The Cradle of Forestry in America is the site of the first forestry school in America – the Biltmore Forest School, founded in 1898 by Dr. Carl Schenck, chief forester for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate. It's a fascinating place to explore and only four miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's open mid April through early November.
Today, you can learn all about forestry and get a glimpse into life at the school in the early 1900s via wonderfully restored buildings. There are three paved trails for light hiking. One is a 1.3-mile paved accessible trail, making it easy for everyone to explore the forest up close. On the newly opened Forest Discovery Trail, stroll into more secluded woods to appreciate rushing cascades, wildflowers, and mountain views in the spring and fall.
The Biltmore Campus Trail passes seven historical buildings, including a schoolhouse, commissary, and student quarters. The Forest Festival Trail explores Dr. Schenck's forestry experiments, a portable saw mill, and a logging locomotive that you can climb aboard. It's on the NC Birding Trail, so a great spot for bird watching.
Inside the Forest Discovery Center, you can see an 18-minute movie, explore 15 hands-on exhibits, shop at the Giving Tree gift shop and get a great lunch at the Hobnob Restaurant at the Cradle. Mannequins of forest workers reveal the integration of many scientific disciplines in forestry today. Be sure to ride the fire fighting helicopter simulator over a forest fire, then go underground and see which animals live under the forest floor.
The Cradle of Forestry is the Pisgah National Foreston scenic Highway 276 (Forest Heritage Scenic Byway) near Brevard, about 40 miles from Asheville. Next door is the Pink Beds hike and picnic area. Nearby is Looking Glass Rock, Sliding Rock and Looking Glass Falls.
2015 Calendar of Events
April 11: Opening Day
At their Old Time Plowing and Folkways, step back to the days of the Biltmore Forest School. Meet David and Diane and their Percheron draft horses. Watch the horses plow the Cradle’s vegetable garden. Visit with living history volunteers as they bring traditional Blue Ridge culture to life. $5/person
April 25: International Migratory Bird Day Celebration
Guided bird walks, birding tips, bird watching and a live bird program.
June 20: Twilight Firefly Tour
A sure sign of summertime is the blinking of fireflies or what some call lightning bugs. Enjoy the magical evening forest and learn about the natural history of these fascinating insects. Park and meet at the Pink Beds Picnic Area on Hwy. 276, located next to the Cradle of Forestry. 7:30-9:30 PM.
Sundays in July: Songcatchers Music Series
The annual Songcatchers Music Series marks the 10th anniversary of the concert series that honors traditional mountain music and the talented performers who preserve it, share it and make it their own. 4-5:30 PM
October 3: Forest Festival Day & John G. Palmer Intercollegiate Woodsmen's Meet
More than 80 traditional craftsmen, exhibitors, forestry students, and entertainers gather at the Cradle of Forestry to celebrate our forests and forest heritage. Highlights include wood carvers, weavers, a blacksmith, fly fishing, archery, face painting, horse drawn wagon rides, and the John G. Palmer Intercollegiate Woodsmen’s Meet, a lumberjack competition.
November 8: Last Day for the Season
Our century of conservation dates back to the building of the Biltmore Estate and the reforestation of abused and farmed over land. Forestry education began in 1889 when George W. Vanderbilt began to purchase land in Asheville as a site for his Biltmore Estate. Vanderbilt then hired a man by the name of Frederick Law Olmsted to handle the gardens & grounds of the magnificent estate.
On Olmstead's recommendation that the estate needed a "Forest Manager" Vanderbilt hired a man by the name of Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot, who would later serve as the first Chief of the USDA Forest Service and Governor of Pennsylvania, developed and implemented a forest management plan for Vanderbilt's forested holdings.
Subsequently, in 1895, German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck accepted George Vanderbilt's offer to come to North Carolina to succeed Gifford Pinchot as manager of his vast forest properties. For the next 14 years, Dr. Schenck focused all of his forestry skills on transforming these woodlands that we know today as Pisgah National Forest.
Today the Cradle of Forestry in America is a 6,500 acre Historic Site within the Pisgah National Forest, set aside by Congress to commemorate the beginning of forestry conservation in the United States. The Forest Discovery Center commemorates conservation history with an 18 minute movie on Vanderbilt, Pinchot, Schenck and the beginning of forestry in America. Outdoor activities include two guided trails which lead you back in time to seven historical buildings, a 1915 Climax logging locomotive and the old sawmill. Thursdays through Sundays you may find a toy maker, a weaver, a quilter, a wood carver and a basket maker.
Directions: From the Blue Ridge Parkway, take U.S. Highway 276 South at Milepost 412 for four miles. From Brevard, take 276 North about 15 miles.
Open mid April through early November, daily 9 AM- 5 PM
Admission: $5/person (Free admission on Tuesdays), always free for ages 16 and under
Information desk: 828-877-3130