Visitors to Western North Carolina have a new way to explore the natural and cultural attractions in the mountains and foothills of the state—the Blue Ridge Heritage Trail. The program will officially launch on Thursday, February 25, at 1:30 pm at the I-85 South Welcome Center located at Kings Mountain. The trail encompasses 70 sites in 27 Western North Carolina counties. (See list of sites on back.) An interpretive exhibit sign is located at each site to help tell the story of the people and events that have shaped the unique culture of the North Carolina mountains and foothills.
Included as part of the Trail are new interactive kiosks located in the five NC Welcome Centers serving as gateways into Western North Carolina. “The new kiosks give our travel counselors another valuable tool to use to share North Carolina’s story with visitors. Our visitors love the new technology, and we’re proud to work with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area to implement this project,” said Bryan Gupton, Director of Visitor Services for the NC Department of Commerce.
The Trail is not a “Point A to Point B” trail, but rather many stops throughout the region. People can enjoy a single stop or piece together several sites by theme or subregion. QR codes on each sign will enable travelers with smart phones to locate other nearby sites. “The new Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is an exciting opportunity to engage visitors to our area, give them a deeper experience while they’re here, and encourage them to extend their visits,” said Angie Chandler, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. “We also encourage the citizens of Western North Carolina to visit the trail sites to learn more about the history and the living traditions that are truly the fabric our distinctive regional culture.”
In addition to the kiosks, travelers can pick up a map brochure of the Blue Ridge Heritage Trail at the five western NC Welcome Centers as well as other visitor centers throughout the region and at most sites along the trail. A mobile-friendly website, BlueRidgeHeritageTrail.com, offers even greater details and directions to each site and notes other nearby sites.
The project is an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and was made possible by Federal Highway Transportation Enhancement funding administered through the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and Haywood County, NC. It was also supported by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce reported that in 2015, more than 4.3 million visitors passed through the five NC Welcome Centers that will have the new kiosks, with an economic impact from bookings made through them of $1.1 million. Heritage Tourism in the North Carolina mountains and foothills has a $2.39 billion impact annually and supports approximately 30,000 jobs.
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the NC Department of Commerce for this project,” stated Chandler. “Our goal is to share our heritage and positively impact the tourism economy in the region.”
828-296-7230, ext. 244