Things to do at the Arboretum

Trail and Collection Maps

The Brenton Arboretum has thousands of trees and miles of trails just waiting to be explored!

O’Brien Nature Play

Kids these days just don’t get enough time in nature! One of the most popular spaces at The Brenton Arboretum is the O’Brien Nature Play Area. Be sure you plan plenty of time to burn off some playful energy during your visit. Click below to learn more about “Nature Play.”

Nature Meditation & Labyrinth

The Labyrinth at The Brenton Arboretum

The Brenton Arboretum is home to a labyrinth. You’ll find it on the west side of the Arboretum near the main road, marked with a small sign. The walking path is made of grass, outlined with brick.

The Arboretum’s Labyrinths is on the west side of the property among the Conifer Collection.

You may wonder: What is a labyrinth? How should I walk it?

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol of journeys, both physical and metaphorical. It’s been used for at least 4,000 years across a wide variety of traditions and cultures around the world.

A labyrinth is different from a maze because it has only one way in and the same way out.

How do you walk it?

There really is no right or wrong way.

At its most basic, you can just enjoy the experience of the rhythmic movement while walking the maze. Or, you can use it as a meditative or quieting practice. If you see someone quietly walking the labyrinth, please honor their experience by remaining quiet. It’s fine to share the labyrinth, as long as you respect others using it.

But if no one else is there, and you feel like laughing, shouting, or talking, go right ahead!

Labyrinth walking can be used for spiritual centering, contemplation, and prayer. One way to begin this type of practice is to focus on a spiritual question or prayer. In this way, the labyrinth symbolizes a journey to a destination, almost as if you are on a pilgrimage to a holy site. A labyrinth can represent our journey through life. You may want to bring a prayer or spiritual question to contemplate as you walk to the center.

You may also enter with no specific purpose. Before you begin, simply relax. Exhale and quiet your mind. Let go of any stress or worry. You may wish to use a prayer or a chant. As you walk, continue to be relaxed and open to whatever message you may receive.

Open your senses and focus on the process of taking slow and deliberate steps. Allow everything else, except your questions or prayers, to fall away.

Once you reach the center of the labyrinth, pause to reflect, pray, and listen for an answer or deeper revelation. Go ahead and sit down in the center if you wish. It’s fine. Stay as long or as short a time as you like. You’ll know when it’s time to begin the journey back.

On your return, consider that you are traveling back to where you physically began, but perhaps you now have a new thought or fresh insight.

Walking a labyrinth in this way can be surprisingly calming and clarifying, even if you’re not spiritual. Slow, intentional walking in a quiet place on a set path is a freeing experience during a time of stress or busyness.

The path of the traditional medieval design, like the kind used at the Brenton Arboretum, weaves back and forth. You’ll notice that the experience seems to take you close to the center, but then moves away. These twists and turns may represent unexpected events in your life. If you meet someone else on the path and pass one another, it may represent how people come into, then leave, your own life.

Kids and the Labyrinth

Labyrinths can be used by children, as with adults, any way you want.

Kids will enjoy simply following the path. If there’s more than one person in your group at the labyrinth, try spacing the time between people by 10 or 15 seconds. That way, as you walk the labyrinth pathway, you’ll enjoy coming closer, closer, closer, then farther, farther, farther away from another person. Someone will be the first one to the center. At some point, you’ll meet up! Different kids may take different speeds to enjoy this serpentine experience.

Remember, though: It’s not a race. Walking a labyrinth isn’t about winning. It’s about enjoying the journey.

Remember, too: There’s no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth.

Learn More About Labyrinths

There are many online resources for learning about labyrinths, including activities for kids. One is www.labyrinthsociety.org. For a search term, try “walk a labyrinth.”

To learn more about one journalist’s labyrinth experience at the Arboretum, visit the blog post linked below:

Horticulture Library

The Brenton Arboretum’s Horticulture Library is housed in the Vista Room at the Administration Building. Anyone can browse the books, but only members have lending privileges. The library is open by appointment only; call 515-992-4211 to schedule your visit.

Self-guided Tours

Coming Soon!

  • Leaf Walk
  • Storm Water Walk