No parking at Rice Pinnacle? Consider the Arboretum as a parking option…
The North Carolina Arboretum, situated in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, is an excellent place to begin your mountain bike ride. The main parking area is a great choice as there is usually plenty of parking and access to 2 public buildings with restroom facilities. The greenhouse parking area is also a great choice, and with a short ride down Wolf Branch Road, you are directly connected to Bent Creek Road. The greenhouse hours are 8:00am-2:00pm Monday – Friday, and the building is closed on weekends.
Let me first give you a little background about The North Carolina Arboretum. The arboretum is an affiliate of the University of North Carolina. The arboretum also has a non-profit 501c3 called The North Carolina Arboretum Society. The Society helps to support the day to day operations of the arboretum. When you join and become a member of the arboretum, 100% of your membership funds stay at the arboretum to help support our daily operations.
By joining the arboretum, you receive free parking for a year, and if you join at the household level or above, all members of your household receive the same benefits including cards for each member of your household. Membership also has other benefits such as discounts in our Connections Gallery Gift Shop and Savory Thyme Café, discounts on adult and youth education courses, invitations to member’s only events, and reciprocal admissions and discounts at over 250 botanical gardens and arboreta nationwide!
When you are a member of the arboretum, you can use your card at our main and service gates for entry. The service gate is located just off Wesley Branch Road (on your way to Rice Pinnacle). Members have access to the arboretum April-October 8:00am-9:00pm, entrance gates close at 8:00pm. October-April 8:00am-7:00pm, entrance gates close at 6:00pm. You may ask why the entrances gates close and hour prior to the arboretum closing? The entrance gates close an hour prior to give our members and their guests’ time to hike, bike, or see the gardens and still be able to finish their visit before our property closes for the day. If riding off our property, make plans to be back to your car and leave arboretum property before closing.
The arboretum has several biking routes that you can use to access the trails in Bent Creek, but please keep in mind that we do have trails that are hiking only. These hiking trails are Bent Creek Trail (follows beside Bent Creek Road), Wesley Branch Trail, and the Natural Garden Trail. If you park in our main parking area, you can access Bent Creek Road from either a short ride down our main entrance road and make a right where Bent Creek Road begins, or you can ride toward our Education Center and enter our reserved parking area to the right of the building and proceed to the gravel road at the end of the parking area. Follow this road and bear right on Running Cedar Road, and at the end, you will
intersect Bent Creek Road. If you begin your ride from the greenhouse parking area, ride down to the graveled Wolf Branch Road and this will intersect Bent Creek Road. From Bent Creek Road, you can pass through the pedestrian gates and access the trail system of the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. If you choose, you can also ride through the arboretum up Rocky Cove Road to access Hard Times Road or bear left on Owl Ridge Trail (which is actually a gravel road) to intersect Hard Times Road. Both Rocky Cove Road and Hard Times Road have pedestrian gates to access the trails in Bent Creek.
So why pay for a membership to park when you can park in the US Forest Service lots for free? Have you ever tried to find a parking spot in one of the Forest Service lots on a pretty day? If you have, you know how hard it is to find a parking space. When the Forest Service parking lots are full and cars begin lining up along the road entering the lots, the Rangers have and will write parking citations. The mere cost of one parking citation is more than an annual membership to the arboretum. Another benefit of parking at the arboretum is more than having access to restroom facilities but also having access to our Campus Police. Our officers patrol our property and offer assistance to anyone requesting it. They are sworn officers of the State of North Carolina. Our officers offer assistance to emergencies on and off arboretum property. Speaking from someone who has had a bike accident and needed assistance returning to my car, I was more than a little appreciative of their ability to help. Their presence also deters crime and provides a more secure parking area for your vehicle. One of the arboretum members stated, “My membership is benefiting the arboretum, and it gives me a good peace of mind when I park my car to use the trails”. Plus, a Household level membership is less than .17 cents a day. You can’t buy much for less than a quarter a day anymore!
So the next time you come out to Bent Creek for a ride and you can’t find a place to park, consider the arboretum as an option.
The North Carolina Arboretum Membership Levels, Click here for details about membership benefits
Student Level – $25
Individual Level – $45
Household Level – $60
Rhododendron Level – $125
Laurel Level – $250
Holly Level – $500
You can join or renew your membership online as well! Click here to join or renew your arboretum membership today!!