Exploring Natural Heritage

Visit the Great Outdoors of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

Visitors seeking outdoor adventure, communion with nature, breathtaking vistas on Blue Ridge scenic byways, wilderness solitude, or simply a relaxed drive in the country will find it in spades in the North Carolina mountains and foothills.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, scenic byways, and state parks and state forests offer hundreds of square miles of majestic scenery, hiking trails, bike trails, waterfalls, whitewater, and rare and unusual ecosystems.

 

2016 Centennials Celebrate Three Reasons Why the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area has such a great outdoors!

A century ago, some far-sighted people with a vision for the future of this region and for the preservation of public lands as national parks and forests created three organizations that will be celebrating a 100-year anniversary in 2016.  Read more.

National Parks - A Piece of Blue Ridge and Appalachian History

The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area is home to the two most-visited National Park lands in the country:

Visitor Map Brochure - Get More Information for Free!

National Forests - An Integral Part of NC Natural Heritage

The North Carolina mountains are also home to two National Forests that were some of the earliest forests to be protected by the federal government and which are among the most biodiverse. The National Forests are a part of North Carolina natural heritage and and Appalachian history.

  • The Pisgah National Forest - the country's first National Forest - was the site of the first forestry school and the early history of forest conservation in the United States.
  • The Nantahala National Forest - is distinguished by its spectacular whitewater, waterfalls, old growth, and the scenic byways that pass through it.

Together, the two National Forests offer visitors over a million acres of protected landscape for an abundance of recreational pursuits - hiking, camping, picnicking, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, birding, mountain biking, horseback riding, and much more.

Other Federal Lands

State Parks and Forests Preserve NC Natural Heritage

Nine State Parks, two State Forests and the Green River Game Lands in Western North Carolina protect spectacular natural landmarks and provide outstanding recreational opportunities. These state lands are popular destinations for hiking, camping, picnicking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, boating, and swimming.

Many offer special events, including educational and interpretive programs, organized hikes, concerts, fishing lessons, and environmental workshops.

State Parks

State Forests

Other State Lands

Outdoor Activities

Visit our Outdoor Activities page where you will discover hundreds of ways to enjoy the natural beauty and heritage of the North Carolina Blue Ridge mountains.

Click on the link below to hear more about whitewater adventures in Western North Carolina

Whitewater Fun in the Blue Ridge