The Transylvania Times -

By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

The Cradle of Forestry Welcomes Visitors of All Ages


Last updated 7/11/2012 at 4:32pm


The 6,500 acres of the Cradle of Forestry in America are a popular attraction in Pisgah National Forest.

The Cradle, located four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway off U.S. 276, offers trails, exhibits, music and special events designed to illustrate the relationship between people and forests.

The 20,000-square-foot Forest Discovery Center, which includes several hands-on activities, a gift shop and café, is at the heart of the site. Each summer several programs and guided trail tours are held at the Center.

This summer’s programs include a June 16 Twilight Firefly Tour, Bug Day on June 23, the Songcatchers Music Series featuring concerts each Sunday afternoon in July, Train History Day on July 28 and Smokey Bear’s Birthday Party on Aug. 4.

Shown throughout the day every day at the Center is a 30-minute film, “There’s Magic at the Cradle,” a fable about a young girl’s journey toward caring about the forest.

Visitors to the Cradle are also encouraged to walk the two paved trails, which are perfect for wheelchairs and strollers.

Along the way, visitors will find seven historical buildings, a 1915 Climax logging locomotive and an old sawmill.

The Adventure Zone activity along the Forest Festival Trail is also designed for those with autism. New this year is the paved “Discovery Trail,” which intersects the Forest Festival Trail. This 1.3-mile moderately difficult, yet accessible, trail addition provides an excellent opportunity to avoid the crowds and simply enjoy the sights and sounds of the forest.

Several crafters are occasionally on-hand at the Cradle’s buildings to bring some “living history” to visitors.

The Cradle’s beginnings date from 1891. George Vanderbilt, owner of 125,000 acres of North Carolina forest land, became interested in scientific forest management.

Vanderbilt hired two European-trained foresters to manage the land, first Gifford Pinchot, succeeded by German forester Dr. Carl Alwin Schenck in 1895.

Schenck spent 14 years applying conservation methods to what is now Pisgah National Forest, and founded the first forestry school in America at the Cradle site. Pinchot became the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service in 1905.

The Cradle’s land was set aside by Congress in 1968 to commemorate the beginning of forest conservation and education in the United States. Today, the Cradle attracts more than 40,000 visitors annually.


The Cradle is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 4.

Cradle of Forestry Admission:

Adults — $5; 15 and under— free; some special events are $6 for adults, $3 for youth. America the Beautiful passes and Golden Age passports are honored; adult groups (10 or more) — $4. To make reservations for guided programs or more information, call (828) 877-3130 or go to


Hope Ascher is a Forest Service volunteer at the Cradle of Forestry.

“A sense of magic at the Cradle keeps calling us back to explore its many faces.


“Because of its unique blend of Appalachian culture, nature and the legacy of the Biltmore Forest School, it speaks to every visitor regardless of age or background. Even after almost three decades, four generations of my family have returned to visit again.

“With handicapped accessible trails, my parents could enjoy mountain vistas and Appalachian culture. Our

grown sons still ring the bell of the 1915 Climax locomotive that

has come to rest at the Cradle after long decades of logging.

“Our daughter loves the volunteer crafters and interpreters who have introduced her to Appalachian traditions. Our grandson never tires of the simulated firefighting helicopter ride.

“For my husband and me, it is the place where we can celebrate our love of the mountains, the arts and Appalachian traditions. The Cradle has become part of our family story much as this magical place has been woven into the stories of so many who have travelled these mountain paths.”


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