The start of a new year often comes with a list of resolutions, promises and “to do’s.” New Year’s resolutions are most common in western culture but are also practiced in the eastern hemisphere. At the start of the 21st century, approximately 40 percent of American adults formed New Year’s resolutions. Those who explicitly make New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goal(s) versus people who don’t set such objectives. Resolutions can range from health-related goals to financial achievements to educational ambitions. If you’re looking to make changes in your life – and also achieve them – check out the following Arboretum activities and programs that can help you reach your 2017 goal(s).

1. Hit the Trails

Getting outside and hitting the trail can do your body (and brain) good. Research shows that one hour of hiking can burn more than 500 calories, and that hiking on outdoor terrain can also be better for your joints than walking on asphalt or concrete. In addition to helping with weight loss, cardio activity, such as hiking or biking, can help lower blood pressure by four to 10 points, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and strokes. Research also shows that hiking can help people suffering from depression and offers other mental benefits, including increased creativity and decreased stress.

Photo by Rick Daley
Photo by Rick Daley

Looking for your next hiking adventure? The Arboretum has more than 10 miles of interconnecting hiking and biking trails on property that are well marked and monitored by campus police. From flat, groomed paths to elevated, inclined terrain, there are a variety of trails suited for all ages and abilities. While some spots in Western North Carolina may be too cold to bear from the winter wind, the Arboretum’s trails run through wooded areas of the Pisgah National Forest, so the trees often block the winter elements. Don’t forget your four legged friends! Leashed dogs are always welcome on the Arboretum trails, but please be sure to clean up after your pet and use the trash receptacles.

Don’t want to hike alone? From April to October, the Arboretum offers free guided trail walks every Tuesday and Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at the Baker Exhibit Center. Walks typically last one-and-a-half to two hours and range from one to two miles in length.

2. Donate Time

If you’re looking to give back this year and may not have a huge budget, think about donating your time and talents by becoming a volunteer. Volunteering can be a great way to get involved in the community, meet new people and contribute to a worthy cause or organization. According to a 2015 article, volunteering offers a wide variety of benefits, including time management, skill development and improved health and mental well-being.

library-volunteerThe Arboretum is home to nearly 500 volunteers who contribute their time, talents, enthusiasm and energy year-round. By becoming a volunteer at the Arboretum, you may learn new skills, making a positive impact on the environment and help advance our mission of connecting people with plants through hands-on support. Volunteers at the Arboretum can work seasonally or year-round, and positions can range from guest services to horticulture and gardening to educational programs. For more information on volunteering at the Arboretum and current opportunities, please click here.

3. Take a Class

While exercise and diet might help you reach your physical goals, expanding your mind through education may help with your mental goals. For adults, continuing education can help diversify your experiences, improve problem-solving and learning skills, keep you abreast of industry trends, or grow your current profession or job. Each year, the Arboretum offers nearly 140 classes taught by some of the region’s leading experts. Subjects focus on natural history, fine art and craft, health and wellness, and horticulture and landscape design. Classes are held on both the weekday and weekend and adulteducation_stackstone2_ccrange from single-day to multi-week programs. Find our full schedule of adult education classes here.

For parents looking to grow their little ones’ minds, check out the Arboretum’s Wee Naturalist program, which is open to children ages two to five years old. Arboretum professional environmental educators focus on a wide variety of nature topics that encourage young children to explore the natural world as well as their own interests and abilities. The Wee Naturalist program runs every Monday and Tuesday, March – May and September – November. For more information, please click here.

A great option for older children is the Arboretum’s ecoEXPLORE program, an incentive-driven science enrichment program that engages third through eighth grade students in guided and self-directed citizen science activities.


We hope that these fun, attainable activities will help make 2017 a wonderful year for you!