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Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Tucked away in a secluded corner of Nantahala National Forest is the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. This 3,800-acre forest is named after Joyce Kilmer, a poet famous for writing the 1913 poem "Trees." This forest is a top North Carolina mountain attraction because of the history behind the trees in this forest.

Learn more about this forest and what you can do in this historic area with our guide to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.
Where is Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest?
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is about 40 miles northwest of Nantahala Lake near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. It sits adjacent to Lake Santeetlah and is part of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. The closest city is Robbinsville, North Carolina, about 13 miles east of the forest.

To better explore this iconic forest, be sure to check out the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest Map.
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Old Growth Forest in North Carolina
One of the most iconic parts of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is the ages of its trees. Many of the giant trees within this forest are estimated at 450 years old. This has led to some giant trees throughout the area. Some of the largest tulip poplars are about 20 feet in circumference and stand at 100 feet tall.

The forest bed is covered in wildflowers and ferns while there are over 100 species of trees, including sycamore, basswood, oak and yellow poplar. All of these factors make Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest one of the largest collections of old-growth trees on the East Coast.
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Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail
The best way to explore this historic forest is by way of the Joyce Kilmer National Recreation Trail, which is an easy hike. It stretches about two miles and features two loops. The 1.25-mile lower loop passes by the memorial plaque while the 0.75-mile upper loop takes you into the Poplar Cove, which is home to the largest trees.

Other features you'll see along the trail include a moss-covered bridge, a waterfall and the Little Santeetlah Creek that runs through the glade. The trailhead features a parking area, restrooms and picnic tables.

Note that there is no running water available.
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Lake Santeetlah
While not part of the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, Lake Santeetlah isn't far from the forest and can be a fun addition to a day trip to the area. Myriad trees surround the pristine lake, which offers some amazing views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Some great activities you can do on the lake include fishing and boating. Santeetlah Marina offers boat rental opportunities.

Those looking to try fishing can find bass, walleye, bluegill, crappie, bream and lake trout in the lake.

The Town of Lake Santeetlah sits on a peninsula in the lake and hosts 200 homes with 50 permanent residents. all in all, this lake is a great way to connect with nature in western North Carolina.
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Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness
Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness covers 19,246 acres, 13,590 of which reside in North Carolina while the rest is in Tennessee. Much like the memorial forest, this wilderness houses many older trees as it avoided logging in the early 1900s.

There are many hiking trails in the wilderness including the Stiff Knee Trail (3.4 miles) and the Slickrock Creek Trail (13.3 miles), which is ranked as one of the 10 toughest trails in the U.S. It features a 3,700-foot climb and 13 stream crossings.

Visitors to the wilderness can also enjoy fishing opportunities as well as backpacking.
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