Natural beauty comes in a kaleidoscope of colors each fall at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. Vibrant colors amid trees, shrubs, and perennials delight the senses. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and adjacent to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, it's one of the most beautiful natural settings in the South.
With the great diversity of trees on their 434-acre public garden, you'll find a long fall color season. Peak color is the last two weeks of October. Often, areas of great color extend into early November.
Favorite Fall Spots
- See the mum display in the Quilt Garden (pic at top of page), along with fall plantings in nearby gardens.
- Find the tiniest fall color show in the Bonsai garden (pic above).
- Forest Meadow (adjacent to the amphitheatre) was designed with tree selections that would exhibit great fall color.
- The Auto Garden (aka parking lot) has brilliant maples, kentucky coffee trees, ash trees that all change color at different times during the fall season
- Education Center Entrance Plaza, behind the Arboretum fountain surrounded by fall seasonal plantings, find a beautiful October glory maple that is backed by the two black gums on either side of it that demonstrates great color during the fall.
- Mountain bike the forested loop of Hard Times Road, Owl Ridge Trail, Rocky Cove Road and Bent Creek Road. Begin at the parking area near the Gatehouse.
- Hike the Carolina Mountain Trail, a 1.2-mile hiker only trail that starts at the Education Center and ends at their production greenhouse. Pass through three forest types: pine, mixed hardwood and ericaceous. Read about native trees and insects via interpretive signs along the way.
- Pick up lunch at their Savory Thyme Cafe and find the perfect picnic spot.
- For more gardens and trails, see our complete NC Arboretum Guide.
Guided Forest Trail Walk
On Tuesdays and Saturdays beginning at 1 PM, take a free guided walk with trained volunteer guides along woodland trails and through a variety of forest types. The 2-mile walk lasts about 2 hours, beginning in the Baker Exhibit Center lobby.
Guided Garden Tour
On Fridays beginning at 10 AM, take guided walk with a trained volunteer through the cultivated gardens, talking about design, plans and general gardening info.
September 1-October 1, 2017: “A Year in the Life of a Mountain Bog”
See this yearlong photography project between photographer Michael Oppenheim and the Southern Blue Ridge Mountain Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, inside the Education Center.
September 1-October 29: Winged Wonders: Step into the World of Butterflies
An indoor butterfly exhibit in the Baker Exhibit Center that features a chrysalis-rearing chamber and a walk-through butterfly house.
September 20, 2017-January 7, 2018: Wicked Plants
The NC Arboretum's popular traveling exhibit returns home. Hands-on experience with some of the world's most diabolical botanicals. Baker Exhibit Center.
September 23, 2017: Monarch Butterfly Day
Learn how you can help the monarchs, purchase milkweed to benefit the Arboretum’s youth education initiatives, make and take butterfly crafts and witness monarch butterfly tagging. 10 AM-4 PM. Watch the butterfly release at 11:45 AM and 2:45 PM. Educational presentations at 11 AM and 2 PM. Read about the monarch butterfly migration.
September 23, 2017: Carolina Craft Day
Celebrate traditional and contemporary Southern Appalachian art and craft 10 AM-4 PM at the Arboretum’s Education Center. See artists working in fiber, paper, clay, metal, and wood as well as traditional music and informational craft demonstrations. All participating artists have been juried in and represent some of the excellent work from the region. Artists’ work will be available for purchase during the fair.
October 14-15, 2017: Carolina Bonsai Expo
Asheville transforms into the bonsai capital of the Southeast! This horticultural extravaganza inside the Education Center features a juried display of bonsai by clubs from across the southeast, a renowned bonsai marketplace, workshops, free demonstrations, and a popular Ikebana exhibit. The two-day event features workshops to learn bonsai and ikebana techniques from master artists. Open 9 AM-5 PM both days. There is no charge for visitors to attend although usual parking fees apply.
November 17, 2017: Winter Lights Begins
Walk through the gardens aglow with 500,000 lights! Read about Winter Lights.
The Arboretum is a photographer's dream each fall with the many colors, warm lighting and an impressive outdoor sculpture collection.To plan a visit, see our complete NC Arboretum Guide. For the latest on fall color and events in the Asheville area, go to our Fall Foliage Forecast.
NC Arboretum Fast Facts
- Property Hours: The gardens and trails are open daily, weather permitting, 8 AM–9 PM September–October. The entrance gate closes one hour before. The Education Center, Baker Exhibit Center and Bonsai Garden are open daily 9 AM–5 PM.
- Admission: Free, but there is a parking fee. $14 per personal motor vehicle, $50 15-seat passenger van, $100 motorcoaches. Parking is $7 on the first Tuesday of each month. No charges apply for pedestrians, bicyclists or The North Carolina Arboretum Society members.
- Pets: Dogs on leashes are permitted on the grounds and in the gardens (except the Bonsai exhibit). Service or guide dogs only are allowed in buildings & Bonsai exhibit.
- Picnics: Informal picnicking permitted on the grounds. No alcoholic beverages.
- Wheelchair Access: The buildings, gardens and some trails are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchairs are available free of charge onsite, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
- Directions: The NC Arboretum is located off NC Highway 191, south of Asheville. From I-26, take exit 33; from I-40, use exit #47 (Farmers Market). From both these exits, follow Blue Ridge Parkway (and 191 South) signs to the Parkway entrance ramp. Arboretum entrance is immediately on the right, after exiting onto the ramp. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, take Milepost 393 exit.
- Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville
- Telephone: 828-665-2492 | Click here to visit their Web site