The Asheville Botanical Garden is a ten acre slice of nature tucked away five minutes from downtown Asheville. Located on the edge of the UNCA Campus, the garden holds over 600 different species native to Southern Appalachia. The garden is beautifully designed to cover many habitats and diversity. A walking trail starts at the visitor center and parking lot, looping through the foliage and creates a half mile loop. The bridges, creek and park benches provide an plenty of photo opportunities and play spaces for the children. With the seasonal diversity, walking the trail every month gives a different perspective.
From the Botanical Gardens website the peak for spring blooms is April through May. A second bloom follows at the end of summer. With such plant diversity, families can spot species in bloom throughout the year. The fall colors in the garden are astonishing, with the meadow providing panorama views.
We visited the garden many times this year and each trip is a success. The first time was a quick stop to spend 20 minutes before an appointment nearby. A second trip was a group walk with the “Hike It Baby Asheville” Facebook group in Halloween costumes. When family came to visit, we loaded up the car and stopped at the Botanical Garden before lunch. The trails are well maintained and stroller friendly. Most sections of the trail are open and safe enough for the smallest walkers. The bridges have fencing in place to allow the kids to view the water below. The Botanical Garden is one of the best stops in town for families wanting to play outdoors.
The two pictures above are the same set of trees five weeks apart. A storm came through with high winds and stripped the trees of color. The kids enjoyed the leaf piles but many of the photos have an early winter feel.
Many small signs are around the trail identifying the different plants. The signs are both on the ground and on the tree trunks. I found the signs immensely helpful. If you want to plant a native species butterfly garden, the signs help point out the best plants. We took notes of the bushes the butterflies hovered around for our future garden update. The trail passes around the creek, providing scenery changes for the children. During the Halloween costume walk, twenty kids stood still and watched leaves glide over the rocks from the bridge. The scene was incredible for the moment it lasted before bouncing off to the next bench. My daughter loves rocks and climbing all over. The middle of the trail is on a slope with a rock wall on one side and rock piles as a median. She was in heaven and we helped her hop from rock to rock on the ground. The large hiking group with the parents and grandparents finished the loop in just over an hour, including the many pit stops. The entire group had a good time and settled down for a picnic in the meadow before parting ways. I overheard the organizers talking about the trip being one of the largest groups due to the popularity of the Botanical Garden.
On our next trip when Grandma came into town, large acorns were falling and they stole the show for Riley. She would collect them on the walk and place piles on the rocks. In the two months separating her first and most recent visits, her level of comfort for walking the trail skyrocketed. At only a year and half, she was able to walk most of the trail, including the slopes. With that in mind, strollers can go everywhere in the park but it may be easier on the group to let the kids walk and hold hands on the one sloped section of trail. The kids will want to play in the creek, but please use extreme caution near the water. We checked four different openings on the water and each one had a large amount of broken glass. For a park so clean of litter, I am shocked at the glass. I guess it is the reality of the location in the city and next to a college campus. You tend to forget that the garden is only ten acres and surrounded by neighborhoods.
For a family adventure, the Asheville Botanical Garden is a must see. We plan on visiting once a month throughout the year. The garden is convenient for a picture project we are working on. We plan on setting up a few locations and taking seasonal pictures as the kid grows at each spot. Capturing the change of the scenery and the daughter is fun and makes great memories.
Exploring the entire park takes 30 minutes or expanded out to two hours as you wander. Even with our visits, we have not gone inside the visitor center, so I’ll update on our next trip. The Botanical Garden provides a wonderful setting for educational programs, picnics and photography. Check in at the visitor center to learn about tours and the educational courses overed. As you walk through the garden, please be respectful of the others enjoying nature. You will find people reading on benches or practicing the violin in the gazebo. Our family will enjoy the gardens far into the future.
If you want to connect with other parents hiking with kids in the area, check out the “Hike it Baby Asheville” group on facebook. The group is closed to prevent spam. Ask to join and then catch up on any upcoming hikes.