America's Scenic Byways

Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway

17.6 miles -

Travel back in time and explore history and beautiful scenery on the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (U.S. 276) through the Pisgah National Forest. As you wind your way on old settlement roads past mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls, imagine how this landscape looked decades ago when modern forestry began.

Begin your driving journey at the southern entrance to the Pisgah National Forest, once marked by an arch. Today twin columns greet you as you enter one of the earliest National Forests in the eastern United States. The National Forest began in 1914 when the US Forest Service purchased an 80,000-acre plot of land from the George W. Vanderbilt Estate.

Though much of the forest looks untouched by man, today's trees have grown from lands logged and farmed during the late 1800s and early 1900s. In those days, a community emerged along the river with wagon roads, homes, mills, farms, and a school. When Louis Carr purchased the rights to “all timber, wood and bark standing and down” from Vanderbilt, he built rail lines along creeks to bring out the timber. These old cuts now form the path for some stretches of the byway.

Fill your camera with priceless photos of Looking Glass Falls. Located on the east side of the road about five miles from the southern start of the byway is an overlook from which you can get a fantastic view of this 60-foot high waterfall, a popular stop for generations.

Become a true nature enthusiast at the Cradle of Forestry, located 11 miles from the southern entrance of the byway. It was here that the first school of forestry in America--the Biltmore Forest School--was founded by Dr. Carl Schenck, chief forester for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate. From 1898 to 1913, the Biltmore Forest School taught a new science of caring for forests. Today, enjoy a hands-on exhibit or hike an interpretive trail to experience the wonders of the forest first hand.

Travel the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway for fun, for beauty, and for a deeper understanding of the history of the forest, the people who once lived there, and those who are working today to make it as enjoyable and full of life as it was in the past.