How to Visit the Awesome North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville

Last Updated on October 20, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville is a 434-acre public botanical garden and is one of our favorite places to visit in Western North Carolina. While still part of Pisgah National Forest, it was established as an affiliate of the University of North Carolina System in 1986.

Since then, the Arboretum has remained among the most beautiful natural settings in America. You can easily access it from Asheville or from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We think a visit here is easily one of the best things to do in North Carolina.

Read More: Our North Carolina Bucket List Book

Hopefully, you’re able to go out and enjoy the beautiful scenes and also, the programs offered by the North Carolina Arboretum. You’ll get to experience rotating exhibits, hike well-maintained trails, and if you’re lucky, attend special events that keep people coming back for more.

Our guide covers all of that, including important info about how you can visit this wonderful spot in North Carolina, too!

Here’s how we’ve organized it, so you can find exactly what you’re looking for:

  • Location Info
  • Before You Go: Tips
  • Hours and Admission Info
  • Things to Do (Exhibits, Trails, Winterfest, and More Events!)
  • Nearby Places (Blue Ridge Parkway Stops and more!)

You can skip ahead to any section or continue reading about the North Carolina Arboretum’s location, hours, and admission info.

Read more: Things to Do in Asheville

Where is the North Carolina Arboretum?

North Carolina Arboretum

Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806

The North Carolina Arboretum is south of downtown Asheville in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina.

The Mountains to Sea Trail runs near the entrance and you can reach the Arboretum from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393.6.

Read More: North Carolina Travel Map

Who Manages the North Carolina Arboretum?

It’s housed within Bent Creek Experimental Forest and Pisgah National Forest, but managed by a board of directors via special use permit that’s issued by the US Forest Service.

Before You Go: How to Visit the North Carolina Arboretum (Tips)

NC Arboretum walking

Before you visit, we think these tips will help you better enjoy the North Carolina Arboretum.

  • It’s best to arrive early, especially during the weekends.
  • We also always recommend visiting during the weekday for fewer crowds.
  • Cell service is pretty spotty in the park, but there’s WiFi available at the Visitor Center.

Hours

During the Spring and Summer, you can visit the property between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm. The entrance gate does close at 8:00 pm, an hour before property closing.

Make sure to double-check the NC Arboretum website as the different buildings on the property have varying operating hours.

Admission Info (Parking Prices)

Admission to the North Carolina Arboretum is technically free, but there are parking fees. Here’s a breakdown of pricing:

  • Arboretum Society Members (and Reciprocal Admissions Program Members): Free
  • Personal/Standard Vehicle (up to 20 feet long): $16
  • Large vehicles (21 feet to 29 feet long): $50
  • Bus and Oversized Vehicle (aka 30 feet long and longer): $100

Discounts are available for members of community associations and travel associations. For example, AAA members get $1 off.

On the first Tuesday of every month, the Arboretum offers a 50 percent discount on personal vehicle parking.

Membership Perks (and Reciprocity)

NC Arboretum beautiful flowers

Full disclosure: We’re NC Zoo members and received free admission into the Arboretum. Reciprocity is one significant benefit, among many others.

Becoming a Member of the NC Arboretum Society provides year-long perks and offers support to their mission “to cultivate connections between people and plants.”

Enjoy benefits such as free parking, year-long access to all that the Arboretum has to offer- including the opportunity to visit all rotating indoor and outdoor exhibits, and discounts on tickets for their Winter Lights event and adult and youth programs.

All membership donations to the NC Arboretum Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, are tax-deductible.

Read More: Why and How to Support Amazing Local Businesses Every Day

Things to Do at the North Carolina Arboretum

Exhibits

NC Arboretum

Engage with both indoor and outdoor exhibits, both permanent and traveling. The Baker Exhibit Center offers rotating interactive exhibits while The Education Center displays changing exhibits that highlight regional artists and artisans.

Share with Your Kids

Want to bring your children for an educational opportunity? Check the exhibits out during the school year, that’s when the Arboretum becomes an excellent destination for youth groups and field trips!

Read More: Kid-Friendly Events in North Carolina

Educational Programs

Year-round educational programs are available at the Arboretum for adults, children, and groups. Annually, they serve over 18,000 children and 6,000 adults with programs focused on environmental sustainability, art, science, and economic development.

From free self-guided activities for children to continuing education programs and certifications for adults, there’s an educational program that fits what you’re looking for at the North Carolina Arboretum.

North Carolina Arboretum Trails

Hikes near Asheville NC Arboretum

The North Carolina Arboretum features more than 10 miles of biking and hiking trails. The hiking trails connect you to other popular spots in the area like Lake Powhatan, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Take your pick and choose between an easy, moderate, or difficult trail. Trail lengths range from 0.3 miles to 1.2 miles. Hop on the easier Bent Creek Trail (1.3 miles) or the moderate Carolina Mountain Trail (1.2 miles). 

Dogs are also welcome on the hiking trails! Just remember to clean up after them.

Except for the Bent Creek Road Trail (1.3 miles), all the biking trails are under one mile.

Read More: Hikes near Asheville and Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Winter Lights

Winter Lights is “Asheville’s Brightest Holiday Celebration,” with thousands of lights stretching for more than a mile of the gardens campus. This is the Arboretum’s largest fundraiser, so your ticket will go to a certainly worthy cause.

Read More: Festive Christmas Lights Displays in North Carolina

More Events

North Carolina Arboretum bonsai trees

Beyond Winter Lights, special Events are always happening at the Arboretum. From one day/night only to weekly recurring events, you are sure to find something worth experiencing.

Do you enjoy live music? During the warmer months (through October 1), ArborEvenings offers a chance to stroll through the gardens while listening to live music from local and regional artists.

From April to October, you can join a Guided Trail Walk and connect with fellow participants and your volunteer guide. You’ll learn about the trails and the forest types at the North Carolina Arboretum.

On Saturdays and Sundays through October (weather permitting), check out the Garden Cove Railroad Exhibit. This garden-scaled train showcases how trains entered North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century.

Ready to Visit the North Carolina Arboretum?

The North Carolina Arboretum is a wonderful place to visit and enjoy the outdoors. Through education, conservation, special events, and more, it’s also an important part of the communities in and around Asheville.

We hope you’re able to visit and see this special garden in person. When you do, please feel free to share more about your experience in the comments section or by email.

If you’ve already spent time at the North Carolina Arboretum, you can also chime in with your favorite things to do there. Before you do, here are a few more things to do nearby.

More Things to Do Nearby

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway nearby North Carolina Arboretum

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Asheville and by the North Carolina Arboretum, at Milepost (MP) 393.6. Many people hop on around here, which makes this area pretty busy.

Some congestion can slow down your trip, but we still think you should know about these Blue Ridge Parkway stops near the North Carolina Arboretum.

Read More: The Best North Carolina Road Trips (Scenic Byways and Highways)

Walnut Cove Overlook

Walnut Cove Overlook is located at MP 396.4 and sits at an elevation of 2,915 feet. Black Walnut trees surround the area and were once essential for furniture and gunstock. Today, crafters use them for dye.

French Broad Overlook

Just south of the North Carolina Arboretum exit is the French Broad Overlook. You can find it at MP 393.8, at an elevation of 2100 feet.

Visitors can take in the beautiful view of the French Broad River below the overlook. This is also a popular starting point for cyclists and drivers traveling south or north along the Parkway.

Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Stops and Day Trips from Asheville

Asheville

Asheville NC nearby North Carolina Arboretum

Asheville has so much to offer, from hiking and exploring the mountains to eating your way around downtown, West Asheville, and all in between. The South Slope is known for great breweries, with some among the best in North Carolina.

We also can’t leave out the River Arts District, known for the 200-plus artisans working in 23 former industrial buildings. Stop by, watch them in action, and buy something to take home with you!

Read more: Great Things to Do in Asheville and Restaurants in Asheville

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore near North Carolina Arboretum

The 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate is America’s Largest Home and worthy of a visit any time of year. Spring is great for garden blooms and from November through the end of the year, Christmas at Biltmore lights up the property!

No matter when you visit, the exceptional interior and exterior will wow you. More recent additions to the historic home include Antler Hill Village and the Biltmore Winery, adding even more to do at the estate.

Read More: North Carolina Wineries

More Things to Do in Asheville

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