The Cradle of Forestry is a hidden gem in Pisgah Forest up near Brevard, NC. It’s a fascinating place and has lots of special events and both indoor and outdoor fun.
Sometimes there are cool places hidden in plain sight that you may drive by so many times and just never notice. We try to find these kinds of neat places and tell you about them so you can experience all the coolness we did! One such place is about 90 minutes from Greenville nestled in Pisgah Forest near Brevard, NC called the Cradle of Forestry. It’s amazing and totally worth the trip up there (plus, I’ll tell you some other neat things to do in the area).
The Cradle of Forestry
I only knew the Cradle of Forestry for its amazing Blue Ghost Firefly tours in late May and early June. You can read all about my incredible experience of the tour, which I highly recommend, in the Blue Ghost Firefly review. Let me say that I took my kids when they were just 4 and 7 years old and today, years later, they still talk about how amazing it was.
The Cradle sits on land donated by George Vanderbilt, who built the famous Biltmore in Asheville in the late 1880s. He had owned the land and was an avid supporter of forestry and conservation. His chief forester, Dr. Carl Schenck, founded the very first school of forestry in the country, the Biltmore Forest School in 1898. Today, the Cradle of Forestry sits on 6,500 acres and was built to “preserve, develop, and make available to this and future generations the birthplace of forestry and forestry education in America.”
The Cradle is run by FIND Outdoors, a 501c(c) nonprofit that helps to connect people with nature and runs several outdoor recreation sites, campsites, and buildings like the Cradle of Forestry.
The Indoor Exhibits
Walking through the exhibits at the Cradle of Forestry is a lot of fun, especially if you homeschool your kids (this place is a fantastic field trip) or are just interested in forestry and the microenvironment of Pisgah Forest.
You’ll start in a walkway through some of the history of the area with men working in a forest and cutting down trees. There’s a lot of information to digest so take your time.
Once you get through that area, it opens up into a replica forest with tunnels and trees and animals. Kids will love this part. You’ll learn about the various animals that inhabit the forest, plants, flowers, and trees.
There is a scavenger hunt you can do in this same area as well – look for the booklets past the forest and to the left – that deal with the different aspects of forestry and research.
There is also a replica helicopter that you can sit in and feel like you are flying above a forest fire. You’ll learn about this particular forest fire that happened in the area and about prescribed burns. Next to the helicopter is an exhibit about the climate. Outside of there is a giant spindle (my kids loved this for Disney princess reasons) and information about edible plants, medicinal plants and flowers, and insects.
We didn’t do this during our visit but you can watch a video about the Cradle and Pisgah Forest near the visitor’s desk. There are signs on the door when the showings are.
They also have a cafe that serves up sandwiches and snacks. It is open Friday – Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm.
There are three trails at the Cradle of Forestry. One is a mile-long trail that has seven historical buildings at the time of the Biltmore Forest School (1898-1914). My kids loved the schoolhouse, the closest one to the Cradle building. There are signs talking about the buildings and their history.
The Forest Festival Trail is 1.3 miles and goes in the opposite direction with a 1914 logging train engine. This path is paved and you can climb aboard the train, which most kids will definitely want to do! This trail also has a trout hatchery and sawmill available for guests to see.
The last trail, the Forest Discovery Trail, is also 1.3 miles and winds its way to a creek. You can pick up the Forest Festival trail along this same trail as well if you like.
During the spring and early summer, you can see a lot of wildflowers and some of them have plaques near them for easy identification.
Special Events and School Programs
The Cradle has several special events during their regular season, which runs from April – November (they are closed during the winter), including Family Fun Day, Community Science Day, the Blue Ghost Firefly tours, Smokey Bear’s Birthday, Forest Festival Day, Star Party with PARI, and National Get Outdoors Day.
The Cradle of Forestry has two school programs: a science-based one and a social studies-based one. Some of the programs are for all ages and others are grade-based. They also offer the Forestry Badge for Scouts. You can request a school field trip through their website.
Admission and Hours
Admission to the Cradle of Forestry is $6/ages 13+, $3/ages 4-12, $3/federal pass, and half price if you have the America the Beautiful Pass. For special events, sometimes there are extra fees and sometimes they are free. In the past, free admission was offered on National Get Outdoors Day in June and National Public Lands Day in September.
The Cradle of Forestry is open April – November. Hours are Wednesday – Monday 10 am – 5 pm. They open for the 2023 season on April 8, 2023.
Other Local Things to Do
The Cradle of Forestry is located just four miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway so you can easily jump on there to hike. Nearby trails that I personally love are Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam, and Frying Pan Tower.
You can also check out Moore Cove Falls, Pink Beds, or Looking Glass Falls, right on 276 just south of the Cradle of Forestry. Or you can do our North Carolina Waterfalls Driving Tour and add on the Cradle of Forestry as a stop.
The beautiful town of Brevard, NC is very close to the Cradle of Forestry and has wonderful shopping (don’t miss Poplar & Ash and Next Venture Outdoors), a gem mine, and restaurants.
On your way home to the Upstate, you can stop in Hendersonville, NC to see the goats at the Carl Sandburg Home or play at the fantastic playground at the Park at Flat Rock or see model trains for free at Apple Valley Model RR Club.
Cradle of Forestry
11250 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC
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