Did you know that the American study of forestry was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains?
Carl A. Shenck came to this area from Germany in 1895 to care for the forests of the Biltmore Estate. While here, he established the first forestry school in the U.S. The site of the school is among more than 86,000 acres of the original Biltmore Estate that Edith Vanderbilt sold to the federal government to help establish Pisgah National Forest. (The first tracts of Pisgah were established just outside of Old Fort.)
Today, visitors can tour the site of the historic Biltmore Forest School at the Cradle of Forestry, located along Pisgah Highway (US 276) southwest of Asheville. A one-mile self-guided trail leads visitors past seven historic buildings from the time of the school (1898-1914). Kids will love climbing aboard a 1914 Climax logging train engine and ringing the bell.
In the Discovery Hall, watch a short film about the school’s history before exploring interactive exhibits, including a life-sized helicopter cockpit! Grab a sandwich in the Cradle Cafe (open Friday-Sunday), and shop for a nature-themed souvenir in the Forest Place Gift Shop.
Check the Cradle of Forestry website for special events and programs including outdoor theater, live music and stargazing nights.
Things to do near the Cradle of Forestry
Take a drive down Pisgah Highway / U.S. 276 in any season to enjoy the beauty of the forest canopy.
In summer, be sure to pack your swimsuit for a stop at Sliding Rock — a 60-foot sloping waterfall that is the perfect spot to cool off on a hot day. Admission is $5 per person, and lifeguards are on duty daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day (and weekends-only April-May and September-October). Plan ahead — parking is limited, so it’s best to avoid peak visiting hours from noon to 4 p.m.
You can see nearby Looking Glass Falls from the road, but you’ll definitely want to park the car for a closer look. Step down to the observation area for a great photo opportunity with this impressive 60-foot cascade.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is close by, too, as are a few favorites hikes such as Pink Beds, Moore Cove Falls and the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower.
Plan your visit to the Cradle of Forestry
The Cradle of Forestry is open April through November, Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesdays), 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. The Cradle Cafe is open Friday to Sunday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Adult admission (ages 13+) is $6 per person, children’s admission (ages 4-12) is $3 per person, and children 3 and younger are admitted free. Additional fees may apply for special events.
The Cradle of Forestry is about 90 minutes from downtown Marion. Take I-40 W to exit 53A, then take the Blue Ridge Parkway south to U.S. Hwy 276. The entrance is about 4 miles from the Parkway exit.