Joyce Kilmer Forest
Ancient Trees and Fall Colors
A walk in Joyce Kilmer forest on a crisp Western North Carolina autumn day is unforgettable. The poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer and a grove of old growth trees inspired the creation of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
Bring your camera along when you visit these ancient trees. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest offers an easy two mile figure-8-shaped nature trail through one of the largest old growth preserves in the eastern United States, a remnant of Appalachian native cove hardwood forest. Walking through the grove of virgin poplar trees, Joyce Kilmer forest’s largest trees, surrounded by fall colors is a magnificent autumn experience.
The lower loop follows the rushing Little Santeetlah Creek for a while, and then turns into the natural forest where fallen leaves cover the trail. Where the lower loop meets the upper loop, there is a Joyce Kilmer memorial plaque for the poet and World War II veteran who is best remembered for his poem Trees. Joyce Kilmer wrote the famous poem written in 1913 which begins "I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree....".
As pretty as the lower loop is, it is the upper loop that will take your breath away when you come to the grove of huge tulip-poplars. Many of these grand trees are over 400 years old, with trunks up to 20 feet in circumference that tower more than 100 feet above the Joyce Kilmer forest floor. Giant red oaks, magnificent hemlocks and many other hardwood trees provide a profusion of rich fall foliage in hues of green, red, orange, yellow and maroon. The narrow natural earth path is well-used, with steps in places, and the rich natural ground cover includes trunks of huge moss-covered trees felled by nature.
The poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer:
I Think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is located about 2 hours west of Asheville beyond Robbinsville. From Robbinsville, take NC 143W for about 12 miles and turn right on Joyce Kilmer Road, SR1134. After about 2 miles, turn left to the Joyce Kilmer forest parking lot. This remote area offers one of the finest Western North Carolina fall colors walks. Allow 1 to 2 hours to walk the trail and see the Joyce Kilmer trees at a leisurely pace with plenty of time to gaze in awe the huge poplars. Pack a picnic lunch, or plan to stop in a larger town for lunch.
Our Favorite Autumn Foliage Walks
Asheville Fall Colors Walk
Stroll along the rushing Swannanoa River on a leaf strewn path and then circle the fields at Warren Wilson College Farm surrounded by fall colors.
Moses Cone Carriage Road
A favorite family fall color walk around pretty blue Bass Lake surrounded by vibrant fall foliage in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Take the family on an autumn foliage walk in the gardens with the best fall color plantings, and then walk paths through native woods at the peak of fall color.
Follow in the footsteps of famous poet Carl Sandburg to the top of Glassy Mountain for a scenic view of fall colors in the Flat Rock valley.
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