All pretenses aside, my husband and I thought it would be the “short day”.
You know, the activity that when you get there you go, “This is nice, let’s spend an hour then figure out where to go next.”
In actuality, the Arboretum was our longest activity in Asheville and with good reason.
So, the gardens themselves are gorgeous. Beautiful flowers with a cohesive layout, easily maneuvered walkways and rustic wooden structures throughout.
Here are a couple pictures, although they don’t do it justice.
Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning , at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
In addition to the beautiful gardens, you will find a butterfly garden, an education center and a nice sitting area next to the information desk. The sitting area was peaceful, and seems like a great place to rest after walking or even to bring a book. From what we could tell the gift shop had a pretty substantial and inviting selection, but unfortunately it was closed for inventory the day we visited.
The cafe was smaller than I expected upon entering the grounds, but offered plenty of tables both inside and out. The outside seating had great ambiance which invited you to stay and relax, while the inside felt more like a “quick eat” location. We were happy to find delicious cold brew coffee and a handsome selection of sandwiches and wraps. Although they were simple, they were delicious, and perfect for just a quick bite before a hike.
One of my 3 year olds favorite parts of the day was the “train station.”
An intricate model railroad built to mimic the Asheville area around the time the rail system was brought to western North Carolina. It really was super interesting.
Between the gardens, train station and cafe, we spent about an hour in the landscaped area of the arboretum. That hour was enough, but we could’ve stretched it to two if wanted.
However, the largest part of our day, was the amazing hike we took through the mountain.
We walked two different trails and back up to the gardens, totaling around 3 miles. We have not hiked together ever and separately it was between 10-20 years ago that we last did. Also, I was toting an infant (I totally recommend the Ergo baby carrier that I used. It was wonderful. She was snug, but comfortable. I felt confident she was safe and secure, while her weight was distributed so that I could hike without extra effort. Also, it has a hood, which I used often to keep the sun off of her face. Overall, amazing.) he was carrying a large backpack and our 3 year old was with us. So, it is definitely doable for novice hikers. (The last time I REALLY hiked, I was probably around 12.
The hike was breathtaking in spots. Not because we are out of shape, but because there were expansive views of the mountains, beautiful waterfalls and babbling brooks. Mostly wooded, the trails kept us out of the midday summer sun so it didn’t get too hot.
In total, there are more than 10 miles of hiking trails ranging from easy to moderate and difficult. This allows any level of hiker to enjoy the gorgeous western NC mountains.
Overall, I highly recommend visiting the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. For just a relaxing stroll through the gardens or an invigorating hike through the mountain, this is the place to be.