Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, roughly midway between Hendersonville and Brevard, is Holmes Educational State Forest. Highlights of this state-managed forest include the Talking Tree, Forest Management Demonstration and Crab Creek trails.
From Raleigh, Holmes Educational State Forest is about 280 miles, roughly a 4-hour, 45-minute drive.
To see and do
North Carolina's system of educational state forests includes six centers statewide; Holmes is the westernmost.
These managed forests can best be described as outdoor classrooms, teaching visitors about the complex ecosystems that comprise a forest and helping them gain a better understanding and appreciation of forests.
At Holmes, the Talking Tree Trail is a 0.45-mile, easy-to-moderate path that loops along a hillside of towering hardwoods, including black birch, yellow poplar, white oak and American basswood.
The trail takes about 45 minutes to walk, including time to stop and listen to the brief taped messages at several points along the way.
The "talking" trees have names and tell visitors about themselves, their uses, their surroundings and general history of the forest.
Each tree has several messages; by pressing the play button several times, visitors can receive additional information.
The Forest Management Demonstration Trail, rated strenuous, is the longest hike, covering 3.5 miles and taking about two hours to walk.
The Wildcat Rock Trail is slightly more than a half-mile, runs between the Talking Tree and the Demonstration trails, is very steep, has lots of steps and is rated very strenuous.
The half-mile Crab Creek Trail is an easy, flat path.
Along it, visitors can see the fire-control exhibit - featuring equipment associated with fighting forest fires - a Huey helicopter, a tractor/plow and a fire tower.
The site is equipped with modern restrooms, a large group picnic shelter, many individual picnic areas with tables and grills and a group campground.