Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Dec 2, 2014
Knoxville, TN
Up until the early 20th century nearly all of the old growth forests of the Easter United States had been cut for lumber. Forests full of huge trees were leveled. Today most all stands of forest are second growth trees that have returned to the areas cut over. Fortunately there are a sparse few areas that were saved from the axes and saws. One of those places is Albright Grove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Another is the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in western North Carolina.


Joyce Kilmer was an America writer and poet who is mostly remembered for his poem "Trees" published in 1913. A few days after the U.S. entered World War I, Kilmer enlisted. He was deployed to Europe and volunteered for hazardous duties. It was on July 30, 1918 when he was scouting German positions ahead of his regiment that he was shot and killed. Sixteen years later a local New York chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars petitioned the U.S. government to find a tract of forest to dedicate to the Kilmer in honor of his famous poem. The local North Carolina forest manager was reviewing the survey of the last tract of land in his area that was still not logged. The men and equipment were in place ready to go to work when he heard of the request. At his direction the 3,800-acre tract was left untouched and became what is now the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.


The forest is of the Cove Hardwood forest type unique to the Appalachian Mountains. The dominant species are oak, sycamore, beech, basswood and the very large yellow-poplar or tulip tree. Some of the trees in the grove are over 450 years old. The largest has a circumference of over 20 feet (6 meters) and over 100 feet (30 meters) tall.

Tenba 12L backpack for scale


The forest is easily accessed from Robbinsville, North Carolina, and is a short few miles from the Cherohala Skyway with its beautiful creatures and views. The grove of trees is easily accessible from a 2 mile figure 8 loop hiking trail.

Of course the forest is also full of more than just the majestic trees. Birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, insects, mushrooms and wildflowers should all be enjoyed on the short hike.


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

-Joyce Kilmer (December 6, 1886 – July 30, 1918)

Silly photographer for scale
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