In addition to offering sensory pick-your-own fun, some orchards along the Blue Ridge Fruit Loop make and sell freshly pressed cider and other tasty jam and jelly fruit products. It’s a great reason for a getaway to the Virginia mountains. Begin at the visitor center in Lovingston by picking up a card to have stamped at each orchard.
After getting the lay of the land, set out for the most delectable fresh fruit in the region. Since you’re traveling a loop, it doesn’t matter where you begin or end. The first three orchards closest to the visitor center are in a southerly direction.
Silver Creek Orchards raises about 25 varieties of apples, as well as wine grapes. While not generally open to the public, families are invited on two fall weekends: Saturday, Sept. 10, 9:00am–4:00pm, and Sunday, Sept. 11, 11:00am–4:00pm, for Red and Gold Delicious, Virginia Gold, Mutzu, Jonagold, and Empire, and Saturday, Oct. 8, 9:00am–4:00pm and Sunday, Oct. 9, 11:00am–4:00pm, for Rome, York, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Arkansas Black.
Seamans’ Orchard, Roseland
With scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Seamans’ Orchard is a fourth-generation farm featuring pick-your-own strawberries and cherries in spring, blueberries in the summer, and apples on only Saturday, Sept. 17, 7:00am–4:00pm, and Sunday, Sept. 18, 11:00am–4:00pm for Red and Gold Delicious, Empire, and Jonagold. Half-bushel and bushel sales only; containers provided.
Drumheller’s Orchard, Lovingston
Drumheller’s Orchard is now run by fifth-generation family members and holds festival weekends Sept. 24–25 and Oct. 15–16. The festivals include hayrides, a pumpkin patch and corn maze, two apple sling shots, craft and food vendors, live music, fresh cider, and apple pies and cakes.
Country ham, side meat, and other goodies are also sold at the event Drumheller’s Farm Market sells peaches, apples, and vegetables through November, as well as ciders, jams, relishes, and salsas.
Continuing west and slightly north on the loop, you come to the next seven stops in Nelson County. But, before you go north, consider crossing into Amherst County and visiting Morris Orchard.
Morris Orchard, Monroe
Morris grows apples, peaches, nectarines, blueberries, and blackberries and presses apple cider. A Virginia Century Farm, it also operates a vacation rental house on site.
Back in Nelson County, take in the rest of the taste sensation. To sustain your picking energy for the next seven orchards, choose a place to overnight. Lodging options range from camping cabins, country inns, and bed and breakfasts to the four-season Wintergreen Resort.
Saunders Brothers, Piney River
What began as a partnership among five brothers in 1915 is now a nursery and orchard operation run by the third generation of brothers. Tree-ripened peaches are available here until late September and Saunders fills demand for specialty apple varieties like Gala from New Zealand, Fuji from Japan, and Pink Lady from Australia.
Dickie Brothers Orchard, Roseland
The Dickie Brothers Orchard story dates to the mid-1700s when King George dedicated tracts of land to the current owners’ ancestor, James Dickie. Dickie paid 95 shillings for the tracts in the 1700s. The family proudly says they’ve been farming the land for 264 years. This is the eighth generation to help on the farm, which grows 20 different varieties of apples as well as peaches, nectarines, plums, blackberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and beef cattle.
Apple butter-making festivals attract leaf peepers Oct. 1, 15, and 29, 10:00am–4:30pm. Pumpkins are ripe for picking in October, too. Apple festivals feature live music, kids’ games, pick-your-own pumpkins, food, crafters, a corn maze, apple butter making, and apple tasting.
Fitzgerald’s Orchard, Tyro
Bushel sales only during apple season. Varieties include Red and Gold Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Rome, Pink Lady, and Fuji. Open Monday through Friday, 8:30am–4:30pm. Closed for lunch, noon–1:00pm.
Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, Nellysford
“True to the fruit” wines are made here from blueberries, blackberries, plums, apples, peaches, and elderberries, but unique to Hill Top in the region is the authentic honey mead it makes by fermenting honey. Fruits are mixed with honey in some of the mead varieties.
Blue Ridge Fruit Co., Afton
This weekend fruit stand on Route 151 in Afton features a variety of seasonal fruits from Dickie Brothers Orchard, plus apple cider in the fall.
Critzer Family Farm, Afton
The Critzers, who came to this area right after the American Revolution, have expanded their fifth-generation offerings of pick-your-own strawberries and blackberries to include seasonal vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. Visitors may also enjoy delicious ice cream made with fruit from the farm.