Hiking & Biking Trails
With more than 10 miles of hiking and biking trails adjacent to the Bent Creek Experimental Forest and nestled in one of the most beautiful natural settings in America, the Arboretum is a popular destination for amblers and athletes alike.
Visitors of all ages and abilities enjoy planning their trail experience, and the Arboretum offers a variety trails rated as Easy, Easy to Moderate, Moderate, and Moderate to Difficult.
Download a map of our trails and gardens or read the descriptions below for more information.
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Starting with a bridge from Bent Creek Road this trail provides access to and multiple routes through the National Native Azalea Collection, including a teaching circle and a close look at Bent Creek. For more information on the collection, including photos of the different species a guide is available during seasonal bloom times.
At the west end of the Collection the Fern Loop provides a cool route along a natural mountain wetland and through part of a Rhododendron thicket where you can get a slight feel as to what a "Laurel hell" meant to a mountaineer traveling cross country. Total length, including the Fern Loop, is about one half mile.
The Bent Creek Road is a gravel-surfaced corridor shared by pedestrians, pets on leashes and cyclist. The 12-foot wide road follows Bent Creek for the length of the Arboretum with several adjoining roads leading off the property into the Pisgah National Forest.
Bent Creek Trail - 1.3 miles (Foot traffic ONLY)
Bent Creek Trail, for foot traffic only, parallels the road in several places, running closer to the creek. One favorite attraction along Bent Creek Road is the National Native Azalea Repository. Bent Creek Road is 1.3 miles in length
The Old Mill Trail connects our trail head/recreation parking area at our main entrance to Bent Creek Road. After leaving the trail head parking area turn to the left around the pipe gate and after crossing the bridge the trail will begin to the right through the woods. This trail is named for the old grist mill that existed in the area around the viaduct bridge.
The Carolina Mountain Trail connects our Horticulture Support Facility (greenhouse and nursery) with the Education Center and Core Garden areas and Bent Creek Road. This trail winds through three different forest types, pine, mixed hardwood and ericaceous. Along the trail is an overlook where hikers can rest and listen to the murmurs of Bent Creek. You'll also pass the peaceful ripples of the Wolf Branch cascades. The trail entrances are located beside the Education Center adjacent to the reserved parking area, on Wolf Branch Road and on Bent Creek Road at the west edge of the Arboretum property. A short connector runs from the overlook to the Production Greenhouse main parking area.
The Natural Garden Trail makes a loop from the Plants of Promise Garden to the north end of the Core Area Gardens. This is a gently graded, naturally surfaced trail which takes in several changes in forest types as it winds around the hillside and overlooks Bent Creek and the National Native Azalea Collection along the way.
The Running Cedar Road is a gravel surfaced road which allows bikers, hikers, and pets on leashes access from the Core Area to Bent Creek Road.
Rocky Cove Road - 0.5 miles
Connects Bent Creek Road to Owl Ridge Trail. The best example of Southern Appalachian cove hardwood forest on the property is here.
The Owl Ridge Trail is the upper portion of a recreational loop for use by bikers, hikers and pets on leashes. This naturally surfaced section of the loop is about .94 miles joining Rocky Cove with Hard Times Road and a connection to the lower trail which crosses the creek to rejoin Bent Creek Road making the whole loop about 3.5 miles.
This trail connects Bent Creek Road near its intersection with the Mill Trail to the Natural Garden Trail and the Core Gardens, passing through a rhododendron thicket. Both the Wesley Branch Trail and the Natural Garden Trail are open to foot traffic only, please.
Hard Times Road - 0.8 miles
Connects recreational parking lot with Owl Ridge Trail. Off Arboretum property the road drops in elevation and connects with Bent Creek Road near Lake Powhatan in the Pisgah National Forest.
The loop comprised of Bent Creek Road. Rocky Cove Road, Hard Times Road and Owl Ridge Trail is approximately 3.7 miles in length and can be accessed from this trail head.