at the lot on Canaan Road. Pack a bag for apples, pay the $5-per-person trail fee at the farm’s store, and start out on the 2.2-mile Johnny Mash 1 Trail. Stroll through the orchard until you reach Perry’s Peak Trail. Follow the loop back through the orchard, stopping to pick apples on your return to the trailhead. Be sure to pay for your bushel or peck before returning to your car. Hilltop also offers a guided full moon hike and bonfire each month.
DISTANCE: 2.2-mile loop
INFO: Hilltop Orchards
INDIAN CREEK FARM AND TAUGHANNOCK FALLS
Located 3.5 miles outside of downtown Ithaca, Indian Creek Farm has a variety of pick-your-own fruits and vegetables available throughout the fall. After a morning of plucking apples off branches at the farm, drive 6.6 miles to Taughannock Falls State Park. A highlight of the surrounding Finger Lakes Region, Taughannock Falls drops 215 feet—48 feet more than Niagara Falls. To view the falls from below, take Gorge Trail, 1.5 miles round trip. Avoid slippery conditions by staying on the marked path. To view the falls from above, begin the Rim Trail loop at the South Rim trailhead. This trail meets North Rim Trail at 1.1 miles. Continue northeast 1.5 miles to the North Rim trailhead. Walk 0.5 miles southeast on New York Route 89 to complete a loop to the parking lot.
DISTANCE: 1.5 miles round trip or 2.6-mile loop
INFO: Indian Creek Farm; Taughannock Falls State Park
LEHIGH GAP AND EMERALD CIDER MILL
Now home to a variety of wildlife, including osprey and bald eagles, Lehigh Gap Nature Center spent 82 years as a zinc-smelting site, from 1898 to 1980. Thanks to ongoing environmental restoration, it has developed into a hiking haven. Park at Osprey House off of Paint Mill Road. At the north end of the Osprey House road loop, the 2.75-mile Lehigh & New England (LNE) trail begins with a steep climb. At the top, enjoy views of the Lehigh River as the trail levels out on an old rail bed reclaimed by the wild. (LNE is also open to mountain biking and horseback riding.) Retrace your steps to your car then head 4.7 miles to nearby Emerald Cider Mill and Fritchey Farms, where you can pick your own apples and pumpkins for a fee. The farm also uses up to eight different varieties of apples in each batch of cider they make, and early in the season you can purchase cider made from both apples and pears.
DISTANCE: 5.5 miles round trip
INFO: Lehigh Gap Nature Center; Emerald Cider Mill
Catoctin Mountain Park is best known for housing Camp David within its boundaries. Although the historic presidential retreat is not open to the public, hikers can still enjoy the natural beauty that first attracted Franklin Roosevelt in 1942. Before your hike, swing by Catoctin Mountain Orchard, 5.1 miles to the northeast, to pick and purchase a bushel of Crimson Crisps or September Wonders. Once you’re stocked up, drive to the Catoctin Mountain Park Visitor Center on Park Central Road. Load some of your harvest into your daypack and begin on Cunningham Falls Nature Trail. Hike west 1.4 miles to Maryland’s largest cascading waterfall, 78-foot Cunningham Falls. Then follow the yellow-blazed Cunningham Falls/Hog Rock/Blue Ridge Summit Loop trail northeast uphill 1 mile over steep terrain to Hog Rock Vista. Continue 0.7 mile to Blue Ridge Summit Vista, where you can pause to enjoy your snack. Descend the eastern side of the mountain, following the yellow blazes to return to the visitor center. Call ahead to confirm the orchard will be open on the day you plan to visit.
DISTANCE: 5 miles
INFO: Catoctin Mountain Park; Catoctin Mountain Orchard