Blue Ridge Parkway/Cradle of Forestry/Waterfalls/Balsam & Bear Lake

Blue Ridge Parkway/Cradle of Forestry/Waterfalls/Balsam & Bear Lake: Enter the Blue Ridge Parkway off US 23/74 by Balsam (Don't forget to pickup the "fixins" for a picnic lunch before you start out.). The section of the Parkway from US 23/74 to US 276 is one of the most scenic, and includes three great stops: Devil's Courthouse, a 15 minute cardiovascular hike to a fabulous 270 degree view, Graveyard Fields (No graves, be sure to read how it got its name.), a wonderful upland stream with a nice waterfall, and Looking Glass Rock, a pluton, brilliant when the sun hits it. Exit the Parkway at US 276 and go South. The Pink Beds have a nice picnic area and easy trails that abound in Rhododendrons and Laurels. If you have any interest in forestry or children with you be sure and stop at The Cradle of Forestry (open mid-Apr thru early Nov, 9AM-5PM). This kid friendly - they can crawl through a tunnel to see a cutaway of a fox den, take a "helicopter ride" out to help "fight" a forest fire - Discovery Center that was the site of the first forestry school in America has plenty for grownups too. Continue South on US 276 visiting Sliding Rock, a natural waterslide, Moore Cove Falls and Looking Glass Falls. If you haven't had your picnic yet, there are plenty of tables along the stream that parallels US 276. Turn right on US 64 West and continue through Brevard, and then turn North on US 215 to see Courthouse Falls. After returning to US 215 turn right (North) and continue to the US Forest sign for Balsam Lake. Turn left at the sign onto a gravel road that takes you past Balsam Lake and to NC 281 (a hardtop road). Turn right and descend pass Bear Lake (good fishing, public boat dock) to US 107.