Viles Arboretum offers six miles of trails traversing through 150 acres of fields and 74 acres of forest. Opportunities exist for walking, jogging, biking, nature study, bird watching, and even horseback riding. Tables and benches are found throughout the grounds to provide resting and picnicking spots. In the winter, trails are groomed for gently rolling cross-country skiing while other trails are marked for snowshoeing. In addition, there is a sledding hill for all to enjoy.
The Inner Loop Trail is 0.9 mile, easy hike. This trail is marked with red blazes but connects with the Outer Loop in multiple places. There are two trail heads to choose from; the hosta garden lined with beautiful white birches is a good path to start on. The best time to see the hostas is from late May through the summer months. Be on the look out for the Water Works Well on the left that is guarded by a little white fence. Stop and check out the old iron pipes and pump, constructed in the late 1800's. The pump was used to pump water to the hospital across the street from what is now the Arboretum. A little ways after the well, look to the right and notice a pit, which was once a granite rock quarry. The stones taken from here were used for the farm and hospital buildings. As you continue on, there is a nice fir tree collection on the left, including a mature concolour fir (Abies concolor).
Going right leads to the rock garden which offers benches with views of exquisite flowers and shrubs. Taking a left will lead to the foundation of the old "piggery." Take time to read the fascinating history that is posted on the stand in front of this landmark. Next visitors will come to a marble bench at the edge of Viles Pond. Sit down, relax and take in the sights and sounds of the wetland habitat. Trekking onward, cross a bridge and pass through a grass pathway to reach the start of a forested section of the trail.
By continuing to follow the red blazes, you will come upon a stone staircase and at the top to the right is the rhododendron grove. There is a bench here to sit down and enjoy these beautiful, flowering, evergreen shrubs. The time to see them in bloom is late May to early June. Past the Rhododendrons is the side trail for the Chestnut Plantation and the Nut Tree Collection. Continue on the red blazed inner loop trail and visitors will have the option of going back to Viles Pond on one trail and to the Rock Garden on the next. Hikers continue on past the side trails and will soon come to the trail end, where a short spur leads out to the visitors center.
The Outer Loop Trail, a 1.6 mile easy walk through fields and woods begins near the Gateway Collection, originally planted to exhibit which trees grow best in an urban environment. Some trees are labeled, so along the way don't be hesitant to stop and find out what they are. Next, be on the look out for the hardy oak tree collection and see if you can identify any of them. Following the oaks is the boardwalk crossing a small wetland. The observatory deck is a popular bird watching area.
After stepping off the boardwalk, visitors will be looking straight at the Governors Grove, which is a collection of eastern white pines all named after former Maine governors. Continuing on, in the distance the maple and linden trees can be spotted. Be on the look out for the third path on the right; this leads to the space shuttle pines. The seeds of these pine trees were taken up into outer space and planted to see if the change in atmospheric pressure would affect the trees growth or appearance.
Next, walk back to the outer trail and follow it into a beautiful wooded area. As visitors enter the woods, if it is early spring, listen for the calls of the wood frog, grey tree frog and the spring peepers. Also, look at the path, observe the man-made dam and the vernal pool that was created because of it. The vernal pool here is perfect habitat for a variety of amphibians. In addition, take notice of the surrounding hemlock and white pine forest and enjoy the cool shade they provide.
Visitors have the option to explore a trail called the Woods Loop that circles around this serene wooded area. Continue hiking through this pristine wooded section of the trail and eventually visitors emerge out into a grassy field. Be on the look out for side trails that will lead to the Constitution Pine and the next path which leads to the Chestnut Plantation. and Nut Tree Collection. This planting of chestnut trees, which were once prominent here in Maine, are used for breeding a blight resistant chestnut tree. Following this collection is the larch and green ash plantations. The larch species is the only coniferous tree that is deciduous. A good time to observe this unusual tree is in mid to late October to witness the green needles turning gold before falling to the ground.
After the twin plantations, hikers will merge onto an open grass field and will pass by the inner loop trail heads. The Lilac Collection will be on the way out- this is a great place to stop in mid to late May and take in the colors and aromas of these beautifully clustered flowers. Finish up the outer loop journey at the Heirloom Apple Tree Collection. These apple trees were grafted from what is known to be the first apple trees of Eastern Europe. Continue on towards the visitor center and end the hike at the parking area.
The Arboretum is an independent non profit corporation. Operating funds come from membership support from the general public. Check out the visitors center and see what is on display and find out about programs being offered there. Picnicking is permitted, however, there are no trash receptacles; please practice leave no trace principles and carry out what you carry in. The grounds of the Arboretum are open dawn to dusk every day at no charge. Donations to help with the costs of upkeep are welcome. The trail system provides year-round collections access, hiking, jogging, bird and other wildlife watching, non-motorized biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Smoking, weapons, motor vehicles, alcohol, fires, camping, and all activities that damage plants are prohibited.
Pets are allowed, but they must be leashed at all times. Owners please pick up and remove all pet waste from the grounds.
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From North: Take I-95 Exit 113 for Augusta/Belfast. Continue straight on ME Route 3 through two traffic lights crossing the Kennebec River. After the bridge, turn right at the traffic light at the intersection of ME Route 3 and US Route 201/ME Route 100 and follow US Route 201/ME Route 100 South. Staying on US 201, US Route 202 will join on the left and in another half mile there will be a traffic circle. Take the ME Route 9/Stone Street exit (the third after entering the circle). Continue on ME Route 9 for 1.2 miles (going straight through a traffic light), and turn into the Arboretum's Visitor Center on the left.
From East: Follow US 202 to its with US 201 in Augusta, and follow the directions above from there.
From South: Take I-95 Exit 109 for Augusta-Winthrop-US 202, and head east towards Augusta on Western Avenue to the rotary. Go 180 degrees around rotary and continue on US 202/Western Avenue (2nd exit). Go over the Memorial Bridge crossing the Kennebec, and at the next rotary, take the first, immediate exit onto ME Route 9/Stone Street. Continue on ME Route 9 for 1.2 miles (going straight through a traffic light), and turn into the Arboretum's Visitor Center on the left.
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