Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

joyce kilmer collage

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is located inside the Nantahala National Forest in Graham County, North Carolina. It is 3,800-acres of publicly owned old growth forest. The forest is named in memory of poet and journalist Joyce Kilmer, best known for his poem “Trees”.

The forest offers a wonderful and easy day hiking experience. It is a two mile trail in a figure 8 shape giving you a chance to shorten the hike to 1.25 miles.  However, the extra .75 mile is well worth the walk. This loop takes you through a tulip poplar cove. With some trunks reaching over 20 feet in diameter this grove contains most of the forest’s largest trees.  The trail system runs along the Santeetlah Creek. You’ll see lush ferns and evergreen rhododendron living happily under the shade of these enormous beauties. Being close to the creek this trail tends to stay cool even in the heat of summer. A favorite hike around July when the rhododendron are blooming.

You can’t camp or park overnight, but there are nice restrooms at the trail head and lots of camping options and great overnight backpacking trails nearby.

“Trees” (1913)  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.

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