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  • Writer's pictureChelsea Susan Bednar

Local Field Trip: Mountaintop Arboretum

Location: 4 Maude Adams Road Tannersville, NY 12485

Public Parking: Lot Available

Cost: suggested a donation of $5 for non-member entry.

Hours: Garden Dawn to Dusk | Education Center 9am to 4pm, Tuesday through Saturday | Restrooms open 8am to 6pm every day.

Food: Not Permitted

Nestled within the Catskills is Tannersville's hidden gem: The Mountaintop Arboretum. Explore the native habitat of the northern Catskills and immerse yourself in nature, surrounded by a diverse collection of woodlands and gardens. Hike the curated trails or stroll through the lush gardens. Site-see wildlife in its natural habitat - birdwatchers, this is the place for you!

A Brief History

The Arboretum’s founders, Peter and Bonnie Arenas, founded the conservatory in 1977. What started as 7 acres of land dedicated to studying sustainable horticulture has since expanded to 178 acres of protected meadows, wetlands, and forests. Today the Mountaintop Arboretum continues to serve both the land and community as an ecological resource and educational facility.

Self Guided Tours & Map

Visitors are free to roam the public garden, aided by this downloadable map & self guided tour. Physical copies are available on site for those who want something tangible. The property is expansive, it may be overwhelming with understanding where to start. Below we’ve broken the arboretum down into sections so you can have a brief understanding of all there is to see. For more information, visit their website and download a copy of the self guided tour & printable map here.

Four Main Areas of the Arboretum

At a glance, the land is divided into four main sections: West Meadow, Woodland Walk, East Meadow, and Spruce Glen. Visitors could spend anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours in each area, briskly hiking to see it all in a day or dedicating time to enjoy the details. Disclaimer: due to the soft surfaces of the dirt paths, it may be difficult to push strollers or wheelchairs through the enclosures.

Host to native grasses, shrubs, and wildflowers, the West Meadow sits in the heart of the seven acre ‘bowl’ formed by the surrounding mountaintops. There is a gazebo and multiple benches around the pond area. Incredible flowers bloom almost all year round. All the plants in this section must adapt to thin soil levels due to a base formation of naturally exposed bedrock. These grey stone slabs age back 375 million years, once a part of the Catskill Sea. Dawn Redwood trees surround the pond today, standing mount the most ancient trees that exist on earth.

Within this section is the Rain Garden, a designated wet-thriving garden area that collects runoff from the meadow. The upper area of this area is a section planted with over 60 pollinator-attracting species known as Bird Cove. If you continue down the path you’ll enter the Spiral Labyrinth, a meditative experience for those who like to stroll along, taking in the full fragrances of the perennial blooms. On the eastern side of the meadow are a variety of Dwarf Conifer Berms including dwarf pine, spruce, fir, cedar, and more.

The Woodland Walk is a preserved habitat of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. To learn to identify the flower species, reading the Beginner’s Guide to Spring Wildflowers in the Woodland Walk.This protected enclosure loops around three connected paths of the wooden landscape. The Mountaintop arboretum partners with Cornell University to save the White Ash Tree that you can see in this area, along with the Blight Chestnut tree (taken from breeders with attempts to produce seeds that will adapt to this region).

In the Upper Path of the Woodland Walk visitors can see spring blooms like the Trillium, Trout-Lily, or Dog’s Tooth Violet. In early summer the Mountain Laurel will be in full bloom. Further into the path is the Sunny Meadow, comprised of New York Ferns covering the forest floor. Walk the winding path and follow it through the loop to the Outdoor Classroom and Woodland Amphitheater.

Be sure to stop through the Fairy Garden, where children and adults alike are encouraged to get creative and build miniature homes and gardens for the fairies of the forest.

If you follow the winding path past Maude Adams Road you’ll find the East Meadow entering into Pine Grove. Within this area is Pine Allee, featuring the majestic Eastern White Pine. This preserved collection is slowly being replaces with younger trees of the same species. Along the meadow is the American Hedgerow, featuring collections of native plants that offer spectacle all year round.

The East Meadow always has something for those with seasonal curiosity, blooming with an abundance of flowers in spring and summer, producing fruits in the fall, and displaying an impressive variety of twig colors in the winter.

If you pass the northern deer fence gate you’ll pass a small building once used to pump water in the 20th century known as the Pump House. The location frames a stunning view of Platte Clove, spanning the wetland to the mountains and continuing down to the Wet Meadow Boardwalk. Bird lovers, this is the spot for you! Veer right on the path and you’ll enter the Fern Trail (left will take you back around to Maude Adams Road).

The newest addition to the Arboretum is the Spruce Glen. This area hosts three distinctly different ecosystems, preserving delicate species from the Hemlock Trail to the Hidden Marsh. To ensure the safety of the plants, please stick to the designated paths when traversing through.

Follow the Transitional Forest Trail, encountering the Japanese Honeysuckle into the forest. Visitors to the Emerald Bog can walk along the newly installed boardwalk, allowing them to view the depressions known as boggy bowls, a natural habitat to native wildflowers, ferns, and sedges (a type of long prairie grass). Turning left of the Hemlock Trail is the Spruce Nursery, a nurturing site for the next generation of conifers.

The ridges formed by glacial recession 15,000 years ago are known as Hemlock Ridge, a trail that is so dense with thick trees that it’s seemingly silent, a step into somewhere otherworldly. Hikers may notice the remnants of old stone walls along the Old Bark Road that are believed to an old logger’s tannery, but more historical research has yet to be discovered.

The Hidden Marsh, otherwise known as a Fen, is a peat-forming wetland that gathers nutrients from the earth’s surrounding minerals & groundwater movement. This area supports a wide variety of diverse plant and animal life and is only begging to be studied.

The Education Center at the arboretum hosts lectures and workshops to spread environmental appreciation & stewardship of the Catskill Mountains. The building was constructed by the hands of local artisans, featuring timber from 21 different tree species within the premise. Programs are available for all age groups, and a schedule of upcoming events can be found on their website.

Whether you plan an all-day excursion or simply enjoy a short walk through the lush gardens and greenery, the Mountaintop Arboretum has something for everyone to enjoy. We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of all the Arboretum has to offer. Thank you for reading.

the {verdigreen} hotels team

Looking for somewhere to stay in the Hudson Valley? Check out one of our three upstate properties in Woodstock, Tannersville, and East Chatham.


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