Located within the wildly-popular and botanically beautiful Southern Appalachian Mountains, The North Carolina Arboretum offers more than 10 miles of hiking trails that connect to many other area attractions such as Lake Powhatan, the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Visitors of all ages and abilities can enjoy their hiking experience at the Arboretum as trail options include easy, moderate, and difficult challenge leveles. All trails are dog-friendly and visitors are asked to adhere to the proper waste disposing procedures for pets.
Easy Hiking Trails
Azalea Collection Trail – 0.5 miles (Foot traffic ONLY)
Starting with a bridge from Bent Creek Road, this trail provides access to multiple routes through the National Native Azalea Collection, including a teaching circle and a close look at Bent Creek. 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 approximately ½ mile.
Bent Creek Road – 1.3 miles
Bent Creek Road is a gravel-surfaced corridor shared by pedestrians, pets on leashes and cyclists. The 12-foot wide road follows Bent Creek for the length of the Arboretum property 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 Trail is the National Native Azalea Collection. Bent Creek Trail is 1.3 miles in length.
Old Mill Trail – 0.3 miles
The Old Mill Trail connects the trailhead/recreation parking area at the Arboretum’s main entrance to Bent Creek Road. After leaving the trailhead parking area, turn to the left around the pipe gate. Cross the bridge and 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.
Wolf Branch Road – 0.3 miles
Wolf Branch Road allows easy access to the Carolina Mountain Trail and Bent Creek Road, affording a short, pleasant walk along a cascading stream.
Moderate Hiking Trails
Carolina Mountain Trail – 1.2 miles (Foot traffic ONLY)
The Carolina Mountain Trail connects the Arboretum’s Production Greenhouse with the Education Center and main garden areas and Bent Creek Road. This trail winds through three different forest types, pine, mixed hardwood and ericaceous and provides interpretation of these native trees and its native insects throughout the trail. 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.
Natural Garden Trail – 0.75 miles (Foot traffic ONLY)
The Natural Garden Trail makes a loop from the Plants of Promise Garden to the north end of the main garden area. 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.
Running Cedar Road – 0.5 miles
Running Cedar Road is a gravel surfaced road which allows bikers, hikers, and pets on leashes access from the main garden area to Bent Creek Road.
Rocky Cove Road – 0.5 miles
Rocky Cove Road connects Bent Creek Road to the Owl Ridge Trail. The best example of Southern Appalachian cove hardwood forest on the property can be found here.
Difficult Hiking Trails
Owl Ridge Trail – 0.94 miles
The Owl Ridge Trail is the upper portion of a recreational loop used by bikers, hikers and pets on leashes. This naturally surfaced section of the loop is about .94 miles joining Rocky Cove Road with Hard Times Road, and is a connection to the lower trail which crosses the creek to rejoin Bent Creek Road making the whole loop about 3.5 miles.
Wesley Branch Trail – 0.4 miles (Foot traffic ONLY)
This trail connects Bent Creek Road near its intersection with the Old Mill Trail to the Natural Garden Trail and the main garden area, passing through a rhododendron thicket. Both the Wesley Branch Trail and the Natural Garden Trail are open to foot traffic only.
Hard Times Road – 0.8 miles
Connects recreational parking lot with the Owl Ridge Trail. Off the 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 trailhead.