Not ready to return to the hubbub of Raleigh quite yet, my mom and I decided to take a scenic detour before heading back to I-40.
Upon leaving Sapphire, just after 10 a.m., we drove east on Highway 64 towards the quaint mountain hamlet of Brevard NC. I considered attending Brevard College for music, but opted for Belmont University in Nashville. Brevard is renowned for its annual music festival and mountain recreation.
From Brevard we headed west on NC byway – 276. One of the most scenic drives in North Carolina, Highway 276 cuts through the Pisgah National Forest, dazzling adventurers with gravity defying waterfalls and old growth forest.
The road was sheltered by a verdant forest, so lush I felt like we stepped into a mountain oasis. Each mile revealing indescribable beauty that a picture would struggle to define. While the road is off the beaten path, its natural wonders like Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock attract thousands of tourists every year.
Looking Glass Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in America. It plunges gracefully, like a bridal veil, sixty feet from a steep rocky escarpment into a serene mountain pool. I had hoped we would be able to walk to the waterfall and get some great pictures, but unfortunately the line to access Looking Glass Falls was over a mile long with no parking. We did see the roaring falls from the roadside (barely). I need to come back in the fall at sunrise to really get a good picture and experience the scenery.
A stone’s throw from Looking Glass Falls is Sliding Rock State Park. In the non-COVID era I plan to enjoy a long day at ‘nature’s theme park.’ This naturally water slide allows swimmers to glide down a smooth rock cliff. It is a blast for families!
Another roadside attraction off 276 is the Cradle of Forestry in America Museum. The Pisgah National Forest is one of the oldest in the park system (established in 1916). The Cradle of Forestry museum provides an in-depth history on forestry and the land. This heritage site is the birthplace of science-based forest management. George and Edith Vanderbilt of nearby Biltmore Estate helped create the Pisgah National Forest with their 87,000 acre donation. For more information…click here
After winding the back roads of 276 and getting lost near Woodrow NC, we found our way to Asheville. With several hours before check-in time at the Hampton Inn in Black Mountain (30-mins east of Asheville), we decided to spend an hour driving south on the Blue Ridge Parkway…I will be writing a series of posts specifically on the parkway soon, but one of our highlights was a view of Mt. Pisgah and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Stay tuned as we complete this trip diary with our stay in Black Mountain NC.