Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk is a beautiful place that we think anyone traveling through North Carolina’s mountains should visit. It’s not far from Blowing Rock and definitely worth an afternoon of your time. If you’d like to slow down and relax among animals, beautiful scenery, and friendly people, then we think Apple Hill Farm is right up your alley. But how did this place come to be and why does it hold such a special piece of our hearts?
Apple Hill Farm
Background and Founder Lee Rankin
Lee Rankin founded Apple Hill Farm over fifteen years ago after spending most of her life trying to find the thing many of us search for—our purpose. While walking around the Kentucky State Fair and pushing her then one-year-old son, Rankin came face to face with an alpaca and that’s when everything changed. After reading her story, I knew we were going to instantly connect. Lee’s heartwarming background and passion for these beautiful creatures brought me to tears.
Getting to Apple Hill Farm
The drive up to Apple Hill Farm is a series of winding roads and reminded us that this is what farm life is like. For those traveling from Boone and Blowing Rock, it takes about 30 minutes. If you’re staying in Banner Elk, the drive is just 15 minutes. Our cell phones let us down after a while but thankfully, the GPS in our Toyota RAV4 got us there with no problems. If you don’t have GPS, see below for directions.
Once we arrived at the farm we were welcomed with a hug and a little chitchat. The tour began and we were taken into the barn, where we all shared a little bit about ourselves. Because as our guide wanted everyone to know, once you’re on the farm, you’re family. Our guide was a young man who was also a student at nearby Appalachian State University (App, for short) in Boone. I could tell that he really loved the farm and enjoyed his work there.
Note About Apple Picking
Apparently, there’s some confusion, but just to be clear, there are apple trees on site but NO apple picking allowed. The apples are for the animals, who really seem to run the place.
The Apple Hill Farm Tour
The tour took about an hour and a half and time really flew by while we walked. We saw various parts of the farm, as well as the animals that included guardian donkeys, angora goats, dogs, llamas and yes, alpacas. Also during the tour, we learned about Apple Hill Farm’s fiber production and all the things that can be made from the animals who live there. You can even buy stuff from their shop in person or online!
The Alpacas and Other Animals
Alpacas are very sensitive and gentle creatures and earlier, Lee described her farm as “predator friendly.” That means they don’t use traps to deter predators, but instead count on the balance that already exists in nature to protect the animals. We walked around the farm and learn about the different kinds of animals they have as well as how the animals work together. The dogs protect and herd the sheep while the donkeys cohabitate around the outside of the alpacas to ward off predators.
When to Visit
Apple Hill Farm operates on essentially three seasons (Summer to Early Fall, Christmas Celebration, and Winter). The hours posted below are for the public. Appointments can be made for times when the farm is closed, though dependant on availability.
- Summer to Early Fall runs from May to October and full tours (60 to 90 minutes) run seven days a week.
- During Apple Hill Farm’s Christmas Celebration between November and December, mini-tours (45 minutes) of the farm run every 30 minutes from 10 am to 4 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
- The Winter season starts just before Christmas Celebration near the end of October and after the holiday festivities, starting near the end of December. Then, you can visit the farm between Wednesday through Saturday for 45- to 60-minute tours)
Hours and dates are for the public and subject to change and depend on the weather, so feel free to contact Apple Hill Farm before making a trip up. Also, if anything here is inaccurate or out of date, please let us know and we’ll be happy to edit accordingly.
We came away from that day full of smiles and completely recharged. Lee had told us that many people came to slow down and I totally understand what she’s talking about after visiting. Apple Hill Farm is a beautiful thing to see because as Lee put it, “it’s a place where the animals talk and people listen.” Thanks to that, the beautiful scenery, and even warmer hospitality, I know that we’ll be coming back for many years to come.
What do you think of Apple Hill Farm? Would you like to spend some time there slowing down from this fast-paced world? We think Apple Hill is so special, that we also included visiting it in our collection of Unique Things to Do in North Carolina. If you’ve got something to say about this wonderful place, we’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.