Family Fun on the NC Arboretum’s Carolina Mountain Trail

Carolina Mountain Trail – One of our favorite kid-friendly hikes in Asheville

If you are looking for a short trail in Asheville that immerses you in the woods and takes you to a secluded babbling creek, the Carolina Mountain Trail is the perfect hike for you.

NC Arboretum trail map

We find that this hike is the perfect distance and has the right set of features to make it a great hike with kids. It’s definitely one of our favorite trails at The NC Arboretum.

Whether you have an NC Arboretum membership or if you’re just visiting for the day and want to go for a short nature hike, this is a great trail. Be sure to check out the NC Arboretum Trail Map before you embark on your journey!

Trailhead sign at the Carolina Mountain Trail

Carolina Mountain Trail Quick Facts

Location: NC Arboretum (Note: there is a parking fee)

Trail Type: Out and back. There are opportunities to link with other trails at end to make it a loop, though.

Trail Length: 1.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate – some elevation changes along the trail but nothing our four-year-old can’t tackle

Features: Wooded out and back hike. The last stretch of the trail is along Bent Creek with a small waterfall and opportunities to splash in the creek.

Carolina Mountain Trail Trailhead

The Carolina Mountain Trail trailhead is located inside the NC Arboretum behind the Education Center and Bent Creek Bistro. As you enter the small parking lot, you’ll see a large address sign that says “100” just to the right of Bent Creek Bistro.

This is where you will see the trailhead sign and map at the back of the parking lot. From here you will enter the trail. The trail begins with a downhill section and a few switchbacks.

The trail continues through the forest, which is great for shade during the summer. There are tree markers along the trail to educate hikers about the trees growing along the trail and the insects that inhabit the trees. The forest cover is dense, making for a peaceful hike immersed in nature.

Trail along the creek

After you cross Wolf Branch service road, you will hike the last portion down to the creek. At this point the trail travels along Bent Creek with areas for rock hopping, rushing water and even a small waterfall. This is the highlight of the hike for our family. We often spend a long time here picnicking and exploring the creek.

The hike back to the NC Arboretum

From this point, you can take the same path back out or one of several other routes.

If you want to continue along the Bent Creek you can follow Creekside Trail and then take Running Ceder Road back to the Education Center. This is one of the Arboretum’s recommended loops and clocks in at a total of two miles. It’s great for kids with the trail following the creek most of the way.

We also love looping around the Arboretum’s greenhouse (not currently open to the public) and then back up the Carolina Mountain Trail. On this route, you will pass by a small community garden just before you get to the greenhouse parking lot. At the end of the parking lot, you will find signs for the Carolina Mountain Trail back to the education center.

You’ll note that you can hike down to the creek from the greenhouse parking lot if you want to minimize the hiking distance to get to the water!

Once you arrive back at the trailhead you are at the Bent Creek Bistro which makes for a perfect stop for lunch or a snack. We love to grab one of their fresh chocolate chip cookies!

We love this easy trail and hope this post inspires you to go have an adventure at the NC Arboretum. If you are looking for more information about visiting the arboretum with kids, check this post here! And if you want more ideas for things to do with kids in Asheville, we have that too!

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