Cox Arboretum MetroPark is a very special place for visitors to approach, enter and connect with nature. Come look at, discover and rest in the serenity and majesty of trees and shrubs thoughtfully arranged to capture the imagination.
The park is a beautiful and peaceful natural refuge that welcomes visitors to escape from everyday stresses and truly engage in natural wonder. Paths guide visitors from one habitat to the next, providing surprises in every season. Even loyal visitors will find opportunities for further exploration and reasons to delight in the natural transformation that occur each day. The Zorniger Education Campus and Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture provide spaces for meaningful experiential learning every day for park visitors, volunteers and staff alike.
Per COVID-19 precautions for social distancing, visitor parking has been reduced at Cox Arboretum MetroPark. The Tree Tower and Zorniger Education Center are also closed. Learn more.
Park Hours Apr. 1 – Oct. 31, 8 AM – 10 PM Nov. 1 – Mar. 31, 8 AM – 8 PM After-hours restrooms available in the Kettering Learning Lab
Zorniger Education Center Hours
Note: Due to COVID-19, the Cox Arboretum MetroPark Zorniger Education Center is closed. Learn more.
Mon. – Fri., 8 AM – 5 PM
Sat. – Sun., 11 AM – 4 PM Closed on major holidays
Free parking is available.
Note: Due to COVID-19 and to help visitors maintain social distancing, Five Rivers MetroParks Rangers are monitoring parking. Lots may periodically be closed or parking may be limited at MetroParks locations that are typically busy, including Cox Arboretum MetroPark.
Dogs are welcome, but, for the safety and comfort of all patrons, they must be leashed and under control at all times.
Note: Due to COVID-19, tours are not being scheduled at Five Rivers MetroParks locations until after Sept. 30 or until further notice. Learn more.
Schools and other groups may schedule guided and self-guided walking tours. Tram tours are available for adults with mobility issues. Call 937-275-PARK (7275) to schedule.
The Butterfly House currently is closed due to COVID-19.
Want birds, bees and butterflies to dance in your garden? Visit the pollinator gardens outside of Cox Arboretum’s Butterfly House to learn about pollinator-friendly plants and get ideas to make your backyard more pollinator-friendly. Supporting these winged creatures not only adds beauty, it will make your garden and the environment healthier.
Visit the specialty gardens at Cox Arboretum and learn to make sustainable plant choices. From the stonewall perennials to the rock and water gardens, there is inspiration for every gardener to discover. Understand which plants to select for your garden that will create maximum impact, keep the environment healthy and require minimal upkeep.
The Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture currently is closed due to COVID-19.
The Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture engages the community with opportunities for experiential learning about sustainability and horticulture to improve quality of life and to effect positive change in the world. This working facility showcases methods for growing plants critical for maintaining your MetroParks, from tree seeds to prairie plants. Stop by and get your hands dirty!
The Butterfly House currently is closed due to COVID-19.
The Butterfly House at Cox Arboretum MetroPark features native pollinator plants that naturally attract an array of butterflies and moths. Take note of the various host plant species in the house to create your own butterfly garden at home! Park in the main lot at Cox Arboretum MetroPark and follow the signs for the Butterfly House to find this attraction. It’s best to visit on hot afternoons, when the butterflies are most active.
The Tree Tower currently is closed due to COVID-19.
Adults and kids alike won’t want to miss the 81-step climb up the park’s magical Tree Tower.Constructed from a massive Douglas fir, the tower rises 65 feet above the conifer collection, and provides breathtaking, panoramic views of the Arboretum grounds and the Miami Valley.
Bell Children's Maze
Parents are invited to watch from the overlook or join in the fun as children discover a path through 1,175 boxwoods to the center of the maze.
Zorniger Education Center
The Zorniger Education Center currently is closed due to COVID-19.
Designed as a gateway to the beauty and wonder of the gardens and natural areas, this series of buildings sets the stage for a wide variety of educational activities. Programs, events and workshops about horticulture and natural history are held year-round on the campus.
This area of the park serves as a living library for environmental education. Species that are able to live only marginally in other areas thrive in the habitats preserved in Conservation Corner, through the management of multiple habitats in a 7-acre area.These habitats include a tall grass prairie, shrublands, wetlands and a bird blind for viewing wildlife. Conservation Corner is meant to demonstrate land stewardship and restoration ecology. Conservation Corner is easily accessed when you follow the paved path north from the Zorniger Education Center to the nature trails or at the west side of the Woodland Wildflower Garden. Take the Red Trail to discover these habitats and look for signs of native wildlife.
The grounds of the Arboretum are easy to walk. The natural area and Conservation Corner offer about 2.5 miles of trails through woodlands and meadows. Paved paths provide another mile to navigate through the cultivated gardens.
Ruth Cummings Mead Woodland
Many visitors to the Arboretum are surprised to discover this mature hardwood forest. There is an excellent range of native wildflowers and mature trees in this 100-acre tract of woodland at the rear of the Arboretum.Interesting trees include two groves of Asimina triloba, the Paw Paw. Take the paver path from the specialty gardens to the trail intersection behind the Butterfly House to reach the trailhead for the woodland’s nature trails.
Click to Explore
Buildings, gardens and paved paths comply with ADA standards. The facility is handicap accessible with the exception of natural trails and the tree tower.
Due to COVID-19, water fountains have been turned off.
Drinking water is available in the Zorniger Visitor Center during published hours.Outside drinking fountains, available seasonally, are located near the Butterfly House and in the plaza of the Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture.
Two interactive exhibits are available to visitors in the Adventure Bud (formerly the gift shop) within the Visitor Center at the Zorniger Education Campus:
Enjoy a family game called “Birds and Beets” designed to give players a fun way to discover more about gardening for wildlife or vegetables production.
A Discover board game lets visitors plan a day’s adventure by adding magnets to a map of the Arboretum. Each magnet has a picture of something to do, to find or to watch while visiting the Arboretum. There is a set of magnets for each season.
Look for “spotted” signs in the wildflower garden, ELG, conifers and pollinators garden to learn about plants, bee or butterflies that are in bloom or in flight. These signs change from March to November.
A series of signs throughout the park called “Arbor Day is Every Day” highlights trees and the proper way to care for them. These educational signs are placed along the paved path in garden areas and can be seen from mid-April through October.
RTA Bus Route 19
Take Route 19 west on Third Street through downtown. This route will take you directly past Cox Arboretum.
Special indoor and outdoor venues are available for corporate events, retreats, holiday parties, receptions, weddings and other occasions.
Due to COVID-19, only the restrooms at the Kettering Learning Lab are open.
Public restrooms are available in the Zorniger Education Center during published hours.After-hours restrooms are located in the Kettering Learning Lab.
The Zorniger Education Campus is a series of buildings setting the stage for a wide variety of educational activities. Programs, events and workshops about horticulture and natural history are held year-round on the campus. View the programs and events finder for upcoming programs.
Stop by the Zorniger Education Center on your way into the park for maps, directions and restrooms. The Center is an interactive educational hub where visitors can learn more about the Arboretum (and all of Five Rivers MetroParks) prior to entering the park/garden areas.
Public wireless access is available in the Zorniger Education Center, Volunteer Center and Kettering Learning Lab.
Cox Arboretum contains significant natural areas, including two high-quality mature woodlots, dense cedar glades, succession areas (containing an abundance of dogwood and redbud trees), planted tallgrass prairie and created wetlands.
Conservation staff members work to protect the mature woodlands, including by removing invasive species that threaten the ecosystem. In other areas of the park, old fields are managed for natural succession to generate diverse future forests. Trilliums and ramps can be seen in the understory of the forest in the area where honeysuckle has been removed. Head to the nature trails behind the Butterfly House to see conservation in action.
The Woodland Wildflower Garden is the work of one of the most longstanding volunteer groups in the park district. For 50 years dedicated volunteers have rescued native wildflowers from threatened sites, propagated them and planted them in this young, successional woodland. During the spring, the wildflowers are at their peak. At the west end of the garden is a connection to the red trail and Conservation Corner.
Meadows, prairies, thickets, ponds and wetlands are also carefully managed in the park to reestablish native species and maintain healthy wildlife populations.
Visitors to the park in spring may see black smoke rising from the prairie. Controlled prairie burning is an important tool for managing prairie and early successional habitat. It releases nutrients and stimulates the growth of certain plant species.
All forms of native wildlife play a role in maintaining native habitats’ ecological balance. Spiders, for example, help control the insect population. Without spiders, we may find ourselves overwhelmed with disease-carrying insects! Check out the native funnel web spiders at Cox Arboretum MetroPark. You can find them in the boxwoods near the entrance of the Shrub Garden.
The bird blind within Conservation Corner provides an opportunity for bird and wildlife viewing that includes two wetlands and 13 acres of prairie. Redwing blackbirds and common yellowthroat warblers are often seen at the bird blind.
The Butterfly House enables children and adults to view native butterflies and moths in all stages of metamorphosis. Species such as painted lady, red admiral, monarch, giant swallowtail, black swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, tiger swallowtail, luna moth, cecropia moth, polyphemus moth and pipevine swallowtail are featured.
Visit the Butterfly House from late June through Labor Day to see several species of butterflies and caterpillars.
Want to see a garden that’s beautiful — and tasty? Check out the Edible Landscape Garden at Cox Arboretum MetroPark. This display combines fruits, vegetables and herbs in an attractive arrangement that’s as visually appealing as it is nutritious. Park in the lot and walk the paved path past the water garden and ponds. The Edible Landscape Garden is located behind the Memorial Arbor.
Enjoy the serenity of a water garden landscaped with a mix of water-loving plants, perennial and shrub borders and seasonal displays.
STONEWALL PERENNIAL GARDEN
This mixed border features perennials chosen for year-round interest, including reliable garden favorites and promising new introductions.
Alpine plants, low-growing vegetation and dwarf conifers all thrive in this sloping garden of rocks and gravel. Peak blooming period is April and May.
The Arbor blends elegance with function.Architectural elements inspired by the tree tower and Zorniger building complex combine to create the perfect setting to enjoy the tranquility of the lower pond or the formal lines of the Allée.
FLOWERING TREE ALLÉE
The Allée features 100 Kousa dogwood trees (Cornus kousa). These trees provide four seasons of interest – spring blooms, showy red fall foliage, ornamental bark and a bird-attracting fruit display late in the season. Kousa dogwoods also have a longer “service life” of 50+ years.
Want birds, bees and butterflies to dance in your garden? Visit the pollinator gardens outside of Cox Arboretum’s Butterfly House and garden to learn about pollinator-friendly plants and get ideas to make your backyard more pollinator friendly. Supporting these winged creatures not only adds beauty, it will make your garden and the environment healthier.
This garden allows home gardeners to evaluate the growth and flowering habit, fall color and winter character of hundreds of different trees and shrubs.
EDIBLE LANDSCAPE GARDEN
Edible plants are featured here as ornamental components of the landscape. This garden combines beauty and utility through a unique display of fruits, vegetables and herbs. The pavilion serves as an outdoor classroom.
WOODLAND WILDFLOWER GARDEN
This young, successional woodland features a collection of native woodland wildflowers and nonnative species that can work well with natives in a residential shade garden. During the spring, the wildflowers are at their peak. At the west end of the garden is a connection to the Red Trail and Conservation Corner.
Geocaching is an activity combining technology and nature, using global positioning system (GPS) devices to search for and find “caches” hidden throughout the world. Visit www.geocaching.com and search by location to get started. Then head out on an adventure to find the geocaches hidden in this park.
James M. Cox, Jr. purchased a farm on the south edge of Dayton in January 1952, and three years later bought the 68 acres adjacent to it. In 1962, the land was established as the James M. Cox, Jr. Arboretum. Five Rivers MetroParks took on management of the facility in 1972.
The Arboretum grounds are easy to walk. Natural areas and Conservation Corner offer 2.5 miles of trails through woodlands and meadows. An overlook in the Ruth Cummings Mead Woodland provides a scenic view of native woodlands and a beautiful ravine. Birds and other wildlife can be watched from an observation area in Conservation Corner.
Cox Arboretum MetroPark contains significant natural areas including two high-quality mature woodlots, dense cedar glades, especially beautiful succession areas (containing an abundance of dogwood and redbud trees), planted tall-grass prairie and created wetlands.
Before European settlement, huge glaciers composed much of the landscape in our region. Find evidence at Cox Arboretum of these slow-moving giants responsible for carving the Great Lakes.
There’s always something in bloom somewhere in the gardens. As some plants and flowers wane, others come into bloom and color.The diverse habitats in the park provide ideal spaces to capture the beauty of plants and native wildlife through the camera’s eye.You might even get some garden ideas for your own yard!
Commercial photographers are required to have a permit to take pictures in the park.
Explore a working demonstration exhibit in the Compost Kitchen area of the park, near the Edible Landscape Garden. Learn about composting, observe the process and evaluate how to incorporate this aspect of land stewardship into your home.
Cox Arboretum MetroPark offers hundreds of volunteers the chance to use their time and talents in a wide variety of activities.
Get involved as a gardener, instructor or tour guide leading school or adult groups.
New volunteers are always welcome! For more information, call (937) 275-PARK (7275) or visit our volunteer page.
Park Amenities & Activities
(Per COVID-19 precautions for social distancing, visitor parking has been reduced at Cox Arboretum MetroPark. The Tree Tower and Zorniger Education Center are also closed.)
This beautiful 174-acre facility is a special place for visitors to escape among trees, shrubs, specialty gardens, mature forests and prairies. The Arboretum hosts year-round educational programs that teach children and adults about sustainable horticulture, plant science and conservation.