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Arboretum Nature Area

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Park Address1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor MI 481049​

Access      ​     Amenities          Histo​ry

Hours and Rules

Open sunrise to sunset​​ year round. Refer to Chapter 39 of the City of Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances for park regulations and rules. Smoking is prohibited, ​alcohol is prohibited, bike riding through the Arb is prohibited and dogs must be on leash.

Overview​​

The Arboretum Nature Area is 34 acres within the University of Michigan’s 123 acre Nichols Arboretum. You may not know that this section of "The Arb," home to the famous W.E. Upjohn Peony Garden​ and the main Washington Heights entrance, is land owned by the City of Ann Arbor. The entire Arb is managed by the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources. ​​The city owned portion is located on the west side of the Arboretum, spanning beautiful rolling terrain from the Washington Heights entrance, through winding trails, down to the Huron River on the north edge of the park. Located at this entrance is the James D. Reader Jr. Urban Environmental Education Center​, the peony garden and helpful maps and information at a small kiosk.

There are many trails winding through the hills and fields of the Arboretum. All are unpaved, some are wider and some have rustic stairs. Some paths may be fairly steep and wheelchair access is very limited going further into the park. The Arboretum has a restored prairie, open mowed areas and riverside access with good examples of water loving plants. The other woodlands support oak, ash and walnut among other tree species.

​Access and Parking

Limited City of Ann Arbor metered street parking is available at Nichols Arboretum on Washington Heights​ and on Observatory Street. Street metered parking charges apply Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; free Sundays and holidays. Visitors may park in the University of Michigan blue lot M28 on Washington Heights for free after 5 p.m. weekdays and on weekends. Visitors with University of Michigan blue passes may park at M28 and M95 on Washington Heights or in M34 on Observatory. For more information on parking on central campus and the hospital area visit the university’s parking site.​​​ There are bike racks at the park entrance.

Public Transportation: The nearest b​​us stop​​​ is on East Medical Center Drive, about a minute walk from the park's entrance. ​​Visit The Ride for schedule and route details or check out the parks ride guide. ​​​​​​

​​​Using a phone? - Click for a GPS Tracker and Wayfinding Map

Amenities

  • Peony garden
  • Unpaved trails
  • Bike racks​
  • Benches
  • ​Drinking fountain​
  • Urban Environmental Education Center


Volu​​nteer

Volunteers c​​ontribute 11,000 ​annual hours to ​the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Learn more and find an application to volunteer at MBGNA's volunteer page.​​​

History​

Ann Arbor's city parks sit on the ancestral and traditional homelands of several indigenous Native peoples. Read a land acknow​ledgement​ from the city and learn more about the early history of the land here​.​​

Nichols Arboretum was designed by O.C. Simonds in 1907. Now known as The Arb, it was assembled ​from land owned by the city, the university,and new gifts of land to the university. The peony garden started in 1922 thanks to a gift of ​peonies from Dr. W.E. Upjohn. The peony garden, one of the largest in North America, contains a wide variety of peonies dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, including many cultivars that are no longer commercially available. In 2022, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the garden and Upjohn's gift, his family gave $2 million ​to name the garden​s after him.​ Read more about the history of the garden and the Upjohn family gift here​.

Arboretum Nature Area, under management of Nicholas Arboretum, embodies a spirit of cooperation and higher purpose inspired, and reinspired over and over again, by love of nature. For most visitors it blends unnoticeably into Nichols Arboretum, a beautiful reflection of the intention that launched the city and the university into this joint venture.

It began with the natural beauty of the land --its hills, plateau, riverfront, and glen (a narrow valley) with what was once commonly called a rill (a small stream). Farming had brought changes to the ecology not entirely in tune with nature. Still, around the turn of the twentieth century the glen with its rill continued to speak of unbridled nature. Surrounding farmland offered diverse growing conditions, with hills and valley and, in addition, there was extensive riverfront.

Such was the scene when an agreement between several parties set in motion the joint venture to create and sustain a botanical garden and arboretum for the university and for city schools. How this unusual arrangement came about and unfolded through time makes for a unique and interesting history trail to follow. as written by Dr. Martha Hill.  History notes on the land acquisition​ from research done in 1988, provide some additional insights. 


​Updated December 2022. Email [email protected]​a2gov.org for incorrect/outdated information.​