Just east of Waynesville, North Carolina, a 76-mile loop known as the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway travels through the Pisgah National Forest. Some of the state's most breathtaking scenery, including waterfalls, hiking trails, and breathtaking mountain views, can be found along the byway.
Looking Glass Falls is one of the byway's most well-liked sights. This 60-foot waterfall is close to the byway and is a well-liked location for hiking, swimming, and picnics. Sliding Rock is another well-liked attraction; it's a natural water slide ideal for a cool dip on a hot day.
Numerous hiking routes may be found along the byway, including the Art Loeb Trail, one of the toughest and longest in the Southeast. There are several short, basic hikes that provide breathtaking views of the nearby mountains for anyone searching for a quick hike.
Whatever your interests, the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is sure to have something for you to appreciate. Therefore, the next time you're seeking for a picturesque route close to Waynesville, don't forget to check out this lovely byway.
Forest Heritage Scenic Byway Map
Crossing Under the Blue Ridge Parkway
After passing through Bethel NC and Cruso NC (which was devastated by the flooding that occurred in 2021), you'll begin to climb steeply up the mountain, until you reach and cross under the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A few miles before reaching the parkway (shortly after the road begins to climb steeply up), you'll see a beautiful waterfall coming out of the side of the mountain and roadside. Be sure to slow up and roll your windows down to enjoy the beautiful sounds.
After crossing under the Parkway, you'll begin a steep decent back down the mountain and into Pisgah National Forest.
Cradle of Forestry
The Cradle of Forestry is a historic site located in Pisgah National Forest and is considered to be the birthplace of forest conservation in the United States and is known as the "Cradle of Forestry" because it was here that the first school of forestry was established in 1898.
Visitors to the Cradle of Forestry can explore the history of forestry and conservation in the United States through a variety of exhibits, displays, and guided tours. The area features several historic buildings and structures, including the original Forestry School, which has been restored and converted into a museum. There is even an old steam train engine.
In addition to the historical exhibits, visitors can also explore the natural beauty of the Pisgah National Forest through hiking trails and nature walks. The Cradle of Forestry offers a unique combination of history and nature that makes it a popular destination for visitors to western North Carolina.
Sliding Rock is a natural waterslide located along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. The waterfall is about 60-foot long and slopes downward into a small pool. The large boulder the waterfall runs down has been worn smooth by the water flowing down it. Visitors can slide down the natural rock and waterfall and plunge into a 6-7 foot deep pool at the bottom. This is an incredibly popular summer spot for swimming and outdoor recreation.
The water flowing over Sliding Rock is from a mountain stream and is quite cold, making it a refreshing way to cool off on hot summer days. There are lifeguards on duty during the summer months to ensure the safety of visitors. There is a small fee for entry.
Again, Sliding Rock is VERY busy during peak summer months, so expect large crowds and limited parking. You'll want want to get there early or late in the day.
Looking Glass Falls
Looking Glass Falls is a popular and majestic waterfall located in Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard and along the byway. The falls drop 60 feet over a rock cliff into a large pool at the base, making it a popular spot for swimming and wading in the summer.
The name of the falls comes from Looking Glass Rock, a nearby mountain with a reflective surface that is said to resemble a mirror or looking glass.
The waterfall is accessible from a parking area directly roadside along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. The falls are visible from the road and a short walk down a paved trail leads visitors to a viewing platform overlooking the falls for a closer look. You can walk further down to reach the water and the base of the falls.
Looking Glass Falls is a popular attraction for visitors to Pisgah National Forest and is a great spot for nature photography, picnicking, and swimming on a hot summer day.
Brevard is a small town located in western North Carolina, USA. It is nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is often referred to as the "Land of Waterfalls" due to the large number of cascading falls and pristine rivers in the surrounding area.
Brevard is home to a vibrant arts and music scene, with numerous galleries, live music venues, and festivals throughout the year. It also serves as a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, with easy access to Pisgah National Forest and nearby attractions like DuPont State Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
In the downtown area, visitors can explore a variety of boutique shops, restaurants, and breweries. The town is also known for its charming, tree-lined streets and historic architecture, including the iconic white squirrels that can be spotted throughout the area.
Rosman is a small town located in Transylvania County and has a population of around 600 people. The town is surrounded by lush forests, rolling hills, and picturesque waterfalls.
Rosman has a rich history and cultural heritage. The town was founded in the late 19th century and was primarily a logging community for many years. Today, visitors can explore the Transylvania Heritage Museum, which showcases the region's history, art, and culture.
Rosman is also known for its close proximity to Gorges State Park, which offers even more opportunities for outdoor adventures and a number of different waterfalls.
To continue on the Forest Scenic Byway, at Rosman, travelers will go north on Highway 215 from Highway 64.
Living Waters - 3 Waterfalls
The first point of interest on Highway 215 is Living Waters Ministry. This privately owned Christian outreach ministry has 3 different large waterfalls, and a few smaller unnamed falls. There is a trail that will take you to all of them.
While the ministry is privately owned, they owners are kind enough to allow the public access. Just be kind and leave no trace when visiting.
The first two waterfalls are Mill Shoal Falls and French Broad Falls. These duel waterfalls are just a short walk down the trail near and next to the old mill. The waterfalls are gorgeous, and you can swim in the pools below as well. Even better is the fact that they are next to an old mill, making this a a popular spot for photographers.
You can continue down the trail to see a number of smaller waterfalls, finally reaching Cathedral Falls, which is in a rock "cathedral".
Living Waters Ministry is definitely worth the stop when traveling along the Forest Scenic Byway. After leaving Living Waters Ministry, you'll continue north on Highway 215 and begin to climb up in elevation, heading towards the Blue Ridge Parkway.
For those that don't mind taking a bit of an excursion and hike, Courthouse falls is a fairly short and moderate hike out to a beautiful waterfall.
To reach Courthouse Falls, visitors will follow a forest service road for about 5 miles and then embark on a short and moderate hike through the woods. The trail meanders creekside through a beautiful forest.
To reach the falls, you head down a switch back to the left, down the trail a bit, and then finally take some steep stairs down to the bottom of the falls.
Courthouse Falls is about 60' tall, and flows over a steep rock cliff into a dark pool at the bottom. The falls and pool are surrounded by steep rock faces all around. The pool at the bottom is a popular swimming area in the summer.
Courthouse Falls, located in Transylvania County, derives its name from Devil's Courthouse, a distinct rock formation nearby. Devil's Courthouse is known for its imposing presence and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Dill Falls is just a few miles further on Highway 215 and again about 5 miles back into the woods along a forest service road. The hike is short and easy to moderate.
Dill Falls is very photogenic and well known for its graceful cascade as water tumbles down a series of rock ledges. The falls are framed by dense forest, which is pretty year round, but exceptionally so during peak fall colors.
Once you arrive at Dill Falls, you will be greeted by a 60+ foot waterfall with multiple cascades into a small pool at the bottom. The creek then flows over a number of smaller cascades down to the trail where you will first see Dill Falls.
After returning back onto Highway 215, you'll continue north. The elevation gain here is step as you wind your way up to the Parkway. As you get close, there will be some beautiful views on the right side of the road, and you can also see Devil's Courthouse.
Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 215
You'll soon reach the Blue Ridge Parkway, and cross under it. At this point you can either catch the parkway back to Waynesville or continue on Highway 215. If you're looking for big scenic views, the parkway will be your best option. If you prefer more wooded scenic views, creeks and some waterfalls, staying on 215 is the way to go.
Triple Arch Bridge
This area of Highway 215 is full of waterfalls, some roadside but most require a short hike. We highly recommend you visit our waterfalls guide if you're interested in exploring these waterfalls on your travels.
After passing the Parkway, you'll soon cross over Triple Arch Bridge as the locals call it. This bridge was built out of stone in the early 1900s, and has 3 arches allowing the creek below it to flow under. There is a small parking area here, and trails going down below the bridge for better views.
Sunburst Falls is a 40' tall roadside waterfall located along the West Fork of the Pigeon River in the Pisgah National Forest.
The falls are easily accessible from Highway 215, which crosses the river just below the falls. The upper portion of the falls is visible from the road, and there is a small parking area on the south side of the bridge where visitors can park and get a closer look. A short "scramble" trail leads down to the base of the falls, where visitors can get a refreshing spray from the water.
Sunburst Falls is especially beautiful in the fall, when the leaves on the surrounding trees are changing color.
Sunburst Swimming Hole
Sunburst Swimming Hole is a popular swimming hole located in the Pisgah National Forest off Highway 215. Highway 215 passes right by the swimming hole, and crosses the river just below.
The swimming hole is located on the West Fork of the Pigeon River, about 15 miles from Waynesville NC. There is a small parking area above the bridge where visitors can park and easily access the swimming hole.
Sunburst swimming hole is a beautiful emerald green color and is surrounded by large boulders. The water is clear and cold, and there is a small waterfall that cascades into the swimming hole.
The swimming hole is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and it is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. This makes for a nice family stopping point when traveling the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.
As you continue to drive along Highway 215, you'll notice a large and beautiful body of water on your left surrounded by mountains. This is Lake Logan, a popular local destination for fishing, swimming, and boating. The lake and scenery are absolutely stunning.
If you want to stop and enjoy the views, or take a few photos, there are a couple of pull-offs where you can park. Just watch for traffic.
After visiting Lake Logan, the drive will continue along Highway 215 and back to Bethel NC where you can return to Waynesville. This wraps up your beautiful scenic drive along the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway.
Tips for Enjoying the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway near Waynesville
To make the most of drive, there are a few tips to keep in mind:
Plan ahead - Research the drive ahead of time to ensure you know what to expect, including any closures or construction. While our guide will definitely help, we do recommend bringing a map on your phone or a printed map. Cell Service can be a bit spotty.
Bring snacks and water - Many of these drives pass through remote areas, so it's a good idea to bring along plenty of snacks and water.
Be mindful of wildlife - The area around Waynesville is home to a variety of wildlife, including bears and deer. Drive slowly and keep an eye out for animals crossing your path.
Take your time - Scenic drives are meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so don't rush through them. Take your time and enjoy the views and stop along the way to not only better see the scenery, but to stretch your legs as well.
Stop often - Many of these scenic drives offer overlooks and pull-offs, so take advantage of them and stop often to take in the scenery. Be sure to take lots of photos as well to remember your visit and share with friends and family.