Skip to Content

NC Arboretum: 7 Soul Inspiring Things To Do

Don’t miss The NC Arboretum in Asheville, North Carolina. Discover beautiful gardens and trails. Plus, The North Carolina Arboretum has Winter Lights, classes, and spots for picnicking.

We love living in Asheville for both the city as well as the outdoor activities. The beautiful mountains and nature sing to us. We witness vibrant flower blooms and mouth-dropping sunsets.

As locals, we own annual passes to both Biltmore Estate and The North Carolina Arboretum. We love Mother Nature (OK, and wine). If you are looking for flowers and gardens, these attractions are your must-stops in Asheville.

Know that if you hear people saying The NC Arboretum, Asheville Arboretum, NC Arboretum, or The North Carolina Arboretum, these are all the same place.

However, the Botanical Gardens at Asheville are a completely different set of gardens and trails in North Asheville at UNC – Asheville. When we say The NC Arboretum, we are talking about the stretch of 434-acres that is part of the Pisgah National Forest.

So, what is The NC Arboretum, and should you visit the grounds while spending time in Asheville?

Who will enjoy The North Carolina Arboretum? What can you see and do? And, if you are a local, how can you continually enjoy this Asheville arboretum?

We’ll share all of our favorites as NC Arboretum members. Let’s get started!

Take a look at all of Asheville’s Beautiful Parks & Gardens.

NC Arboretum Asheville North Carolina blog post cover with pink flowers and Why We Love The NC Arboretum written across it
Find out why you shouldn’t skip visiting The NC Arboretum in Asheville. We’ll share 7 serene activities we love as members. Photo by Sarah Resta Photography.

This post may contain affiliate links for products and services I recommend. If you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission. Read the full disclosure here.


See our Top Places To Stay in Asheville.

Don’t miss out on these Asheville properties on Booking.com, too.

Who Will Enjoy The NC Arboretum?

The North Carolina Arboretum is truly perfect for everyone, especially if you love to get outside. North Carolina summers, especially in the mountains, are rarely scorching.

The Arboretum has both indoor and outdoor spaces as well as a plethora of shaded areas.

The grounds are wheelchair accessible (you can download a map on their website here). Service animals are allowed.

Families, couples, groups, and individuals will love all that The North Carolina Arboretum has to offer. Youth can find camps and school programs as well as appreciate some of the fun exhibits.

Adults may take classes, and couples can enjoy a romantic picnic. Everyone can bike, hike, and admire the gardens and trails.

The walking grounds are for all levels, and while some hikes are more moderate than others, most are chill and easy to navigate – although we tend to wander on different paths by accident. Oops!

Visiting The NC Arboretum? Save This Post For Later

7 Things To Do NC Arboretum Asheville Pinterest pin with pink flowers
Heading to Asheville soon? Thinking of visiting The NC Arboretum? Save this post for later on Pinterest.

How Much Time Can You Spend At The NC Arboretum?

As locals, we love returning to this Asheville Arboretum again and again. The exhibits change frequently, and we crave the stunning, low-key trails, especially in the warmer months or when we are short on time.

Plus, The NC Arboretum trails don’t seem to get as wildly busy as the Blue Ridge Parkway hikes.

You can easily fill an entire day at the Arboretum. Below, you’ll find all of the wonderful things that you can do. Plus, you may want to pack a lunch for a picnic or stop by the Bistro.

However, if you are short on time or visiting Asheville for just a bit, I’d budget at the very least 45 minutes to one hour just to see the gardens and walk around.

If you are planning on walking the trails, we usually stay for at least a few hours.



7 Serenity-Inducing Things You Can Do At The North Carolina Arboretum

Quilt Gardens at NC Arboretum Asheville with quilted garden patten with purple flower with a fountain and trees and mountains in the background
Don’t miss the beautiful Quilt Garden.

Walk The Beautiful Gardens

Did you know that The North Carolina Arboretum has over 65 acres of cultivated gardens? Before you go, you can print out a map of the grounds that includes all of the gardens and trails.

I did not even know that quilt gardens existed until I visited The NC Arboretum. Located at the heart of their main gardens, climb the stairs to look over the beautiful quilt garden, which lives up to its namesake.

Around this area, visitors can read about a variety of plants and wildlife ranging from wildflowers, herbs, and cacti. Don’t forget to say hi to the butterflies, dragonflies, bees, and other critters living among the flora and fauna.

Bonsai Exhibit at Winter Lights at Arboretum Asheville with bonsai decorated in yellow lights
Be sure to see all of the Bonsai throughout the Arboretum. This little guy is decorated for Winter Lights.

Admire The Bonsai Trees

If you are fascinated by bonsai trees, you’ll love The NC Arboretum’s Bonsai Exhibition Garden. With over 100 bonsai, you can see American, European, and Asian-originated bonsai with an Appalachian touch.


If you love gardens, don’t miss our complete list of Asheville Parks & Gardens.


Hike Or Bike One Of The Numerous NC Arboretum Trails

Hiking

Nothing beats hiking in Asheville. The NC Arboretum has 10+ miles of hiking trails which also connect into the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah, and Lake Powhatan.

We personally love the Bent Creek Trail. Uncover 1.3 miles of pathways along gorgeous streams with benches and spots for relaxing. The trail is more of an easy walk and dips into the trees.

We also like following Bent Creek until it intersects the Carolina Mountain Trail. This hiking path forms a loop around the Arboretum, which is slightly more moderate and adds an extra 1.2 miles to your trip.

For extremely casual walkers, you might also enjoy the .75 Natural Garden Trail, which is both easy and scenic.

Biking

The North Carolina Arboretum has gravel roads and recreational loops perfect for mountain bikers.

The longest biking trail suited for families is Bent Creek Road at 1.3 miles. Slightly harder try Running Cedar Road at .5 miles. None of the NC Arboretum biking trails are very long, and of course, you can see all of them on the Arboretum map. There are different parking lots to pick up some of them.

Bent Creek Trail Asheville Arboretum with bench in woods next to a stream with rocks
The hidden benches along the Bent Creek Trail make us feel like we are in our own secret garden.

Explore even more great Biking Trails In Asheville.


Picnic Or Relax On A Hidden Bench With A Book

With its grassy and shaded areas, The NC Arboretum is the perfect place for a picnic. Picnics and outside food and drinks are allowed unless otherwise specified (some special events don’t allow them).

You also don’t have to walk very far onto the property to find a picnic spot. If you want more privacy, walk a few minutes longer onto one of the nature trails. You’ll find benches, rocks, and patches of grass along the Bent Creek Trail.

Just don’t forget to properly dispose of your trash to help protect the wildlife.


Looking for more picnic spots? Head over to the Prettiest Picnic Spots Around Asheville.


Learn More About Nature, Gardening, Constellations & Wildlife

If you love learning more about the Great Outdoors, discover courses, certificates, lectures, and professional development classes at the Asheville Arboretum. In fact, the Arboretum offers over 300+ classes a year.

You’ll find anything and everything, including how to create a garden at home or care for your bonsai. Learn more about seasonal plants or how to locate a constellation in the night sky. Journal out in nature or be able to name all of the birds you see on a hike.

Special Exhibits at The North Carolina Arboretum LEGO peacock display with blue peacock with green and yellow feathers
We loved touring the LEGO Special Exhibit throughout the gardens at The NC Arboretum.

Enjoy A Special Exhibit Or Event

Just like a museum, the NC Arboretum hosts special exhibits. For example, this summer and fall 2020, LEGO Exhibits, including flowers, insects, and wildlife, greet the unsuspecting visitor.

The Arboretum also hosts Expos, music, and performances. At night, they have special events, too, including ArborEvenings. After hours, enjoy Mother Nature with music, treats, and lights.

Winter Lights NC Arboretum Asheville with Christmas light egret light display
Winter Lights is one of our favorite seasonal events in Asheville.

Make S’Mores & Drink Hot Chocolate At Winter Lights

One of our favorite winter events in Asheville, North Carolina, don’t miss Winter Lights. With half-a-million holiday lights, everyone will love walking through rainbow tunnels and watching the tree lights dance to music.

Enjoy s’mores, booze, and hot chocolate along with a huge lighted tree in front of the Quilt Garden. Throughout the gardens, discover animal-shaped lights, chandeliers, and shadow boxes.

Arboretum members will have to purchase a discounted ticket for Winter Lights.

Other Outdoor Attractions Near The NC Arboretum

The North Carolina Arboretum is incredibly close to the Blue Ridge Parkway (literary 30 seconds away), and of course, the heart of downtown Asheville is about 15-minutes driving distance.

If you are looking at more outdoor activities to loop around to try:

Looking Glass Falls

You could head to Looking Glass Falls and drive right up to falls before or after your NC Arboretum visit. The Falls are only about 35-minutes away and will take you through a beautiful part of the Pisgah National Forest in Brevard. This is also a great stop for a quick hike or picnic.

Biltmore Estate

While you can easily spend an entire day at Biltmore, if you are looking to break up your day into two parts, you could also head to Biltmore in the AM and the Arboretum in the afternoon. Biltmore is a must at least once for Asheville visitors. If you love gardens and trails, Biltmore has them along with a self-guided house tour (1.5 hours), cafes and restaurants, and the winery. You can read more about all of the great things to do at Biltmore here.

Asheville Outlets

If shopping is your jam, the Asheville Outlets are only 6-minutes away from The NC Arboretum. This shopping center stays pretty chill and is perfect for picking up some of your favorite brands with huge discounts. We get a lot of our hiking gear here.

Right next door is Papas and Beer, with delicious Mexican cuisine. Honestly, we can never drive by Papas and Beer without stopping to grab a massive burrito and fajita dishes that last us for days. Plus, their margaritas are delicious.

Pink, orange and yellow Flowers at the Arboretum Asheville
Don’t miss the gorgeous blooms in the spring and summer months.

NC Arboretum Contact Info

The North Carolina Arboretum
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way
Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: 828-665-2492
Website: https://www.ncarboretum.org/

Located in southwest Asheville right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, The NC Arboretum is a part of the Pisgah National Forest.

Hours, Directions & Pricing

NC Arboretum Hours

Please check The NC Arboretum for the most updated hours, especially during this global pandemic.

As of July 2020, the NC Arboretum property is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Facility access hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Directions

The NC Arboretum recommends plugging in ’20 Frederick Law Olmsted Way Asheville, NC 28806′ for your GPS system. We’ve never had trouble getting there, but you want to follow Brevard Road/Highway 191 to arrive at the entrance.

Pricing

You only have to pay a parking fee; there are no other admission charges on the grounds.

Check for updates, but currently, they will only accept credit card payment.

Members: Free
Personal Vehicle: $16.00
Motorhomes/Larger: $50.00

Receive 50% off parking the first Tuesday of the month.
If you are a Buncombe County resident, check your local library for a ZOOM Pass.
There are AAA discounts, too.

Membership

As former Floridians, we used to pay a lot of money for Disney annual passes. Thankfully, Asheville attractions are much cheaper. We love supporting local institutions that we love, and The North Carolina Arboretum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

While there are different types of membership, these are the most common/basic options:

Student: $25
Individual: $50
Household: $70

With a membership, you receive discounts off of special events, free parking, admission into other participating gardens and the zoo, and Bistro and shop discounts.

Don't Skip The NC Arboretum Asheville Pinterest pin with two pictures one with yellow, maroon, and orange flowers and the bottom with a bench on a trail next to a stream
Never leave home without an Asheville-themed Pinterest board to help plan your trip and have backup ideas. Save this post for later on Pinterest.

Lodging In And Around The North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville

Asheville, NC Hotels

Hotels and B&Bs tend to book up fast in Asheville, especially in the fall, spring, and around holidays. Make dinner reservations wherever you can, too. A few hotels to consider that either we, our friends, or others highly recommend include:

Downtown Asheville
The Foundry Hotel
AC Hotel By Marriott Downtown Asheville
Hotel Indigo
Aloft – Downtown Asheville *One of our top picks; they renovated in 2020

Near The Asheville Outlets/Biltmore
Hampton Inn And Suites Asheville Biltmore Area *Our second favorite pick. We stayed here before we moved.
DoubleTree By Hilton Biltmore/Asheville
Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville

North Asheville/Montford
The Omni Grove Park Inn *We frequently stop by the Grove Park Inn for sunsets, drinks, and food.
1900 Inn On Montford

Don’t miss our Top Asheville Hotel, Resort & B&B Picks Here.

Let Us Know If You Go To The Arboretum In Asheville

We’d love to hear from you. If you head over to The NC Arboretum, please let us know what you think. What did you love and not so much enjoy? What did you do before or after your visit?

More places to enjoy similar to The NC Arboretum:

5 Things To Do At The Botanical Gardens At Asheville
Spy Beautiful Birds: Beaver Lake Perimeter Trail & Bird Sanctuary
8 Favorite Local Asheville Parks & Gardens
Where To Have A Picnic In AVL

More nature trails, biking, and hiking in Asheville:

Ultimate Asheville Hiking Guide With The Best Trails
Best Places To Hike In The Winter In Asheville
50+ Favorite Things To Do In Asheville So You Will Never Get Bored
Gorgeous Waterfalls Near Asheville
Scenic Asheville Trails For Mountain Bikers
Blue Ridge Parkway Trails To Explore

Books About And Set In North Carolina Reading List blog post cover with book covers for Look Homeward Angel, Where The Crawdads Sing, The Last Castle, Serafina and the Black Cloak, The Girl From Widow Hills, At Home in Mitford, and Big Lies Small Town
46 Great Books About North Carolina To Read Before You Visit
← Read Last Post
Botanical Gardens At Asheville blog post cover with pink, white, and yellow flowers
Plan A Beautiful Picnic: Botanical Gardens At Asheville
Read Next Post →