The Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is a 76 mile loop, that takes you through Pisgah National Forest, east of Waynesville NC and west of Brevard NC. The loop will take you past numerous waterfalls, hiking trails, and beautiful scenery. You’ll even cross the Blue Ridge Parkway twice!
Popular and well known attractions along the way, include Looking Glass Falls, Sliding Rock, and the Cradle of Forestry. The drive will take you about 2 hours in total. You should allow more time if you plan to stop and see the many attractions along the way.
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway Map
Where to start ?
The Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is a loop, so you can start anywhere along the route and easily return to your starting point. The main access points are:
- Brevard NC – From Brevard, you’ll pick up Highway 276 West and head west through Pisgah National Forest. Or Highway 64 South to Rosman NC
- Waynesville NC – From Waynesville NC, you’ll head out Highway 276 East, and catch Highway 215 South from Bethel NC heading towards the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Rosman NC – From Rosman, NC you’ll take either Highway 215 North to the Blue Ridge Parkway or Highway 64 East to Brevard NC
Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway Walkthrough
Waynesville and Maggie Valley NC are popular vacation destinations in Western NC, and Maggie Valley in particular is a very popular destination for motorcycle enthusiasts. Given that, we’ll start our walkthrough of the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (the Copperhead Loop) from there.
From downtown Waynesville NC, take Highway 276 East to the small town of Bethel NC. There is a very nice convenience store here to gas up and grab refreshments. Just past Jukebox Junction, a popular local restaurant, is the intersection to Highway 215. Turn right onto Highway 215 heading South towards the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Highway 215 is a real hidden gem and is very scenic. This drive during the Fall is absolutely gorgeous, as the forest provides a color canopy over the road. If you enjoy fishing, the waters of the West Fork of the Pigeon River, you’ll see along your drive are full of mountain trout.
On your way to the Parkway, you’ll constantly increase in elevation, and pass a number of scenic points of interest, including:
- Lake Logan – A private lake that you’ll cross over. Take a few minutes to pull over and enjoy the views here, it’s gorgeous. Watch for the American Bald Eagle that is often flying around or perched in this area.
- Sunburst Campground – A small national forest campground, perfect for small RVs and tents.
- Sunburst Swimming Hole – One of the most popular area swimming holes in the area is along the side of the road.
- Sunburst Falls – A very popular and beautiful roadside waterfall. Actually there are a number of waterfalls in this area, just a short hike off Highway 215. Sunburst Falls flows beneath one of two beautiful stone bridges (shown in the photo below).
- Numerous other waterfalls are also in this area before the Parkway, including: Wildcat Falls, Little Bird Falls, Lower and Upper Bubbling Spring Branch Falls.
- Blue Ridge Parkway – At the peak of highway 215, you’ll reach the Blue Ridge Parkway, your first crossing of two on this loop ride. Take a detour to Graveyard Fields and Devil’s Courthouse by heading left on the Parkway (towards Asheville).
After passing under the parkway, continue south on Highway 215, where the road will become very curvy, and you’ll descend rapidly in elevation. Along the way you’ll pass the access roads to both Dill Falls and Courthouse Falls. You’ll also pass by Living Water Ministries further down. Living Waters Ministries is a Christian Retreat Center, with three publicly accessible waterfalls and historic buildings. Access to the waterfalls is via trail located next to a small pull over on the side of Highway 215.
Highway 215 will run into highway 64 near Rosman. Turn left to continue on the loop towards Brevard, or take a detour to the right towards Cashiers and Sapphire where you can see more waterfalls, including: Whitewater Falls, Dry Falls, Callasaja Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Turtleback Falls.
After passing through Brevard, turn left onto Highway 276. If you have time, be sure to stop at downtown Brevard. There are some unique stores and restaurants there. While in the area, you can also visit Dupont State Park, only 15 minutes away.
Highway 276 will be one of the most beautiful sections of the drive, with numerous scenic points of interest in Pisgah National Forest, including:
- Looking Glass Falls – A gorgeous and very popular road side waterfall.
- FR475 – Forest Road 475 will take you to a number of great hikes and waterfalls, including: Cedar Rock Falls, Upper Cedar Rock Falls, Grogan Creek Falls, and Cove Creek Falls.
- Moore Cove Falls – A short hike to a pretty waterfall you can stand under.
- Sliding Rock – A very popular and well known area, where you can slide down a natural waterfall, and plunge into the crisp and cool water below.
- Cradle of Forestry – A really neat museum and attraction founded on the original training grounds for Park Rangers.
After passing the Cradle of Forestry, you’ll twist and wind your way up the mountain, and reach your second crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll then begin a very twisty and curvy descent back down to Bethel and the intersection of Highway 276 and Highway 215 to complete the loop. Just a mile or two past the Parkway, watch for the roadside waterfall on your left, just before a sharp right hand curve.
Tips for driving in the mountains
Driving the mountains is very different than driving in the city or in flat rural areas. Mountain driving can be much more dangerous. Here are some tips to make your mountain drive much more enjoyable!
- Avoid sudden stops, and always pull over at overlooks or paved or gravel pull overs. This will keep you from getting stuck, and protect the natural environment.
- Drive slow, and enjoy the journey. Too many people focus on just getting to their destination, and miss many of the wonderful scenes and wildlife as they rush through.
- Bring layers of clothing and rain gear. Mountain weather can be very unpredictable, and elevation changes as you drive can yield very different temperatures. Temperature changes an often be 15-20 degrees!
- Watch for motorcycles – Popular roads, like this one, are often popular with motorcycle riders. Watch for them, and keep your distance.
- Wildlife sightings are rare, but keep an eye out – you just never know what you might see!
- Don’t depend on having cell phone service. When in remote and high elevation areas, you often won’t have cell service. So bring maps or a GPS that doesn’t rely on cell service.
- Restrooms, gas stations, and places to eat can be rare. Make sure you plan ahead, and bring some snacks for the kids.
- Be Patient – During busy times, like Summer and Fall, popular drives can often be very congested and busy. Be patient to keep your stress levels down, and allow everyone to have a great visit and drive.