Established in 1986, The North Carolina Arboretum is a public garden and affiliate of the University of North Carolina System. As one of the leading cultural institutions in the region and state, the Arboretum works hard to advance North Carolina’s future by creatively connecting people, plants and places through education, design and economic development. Located on 434 acres in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest just south of Asheville, the Arboretum offers 65 acres of cultivated gardens, 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, special events like the Winter Lights holiday light show, rotating exhibits, art and a variety of guided and self-guided learning opportunities.
The North Carolina Arboretum was established in 1986 by the North Carolina General Assembly nearly a century after Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, first envisioned a research arboretum as part of his plan for the Biltmore Estate. While Olmsted’s plan never came to fruition, the Arboretum serves as a way to honor Olmsted’s legacy and provides economic and tourism opportunities for the Western North Carolina region. Since its inception, the Arboretum has grown to serve more than 500,000 guests annually and reaches more than 26,000 youth and 5,000 adults through on- and off-site educational programming.
The North Carolina General Assembly and the Western North Carolina Development Association (now WNC Communities) selected Asheville as the site for The North Carolina Arboretum due to the region’s vast plant diversity and as a way to bring economic opportunities and tourism to the region.
The Arboretum has a Community Partner network of community-minded businesses and organizations that further the Arboretum’s mission of cultivating connections between people, plants and places. These businesses provide monetary and in-kind support that help advance the Arboretum’s educational programs, exhibits and facilities year-round. Other key partners include the U.S. Forest Service, the UNC System, our 15,000 members and other financial supporters, and our network of more than 600 volunteers who donate more than 25,000 hours every year to support the grounds, gardens, facilities and visitors.
Just as our natural world is a “community” ecosystem full of plants and wildlife that work together to support one another, the Arboretum is a “community” of members, volunteers, staff, Community Partners, vendors, artists and other key organizations that work together to provide Western North Carolina with a place that honors the region’s cultural and natural heritage and provides engaging learning experiences for children and adults.