The history of Arbor Day in America harkens back to a time of great growth, exploration and expansion in the United States.

J. Sterling Morton is credited with establishing Arbor Day in the U.S. after moving to Nebraska with his wife in the late 19th century. In 1872, Morton’s passion and dedication led to the first American Arbor Day in Nebraska City, during which an estimated one million trees were planted.

The City of Roanoke and many localities in the surrounding region proudly carry the official title of “Tree City USA” from the Arbor Day Foundation. The commitment to becoming a Tree City USA means maintaining four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day. 

Virginia’s Blue Ridge checks all the boxes! 

As a Tree City USA, the City of Roanoke’s Parks and Recreation, or Play Roanoke as they’re commonly known, have developed an urban forestry program focused on maintaining 12,000 street and 5,000 park trees. A recent Urban Tree Canopy Assessment showed the City of Roanoke as having an overall tree canopy of 48 percent of its land area, benefiting residents by removing 304 tons of air pollutants each year and increasing property values. 

Although Arbor Day is celebrated in Virginia on the last Friday in April, Tree City USA communities in Virginia’s Blue Ridge play in, and maintain trees all year long with various community events, forestry programs and outdoor adventure.

A Day at the Park

Mill Mountain Zoo

Virginia’s Blue Ridge is teeming with trees inside its beautiful, family friendly parks. Spaces like Green Hill Park offer a wide variety of activities, from fishing spots to an equestrian center. 

You can also make your way to the star high atop Mill Mountain to enjoy one of the area’s most visited parks. Mill Mountain Park not only boasts beautiful vista views, you will find the Mill Mountain Zoo tucked beneath the mountain's beautiful wooded canopy.

Miles of Greenways

Family Biking - Roanoke Valley Greenways

The Roanoke Valley Greenway system connects 30 miles of trails throughout the region, offering bikers, joggers and casual walkers alike the opportunity to get outside and enjoy Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Dotted throughout the system are a number of playgrounds, picnic shelters and ball fields.

There is also plenty of access just off the trails to unique restaurants, such as the Wasena City Tap Room and Grill near Wasena Park. 

Hiking & Biking Trails


The wooded trails crisscrossing our region and snaking through the Blue Ridge Mountains are vast and varied. Hiking trails like McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail feature breathtaking views, while the multi-purpose trails found at Carvins Cove offer a full day of challenging climbs and steep descents. 

Virginia’s Blue Ridge has trails for just about every age and skill level. Check out our list of 10 Great Trails to start down your path to outdoor adventure.

Wildlife & Birding

Owl in the Trees

For the thousands of species that roam Virginia’s Blue Ridge, our dense forests offer shelter, camouflage and protection. 

Deer, foxes, black bears, owls and more call this region home and there are a variety of perfect wooded areas in our region to sit quietly and watch Mother Nature’s outdoor theatrics play out. Wildlife and bird watching opportunities abound in Virginia’s Blue Ridge.

Picnic Spots

Romantic Picnic in Virginia's Blue Ridge

There’s no better opportunity to enjoy the shade of a towering elm than with a checkered blanket, a basket of goodies and your loved ones. Picnic opportunities in Virginia’s Blue Ridge spread far and wide.

Three state parks in the region offer plenty of amenities and a variety charming communities, such as Downtown Salem, all have their fair share of picnicking opportunities nearby.

Keep up with the latest news and events in Virginia’s Blue Ridge by subscribing to our e-newsletter today and find your perfect opportunity to come play among the trees in the heart of the mountains.