Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on November 25, 2023.
The 42-acre Western North Carolina Nature Center (WNC Nature Center) is a wildlife wonderland, perfect for exploration and reconnecting with Asheville‘s Appalachian surroundings. Of course, it’s a family-friendly thing to do, but we’ve seen quite a few adults visiting this place without kids.
For starters, the WNC Nature Center’s location on a tree-covered mountain quickly takes one away from everything. And then there are the 60-plus species you’ll find here, including bears, otters, and endangered red wolves.
Add in a riverside nature trail and a fun-filled events calendar, and you can see why this place belongs on our NC bucket list. And if it’s not on yours yet, follow along with us as we show off the amazing things we’ve found at the WNC Nature Center.
The Western North Carolina Nature Center
- Address: 75 Gashes Creek Road, Asheville, NC 28805
- Phone: 828-259-8080
- Daily: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day)
- Adults: $10.95 (Buncombe County Residents: $7.95)
- Seniors (65 & over) $9.95 (Buncombe County Residents: $6.95)
- Youth 3-15 $6.95 (Buncombe County Residents: $5.95)
- 2 and Younger: Free
More Info is available via the WNC Nature Center website.
The Western North Carolina Nature Center was formed in 1974 to revamp Asheville’s City Zoo. Its mission was to provide education specifically on the flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachians.
Today’s WNC Nature Center
Today, it remains one of Western North Carolina’s primary facilities for education. That’s a big reason why each year, thousands of school-aged come here.
In addition to education programs, the WNC Nature Center is also a safe haven for endangered animals. It’s one of only 40 AZA-accredited facilities, home to the world’s most endangered canine species, the red wolf.
Over sixty species of wild and domestic animals live in the WNC Nature Center and they represent the wildlife that thrives in this region.
What to Expect
As we mentioned, the WNC Nature Center is spread across 42 acres, with over 60 species of native Western North Carolina animals. Exhibits include:
- Appalachian Station: reptiles, including rattlesnakes and copperheads, amphibians, and small mammals.
- Otter Falls: North American otters and turtles.
- Prehistoric Appalachia: red pandas and a glimpse of the wildlife that inhabited the region 5 million years ago.
- Small Mammals: raccoons and red and gray foxes.
- Appalachian Predators: largest area of the park and includes coyotes, red and gray wolves, and a bobcat.
- Red Wolf Run: endangered red wolves.
- Black Bear Ridge: black bears, hawks, owls, and white-tailed deer.
- Western North Carolina Farm: endangered Cotswold sheep, chickens, rabbits, donkeys, and goats.
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Trillium Nature Trail
Those looking to stretch their legs a little more should wander the Trillium Nature Trail. The trail runs less than a mile and weaves in and out of a beautiful forest along the Swannanoa River.
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In addition to daily feedings and talks, the WNC Nature Center also hosts fun and unique events. Whether it’s something seasonal like “A Winter’s Tail” during the Christmas holidays or the adult “Brews and Bears,” there’s always a reason to keep tabs on this place.
Another interesting monthly event held at the center is the “Wild Walk: A Behind the Scenes Tour.”
Participants get to step behind the glass and see what goes on in the Nature Center day-to-day. You can see how meals are prepared, feed the animals, and ask questions during this unique and personalized experience!
Learn more about events at WNC Nature Center here.
Camp programs are a fantastic way to get your little learners outside during the hot summer! Children from first grade to fourth grade can join, and camps focus on getting to know the animals.
Outdoor recreational activities, crafts, and group activities are a few more of the reasons to attend a camp.
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All Learners Are Welcome: Sensory Bags, etc.
WNC Nature Center is committed to providing an inclusive experience for all learners. That’s why they’ve partnered with KultureCity to improve their abilities to accommodate guests with sensory needs.
Each team member receives special training, too, and if you stop by the gift shop first, the WNC Nature Center has made sensory bags available for free check-out.
Membership at WNC Nature Center (starting at $34) is affordable and also grants you amazing access to other learning centers across the US! If you plan to go to WNC Nature Center more than three times a year, a membership is definitely worthwhile.
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In addition to discounts on special events, camps, and inside the gift shop, a WNC Nature Center membership card will get you discounted admission at over 425 zoos, aquariums, and science centers throughout the US.
Examples nearby include
- The Greensboro Science Center
- The Museum of Life and Science in Durham
- The NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher
- The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores
- The NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island
- NC Zoo in Asheboro
Ready to Visit?
As you can see, the WNC Nature Center is a terrific place for school field trips, weekend explorers, or lovers of learning all around. It’s such an important piece of the Asheville community, but also to its surroundings throughout Western North Carolina.
We’re lucky to have visited and can’t wait to keep coming back as our little one grows up, but also for ourselves to satisfy our nature fix while exploring Asheville.