North Carolina Arboretum

Nestled in the woods of Pisgah National Forest in Asheville, the North Carolina Arboretum is a 434 acre public garden located within the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. Set amid rolling hills just off mile 393 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Arboretum offers more than ten miles of groomed hiking trails that are suitable for all ages. Home to one of the finest, most unique bonsai collections in the United States, the Arboretum has 65 acres of cultivated gardens that are appropriately seasonal. The Arboretum is an affiliate of the University of North Carolina and is a center for conservation, education and research. Information desks at the Baker Exhibit Center or the Education Center have brochures that describe tours, demonstrations, and membership benefits. Or, you can spend a lovely day on the grounds simply enjoying the peace, quiet and beauty away from the drudgery of everyday living. I first visited the Arboretum on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 from 8:00am to 11:00am, focusing my attention on the permanent gardens and the Production Greenhouse.

North Carolina Arboretum

I have been a member of the North Carolina Arboretum for five years and visit every chance I get. Each season has a special allure. I fell in love with the place my first time there and immediately decided I wanted to join. Membership benefits include: free entry, discounts on education programs, gift shops, and the café, member-only events, reciprocal privileges with more than 200 other gardens nationwide, a newsletter and program information. Contributions to the Arboretum Society are tax deductible and support workshops, training for staff, regional plant shows, and enhancements to the gardens.

Sometimes I go to the Arboretum to hike through the forest. Sometimes I will combine a visit with a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter the reason for my appearance, I always take time to stroll through the gardens, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells that soothe and relax.

There are 10 permanent garden areas within the grounds, all handicap accessible. Further, there are other cultivated areas of interest found out and about in the trail system. The Arboretum also maintains a permanent collection of art. Look for the pieces throughout the gardens. Below are the featured gardens:

  • Blue Ridge Court a central point of the Grand Garden Promenade, featuring a naturally dwarfed American Beech in the center of a garden pool.
  • Bonsai Exhibition Garden this garden presents the Arboretum’s extensive bonsai collection in an aesthetically unique landscape.
  • Heritage Garden the chimney and stone foundations, and water spring recall features of old homesteads. The garden includes plants used in the regions medicinal herb and craft industries.
  • Holly Garden this exhibit shows the variety of plants in the holly genus that can be grown in this region of North Carolina.
  • Plants of Promise Garden this 1/2 acre garden at wood’s edge features promising landscape plants appropriate for the Southern Appalachian region. The Arboretum encourages staff to have fun here.
  • Quilt Garden a floral representation of a traditional quilt pattern. You will get a bird’s eye view of this garden from a stone overlook.
  • Stream Garden planted primarily with native plants, this garden represents a WNC mountain stream and its plant communities.
  • National Native Azalea Collection located along the Bent Creek Road, this garden was established to help preserve and protect each of 16 species of azalea native to the United States. Flowering usually occurs mid-April through May.


I hope you enjoy these photos from my visit on June 26, 2012:



And these photos from my visit on May 25, 2013:



And it wouldn’t be spring without a visit on April 26, 2014:



June 23 was the day I took these photos in 2015:



These beauties were blooming on May 16, 2016:



Hiking, walking, or biking are other means of enjoyment at the Arboretum. The ten miles of trails and forest roads are maintained in excellent condition by staff and volunteers, and are designed for the entire family. There’s a little something for everyone whether it be creek side trails, forest canopy or mountain views. Be sure to pick up a complete map of the trails and gardens at one of the Visitor Centers. Here’s a little info about the individual trails:

  • Bent Creek Road and Trail Easy 1.3 miles, the main corridor shared by hikers and cyclists. Look for many wildflowers and ferns. The hiking trail parallels the road and runs closer to Bent Creek away from bikers.
  • Carolina Mountain Trail (foot traffic only) Easy to moderate 1.2 miles, passes through pine, mixed with hardwood and ericaceous forest types. Connects the Greenhouse with the Education Center.
  • Hard Times Road Moderate to Difficult 0.8 mile, connects the Gatehouse parking with the Owl Ridge Trail. It winds off Arboretum property and connects with Bent Creek Road near Lake Powhatan.
  • Natural Garden Trail (foot traffic only) Easy 0.75 mile, interpretive signs explain the surrounding woodlands. This loop connects the two main visitor facilities.
  • Old Mill Trail Easy 0.3 mile, follows Bent Creek and connects the Gatehouse parking with Bent Creek Road.
  • Owl Ridge Trail Moderate 0.94 mile, meanders through a white pine forest and an oak/hickory forest connecting Hard Times Road with Rocky Cove Road.
  • Rocky Cove Road Moderate 0.5 mile, travels through a Southern Appalachian cove hardwood forest.
  • Running Cedar Road Moderate 0.5 mile, enables bicycle access to Bent Creek Road.
  • Wesley Branch Trail (foot traffic only) 0.4 mile, links the Natural Garden Trail to Bent Creek Road.
  • Wolf Branch Road 0.3 mile, accesses the Carolina Mountain Trail and Bent Creek Road along a cascading stream.


This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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