Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is highlighted by beautiful mountain scenery and rich local history in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Enjoy the Pisgah National Forest, over a million acres designated as a National Forest in 1916. And don't miss spectacular Looking Glass Falls, an 85-foot plunge named for nearby Looking Glass Rock, a monolithic face of granite that gleams like a mirror from water seeping out of the stones. This byway intersects the Blue Ridge Parkway twice and connects with Waterfall Byway near Rosman. It's 65 miles - you should allow at least two hours to drive. And there's plenty of great stops for picnics along the way. The byway is also known as "Cooperhead Loop," a popular motorcycle drive with many twists and curves.
From Asheville, we suggest you start on the Brevard end of the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway that follows U.S. 276 north from the intersection with N.C. 280 and U.S. 64 near Brevard. If you just have time to do a small section, drive the 15 miles from Brevard to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most of the "big" sights are along this stretch. Here is what you will see along the way, starting in Brevard:
Established in 1861, Brevard was named for Ephriam Brevard who drafted the Mecklenburg Resolves of 1775. At the beginning of this route is a pair of stone pillars built to honor Transylvania County residents who served in World War I. They mark the entrance to the Pisgah National Forest. The Forest was established in 1916 and consists of more than one million acres. About two miles from the pillars is a Forest Service Information Center with more information on the National Forests in this region.
West of the information center is the Pisgah Forest National Fish Hatchery which raises trout to be released into mountain streams. Here you will find the hiking trailhead to the popular Looking Glass Rock, John Rock and Daniel Ridge Falls Three-tenths of a mile further along U.S. 276 notice the breathtaking 85-foot tall Looking Glass Falls on the right. A pull-off is provided so you may safely enjoy the falls. The falls are named for Looking Glass Rock. Nearby is a short hiking trail to Moore Cove Falls.
About 2.5 miles north, pass Sliding Rock Falls. In the summer many visitors enjoy a cool slide down the rock into a pool below under the supervision of lifeguards. A bath house provides a place to change clothes. The Cradle of Forestry is on the right about three miles from Sliding Rock. It is the birthplace of scientific forestry and forestry education by Dr. Carl A. Schenck in 1898. Dr. Schenck was George Vanderbilt’s forest supervisor for 100,000 acres of the Biltmore Forest. Dr. Schenck founded the first forestry school in the United States at Biltmore, near Asheville.
Another two-tenths of a mile further on the right is the entrance to Pink Beds, an upland bog with a dense growth of pink blooming rhododendrons and laurels. Stop for a five-mile hike or a picnic.
About four miles from the Pink Beds, arrive at the first of two Blue Ridge Parkway crossings. The first crossing is at Wagon Road Gap. The gap was named for the vehicles that crossed the mountain on the trail from Brevard towards the Pigeon River Gorge and Tennessee. To the left is the Shining Rock Wilderness. Accessible only by foot trails, this primitive area is a unique natural resource. From here, follow the upper reaches of the East Fork of the Pigeon River through rural mountain villages and farm lands for 14 miles to the community of Bethel.
The nearby community of Woodrow, just north of Bethel, was named for our 28th president Woodrow Wilson, turn left at the stoplight onto NC 215. Follow the West Fork of the Pigeon River for 18 miles until you reach the second crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Beech Gap. Along this portion of NC 215, pass by more mountain farms and numerous streams and falls. Six miles from Woodrow, pass a local reservoir, Lake Logan. The community of Sunburst, located along the shores of the lake, gets its name from the swiftness of the sun as it rises over Cold Mountain to announce the morning.
After you cross the Blue Ridge Parkway for the second, enjoy from lofty mountain views from NC 215. At 6.7 miles south of the Parkway, take a detour to see Courthouse Falls. About 8.5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway you’ll arrive in the Balsam Grove community near Balsam Lake which feeds into the French Broad River. Stop to see the twin waterfalls, Cathedral Falls & French Broad Falls. The river was named for the French who inhabited the territory during the 18th century. For the last eight miles, the road parallels the North Fork of the French Broad River. The Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway ends at the intersection of NC 215 with US 64 near Rosman.
Continue your scenic journey by following the Waterfall Byway west along US 64 from this point or turn left and follow the U.S. Forest Service scenic byway north to Brevard.
There are 149 federally nationally recognized scenic byways in the country. Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is one of four such byways in North Carolina.
TIPS FOR MOUNTAIN DRIVING
1. Go slowly and enjoy the scenery on the curvy mountain roads. Allow plenty of travel time.
2. Stop only at overlooks to soak in the views. Don't make sudden stops to get that perfect picture. The sharp curves create limited visibility.
3. Take a jacket. With the elevation changes as you drive, the temperature may vary as much as 20 to 30 degrees. At the highest elevations, the hottest summer days only reach into the 70s. Many of the higher sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed in the winter months for snow and ice.
4. Watch for hikers and bicyclists.
5. Gas up before you begin your journey. There is only one gas station on the Blue Ridge Parkway (at Mt. Pisgah) and they can be a rare site when you are in rural areas.
6. Restrooms and restaurants can also be a rare site. Plan ahead!
7. Please do not disturb wildlife or plant life. Bear sightings are rare.
8. Get some good road maps. See our area map for an overview. Stop at the Asheville Visitors' Center for detailed maps.