Spotlight: The Cradle of Forestry in America,
Pisgah National Forest
Where forestry and forest conservation were born almost 120 years ago
What You’ll Find
Nestled in the heart of the Southern Appalachian Mountains near Brevard, North Carolina, the Cradle of Forestry in America welcomes visitors to the rustic campus of America’s first forestry school. Operating here from 1898 to 1909 when the land was part of George W. Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate, the Biltmore Forest School seeded America with foresters educated in the ideas of conservation. Rooted in this historic past with vision for the future, the Cradle of Forestry in America engages visitors of all ages in traditional Blue Ridge culture and the natural world. Four miles of paved trails, exhibits and family-oriented programming interpret the site’s history, the surrounding forest and natural resources in our everyday lives. Today the Cradle of Forestry is an outdoor classroom for everyone.
The Cradle of Forestry in America is located in the Pisgah National Forest along the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (US 276), 14 miles north of Brevard, NC and 4 miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 412. The area is accessed from Asheville, NC and the South Carolina Upstate via Interstate I-26, exit 40 (Asheville Regional Airport exit). Follow NC 280 to US 276 North, and turn right into the Forest. The Cradle of Forestry is 11.5 miles from this intersection.
The surrounding Pisgah National Forest offers camping at several developed campgrounds. Advanced reservations are available for Davidson River Campground, 10 miles south of the Cradle of Forestry on US 276. Nearby, larger groups may reserve the Mt. Pisgah Campground located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The vibrant small town of Brevard offers several hotels.
Make Sure You
Pick up the Cradle’s interpretive trail booklet that brings to life what you see along the trails and the character of Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck, the dynamic and dedicated forester who founded the Biltmore Forest School in 1898. Visit the one-room schoolhouse, the 1882 ranger’s cabin and the unique, historic Black Forest Lodge along the Biltmore Campus Trail. Ring the bell on the 1914 Climax locomotive along the Forest Festival Trail and learn about early forestry efforts. Explore the Adventure Zone designed for those on the autism spectrum and engaging for everyone. These trails and the scenic Forest Discovery Trail are paved and graded for wheelchairs and strollers. In the Forest Discovery Center’s exhibit hall, “fly” over a forest fire and learn about today’s forest management, the forest community and scientists’ efforts to understand a changing climate’s effects on forests. The Giving Tree Gift Shop offers books, trail maps, clothing and forest-related items.
After visiting the Cradle of Forestry in America’s developed area around the Forest Discovery Center, explore a wilder part of the 6,500-acre Congressionally-designated historic site. Beginning at the Pink Beds Picnic Area near a classic Civilian Conservation Corps shelter, the 5-mile Pink Beds Trail loops through the Pink Beds valley. Once home to farmers and moonshiners and the outdoor classroom for America’s first forestry students, today it is a birding hot spot and an excellent place to enjoy nature. This easy trail winds by mountain laurel, wildflowers, ferns and headwater streams. A boardwalk across beaver wetlands gives access to a variety of habitats along the way. If short on time, you can turn onto the Barnett Branch Trail that crosses the loop, providing a 3.2-mile round-trip alternative.
Enjoy lunch made with locally produced ingredients in the Forest Discovery Center’s café, Hob Nob at the Cradle. The Pisgah Inn’s restaurant on the Blue Ridge Parkway offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Numerous restaurants are in nearby Brevard and surrounding towns of Waynesville, Hendersonville and Asheville. Several picnic areas are in the Pisgah National Forest, including the Pink Beds Picnic Area just north of the Forest Discovery Center along US 276.
At 3,200-foot elevation the temperatures are typically cooler than in surrounding towns. Thunderstorms often pop up on summer afternoons. Though the trails wind through wooded areas some places are open; sunscreen is recommended. Use caution around the area’s many waterfalls as rocks can be very slippery and stream flow is stronger than it appears. Know what to do if you chance to see a rattlesnake or black bear along a trail.
The Cradle of Forestry in America is open daily from mid-April to early November from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Daily admission is $5.00 for adults, free for youth under 16 years old. America the Beautiful and Golden Age passports are honored. Some special-event days are $6.00 for adults and $3.00 for youth. Check www.cradleofforestry.com for details and an event schedule, or call the Cradle at (828) 877-3130.
Did You Know?
In 1914 George Vanderbilt’s widow, Edith, sold more than 86,000 acres to the U.S. Government, including the tract that became the Cradle of Forestry in America. This was the nucleus for the Pisgah National Forest, the first National Forest east of the Mississippi. The United States Congress established the Cradle of Forestry in America in 1968 to commemorate the beginning of forestry and forestry education in America, and to stimulate interest in forests and their management today.