Founded in 1929, the Dawes Arboretum currently encompasses nearly 1800 acres of land and contains some 15,000 living trees and plants. Dedicated to “increasing the love and knowledge of trees, history and the natural world” and containing grand trees, great hiking trails, and tranquil gardens and lakes, Dawes Arboretum is the perfect place for Columbus nature lovers to spend an enjoyable day.
The trees are the main attraction at Dawes Arboretum, and for good reason. At Dawes, visitors can see hundreds, if not thousands, of different species of trees. Each area of the arboretum has its special charms, from the evergreens in Conifer Glen to the Beech and Buckeye Collection, to the Rare Trees Collection. The Deep Woods area will hold familiar trees for any Ohio outdoorsman, while the Cypress Swamp, one of the northernmost stands of bald cypress trees, will delight and amaze visitors.
Each season holds something special among these trees. In winter, the snows make for a great backdrop for wandering about the Conifer Glen. From late winter to early spring, visitors are in for a special treat in the Cypress Swamp, the emergence of several salamander species not easily observable elsewhere in the region. In early to mid-spring, come out to see the cherry blossoms or the blooming apple trees, and of course come again in fall to see the deep reds, yellows, oranges, and purples of changing leaves.. These are certainly great times for photography at the Dawes Arboretum.
Spread over several gently rolling hills, the nearly eight miles of trails at the Dawes Arboretum make this an excellent location for a hike of almost any length. The main trails at Dawes wind through the gardens and groves, adding wonderful landscaping to the trek. As a bonus, many of the trails are blessed with great tree cover, especially those through the Deep Woods. This cover can keep even the most brutal summer sun at bay.
The Deep Woods trails are also hosts to two historical points of interest at Dawes Arboretum: the log cabin and the old cemetery. The log cabin gives visitors a taste of life in early Ohio, includes a spring house, and is the site of yearly maple syrup demonstrations. The cemetery is a testament to the history and continued life of this area. Grave markers range in dates from 1801 to 2008, and those buried here include veterans of wars from the American Revolution through Vietnam. Also buried here is the first child born to white settlers in Licking Country.
Along with these main trails, the Dawes Arboretum also features several miles of additional trails on the eastern side of its property. The East Trails can be accessed via the Visitor Center during normal business hours. These trails are more slightly more difficult than the main trails, mainly due to uneven ground and the potential for muddy or swampy conditions. They are, however, quite good hiking trails and worth a trip to Dawes for that experience alone.
In among such beautiful natural scenes it is only fitting to seek out places of rest and peace. Dawes Arboretum has many such areas of tranquility, but one stands out beyond all others..
The Japanese Garden, a favorite among many visitors, is one of the most tranquil places at Dawes Arboretum. From the over-sized Zen rock garden to the small foot bridges over the lake, to the koi swimming lazily through the waters, this garden is as peaceful as they come. This effect is only magnified when the cherry trees are in bloom. It is easy to pass an hour just sitting in the tea house and basking in the beauty of the surroundings.
If You Go
Dawes Arboretum is located just south of Newark on State Route 13. The grounds are open from 7:00 AM to dusk year-round, and the Visitor Center is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday-Saturday and 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Sundays and Holidays. The arboretum is closed on New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas days. Entrance to the grounds and the Visitor Center is free of charge.