Visitors to The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville are invited to step up to a new interpretive wayside sign and get a nutshell idea of the Arboretum’s history, mission and influence in Western North Carolina.

BlueRidgeNationalHeritage_HikerLocated at the trailhead of Hard Times Road, this display is one of 70 related signs located at special places throughout the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the 25 westernmost counties in North Carolina designated by Congress and the President in 2003. Each place has a tale to tell, a story to share about the cultural heritage of the people who shaped the region’s unique history and traditions. The new Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is designed to encourage the visiting public to seek out these heritage treasures, big and small, found in the North Carolina mountains and foothills.

This trail program was officially launched on February 25, 2016, at a celebration marking the completion of the sign installations. From the legacy of the Vanderbilts, which inspired the creation of The North Carolina Arboretum through the intent of Frederick Law Olmsted, to the very beginnings of Cherokee culture in western North Carolina, each sign carries a piece of the history and heritage of the mountains and foothills of the state.

Other trail sites not far from The N.C. Arboretum are located on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At Milepost 411, visitors can learn about the Cradle of Forestry and the important role that land played in the development of forestry conservation in America. Just a little further on, at Milepost 417, the trail sign features the popular Looking Glass Rock. In Asheville, trail signs are located at Biltmore, in Pack Square Park, and at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

To help travelers find their way to Blue Ridge Heritage Trail sites, BlueRidgeNationalHeritage_Staffthe program includes interactive kiosks at five N.C. Welcome Centers that serve as gateways into the region, color map brochures, and a dedicated website:

The Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a program of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. Heritage tourism in Western North Carolina has a $2.39 billion impact annually and supports approximately 30,000 jobs.

About the Author

Jill Jones is the director of marketing and communications at the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Designated by Congress and the President in November 2003, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area works to protect, preserve, interpret and develop the unique natural, historical and cultural resources of Western North Carolina for the benefit of present and future generations, and in doing so, to stimulate improved economic opportunity in the region.