One of my favorite spots to go and bird watch and take a stroll near the city is at Asheville Botanical Gardens. It is located on the University of North Carolina at Asheville (UNCA). It is about ten acres with an official half-mile loop trail taking you across bridges over streams, through meadows and through forested areas. Most of the trails are wide, well maintained gravel paths. There are a few picnic tables, benches and plenty of room to spread out a blanket and relax. They do not allow dogs, bikes or sports activities. The best part is that it is free!
No Frills Fun
This isn’t a showy-type garden. It is dedicated to the study and promotion of the native plants and habitats of the Southern Appalachians. Quiet a few of the native plants and trees do have identification markers, but a lot of them remain nameless… and a few nibbled away by the local squirrels. If you head to the gift shop, someone is sure to help you if you really want to identify a particular plant. In the spring, it will be filled with the wildflowers which can be quite spectacular.
When you first arrive at the Botanical Gardens, there will be a gift shop directly in front of you. It is open March through December. It offers some snacks, books and trinkets. There is a clean bathroom. The staff is helpful and eager to answer any questions you might have about the gardens. If you take an immediate left before the gift shop, you will arrive at an elevated viewing deck. At your eye level, at least a story above the ground, is a suspended bird feeder that is usually loaded with bird food and thus birds. It’s a lovely place to enjoy the view, especially in the mornings.
Local Swimming Hole
If you follow the path to the left across the first bridge and then bare to the right, you will come out on an informal trail down to the Reed’s Creek. This area is often filled with families with young kids that want to cool off in the summer heat.
Off the Beaten Trail
About half way around the loop trail, just past Hayes Cabin, you will find a more rugged trail. It looks as though is might have started off as a short cut that students took to get across campus. It is aptly named, the UNCA perimeter trail. It is narrow and a bit uneven, but easy enough to walk on. It will lead you back to the open meadow near the gift shop.
This is another great spot to stretch your legs and enjoy some peace and quite right in the heart of Asheville!
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