The Arboretum at Penn State

Visitor Policies & Rules

Please also read the rules for Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden and the other parts of the Arboretum elsewhere on this page.

Garden Regulations



• Pets, except for service animals trained to assist persons with disabilities
• Alcoholic beverages, except as authorized for organized events
• Bicycles, skateboards, roller blades, and similar devices
• Climbing, throwing, and similar play
• Wading in water features outside of the children’s garden
• Walking in mulched plant beds
• Picking or destroying plant material or labels
• Unauthorized commercial and event photography

Contact the Arboretum staff to schedule events, tours, and commercial or
event photography.  I  814.865.9118  I


Please also read the rules for the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens and the other areas of the Arboretum elsewhere on this page.

The Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden lies within the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens. The following rules are posted at the entrance to the children’s garden.

Children 12 and under must be in the company of an adult who is responsible for their supervision.


• Be curious, be safe, be respectful, and enjoy this place of discovery and learning.
• Climb on low rocks, and the bison, caterpillar, and mushroom sculptures.
• Wade in the creek near the cave.
• Leave behind the learning and play materials you find.


• Do not climb on the high rocks, cave, trees, round huts, or tree sculpture.
• Do not wade in the pools near the garden entrance.
• Do not throw rocks, sand, or mulch.
• Do not pick plants.

Frequently Asked Questions about Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden

Download Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden Guidelines PDF

Regulations (Woodlands, Fields, and Rail Trail)

Please also read the rules for Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden and the H. O. Smith Botanic Gardens elsewhere on this page.

The Arboretum encompasses 370 contiguous acres. The majority of those acres lies outside of the H. O. Smith Botanic Gardens.



  • Unleashed pets
  • Fires, tents, grills, and alcoholic beverages, except as authorized for organized events
  • Bicycle use in areas other than the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail and roads
  • Unauthorized motorized vehicles
  • Picking or destroying plant material and labels
  • Climbing trees
  • Construction of trails or structures
  • Disturbance to research and study areas

Please do the following:

  • Carry litter and recyclables out and dispose of properly
  • Report vandalism and hazards to the Arboretum staff   I   814.865.9118   I

Download Arboretum Rules PDF.

The Arboretum at Penn State is a wonderful place to visit, and geocaching ( is a great way to explore this 370-acre property of The Pennsylvania State University. Searching for existing geocaches is permitted if participants observe our posted rules of behavior (Garden Rules and Arboretum Rules). Please remember that seemingly remote and “wild” portions of the Arboretum may be the locations of active projects such as graduate student research.

New caches must have Arboretum approval in advance and they must adhere to the geocaching guidelines published at If you believe the location you have in mind will fit within these guidelines, please contact our public programs manager, Tim Gould, at He will consult with Arboretum staff and meet with you to discuss your proposal before final approval is given. No caches, apart from those administered by the Arboretum, are permitted within the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens, and other areas of the Arboretum may be off limits to geocaching because of possible interference with other activities or site values. Any caches found within the Arboretum that have not been approved by the Arboretum staff will be removed. Your cooperation will ensure that geocaching continues to be welcomed within The Arboretum at Penn State.

Download Geocaching Policy and Guidelines

The Arboretum at Penn State places some restrictions on the use of the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens and other parts of the Arboretum1 as a setting for taking photographs, including use of all image-recording devices, such as cameras (including those on drones), camcorders, and cell phones.

The Arboretum asks that all photographers, especially those filming videos, be respectful of others’ right to enjoy the peacefulness and tranquility of the Arboretum and of the Smith Botanic Gardens.

In keeping with this philosophy, photographers who are using tripods may not block walkways. Free-standing lighting, reflector umbrellas, or other studio equipment may not be erected or arranged.2 All lighting equipment or reflectors must be held by a person. Access to power sources in the botanic gardens is reserved for use by Arboretum and University staff and rental clients.3

In addition to these rules, certain restrictions apply according to the purpose of the photography, as explained below. Any photographers who do not comply with these restrictions will be prohibited from conducting any activity within the botanic gardens and/or other parts of the Arboretum.


Non-commercial photography for personal, course-related, or institutional purposes by University faculty, staff, students, and visitors to the gardens is permitted with the understanding that all photographers must comply with the stipulations regarding equipment (stated above) and pertaining to wedding photography, as explained below. The non-commercial category includes family and friends taking graduation photos, alumni or family members taking reunion photos, and instructors taking photos for academic purposes unless a professional photographer is used on a fee basis. Formal group photos may be taken in the gardens for non-commercial purposes, except as described below for wedding photographs, but we ask that you contact the event and marketing coordinator ( in advance.


“Commercial photography” refers to photos taken by a professional photographer for financial benefit, such as by charging a fee for the session, selling the photos, or using the photos in a product that is intended for sale (an advertisement, calendar, book, etc.). Commercial photography in which the subject of the photos is the Arboretum itself or in which the subject is any of the plants or venues in the Smith Botanic Gardens is prohibited. Commercial photography using the Arboretum or the Smith Botanic Gardens as a backdrop for photos taken for a specific, contracted client (such as for senior portraits) will be permitted, with the following restrictions. (Please also see the section regarding wedding photography below.)

  • REGISTRATION – Photographers who wish to take photos in the Arboretum or in the Smith Botanic Gardens for any commercial purpose must pre-register by submitting their business’ name and contact information to the Arboretum’s event and marketing coordinator ( Prior to visiting the Arboretum or botanic gardens to conduct a photographic session at a specific time on a specific day, commercial photographers must contact the Arboretum’s event and marketing coordinator to request permission to do so. This permission will only be granted if there is no Arboretum or rental event already scheduled at that time.
  • MAXIMUM TIME – No commercial photographic session may exceed one hour.

WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY (Rental clients are exempt from the following restrictions.)

  • WEDDING PARTY PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS – Regardless of whether or not the photography is on a fee basis, photos of wedding parties consisting of three or more people may only be taken at the fountain (Margery Enes Smith Soaring Waters) or other areas outside of the walled gardens. (Please refer to the map on page 3 of this policy as shown in the downloadable PDF.)
  • BRIDAL COUPLE PHOTOGRAPHY WITHIN GARDENS – Photographers who wish to take wedding photos within the Smith Botanic Gardens may take only the bride and groom (not an entire wedding party or wedding guests) into the formal gardens4 for this purpose. The photographer may have one assistant to hold equipment.
  • LIMITED ACCESS ON SATURDAYS – Both commercial and non-commercial photographers must ask the Arboretum’s event and marketing coordinator ( for permission to take wedding photos of brides and grooms in the Smith Botanic Gardens between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday. This permission should be requested at least 48 hours in advance.

1The Arboretum encompasses approximately 370 acres immediately adjacent to the University Park campus of The Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania.

2Exceptions regarding equipment and staging will be made for University-based camera and film crews.

3Photographers who have been hired by clients who are renting one of the event venues in the Smith Botanic Gardens are granted certain exemptions, as identified in this policy statement.

4Event Lawn, Kathryn Bower Smith Strolling Garden, Overlook Pavilion, Joan Milius Smith Esplanade, Pollinators’ Garden, Rose and Fragrance Garden, Oasis Garden, North Terrace, and Bamboo Allée.

Download Arboretum Photography Policy PDF

Group visits are scheduled through our coordinator, Timothy Gould. Group visits are scheduled for Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Please complete the Group Visitor Inquiry Form on line to schedule your group visit.


1) Self-Guided Tours for School Groups

At this time, the Arboretum does not provide guided tours or programs for school groups; however, these groups are welcome to take self-guided tours of the gardens. Brochures containing garden maps are available on site. Teachers are encouraged to visit the Arboretum prior to the field trip to gain inspiration if the visit will be tied to a curriculum.

2) Special Requirements for School Groups and Child-Related Organizations

Reservations are required for visits by school groups (including home school groups) and child-related organizations (e.g., daycare, scouting groups, and summer camps). Reservations are required at least two weeks in advance of desired date and subject to availability. It is recommended that you have at least one alternate date and time for consideration if your desired date and time is booked.  At least one teacher or chaperone is required for every five pre-school children, every ten children who are in kindergarten through middle school, and every twenty youths who are of high school age. Teachers or group chaperones are responsible for supervising minors who visit the Arboretum and for ensuring their safety and compliance with visitation rules.  In the event of an emergency, it is expected that groups will execute their prescribed internal policies concerning safety, and  medical and special needs. All visitation rules are posted at the entrances to the gardens and on our website at

Groups visiting the Arboretum are welcome to participate in activities taking place in the children’s garden.  Please see our website (Events Calendar) for additional information.

3) Policy Acceptance

School groups and child-related organizations are asked to indicate their acceptance to the policy terms noted above by executing the Statement of Acceptance (below in #4) and returning via email to:

4) Statement of Acceptance

We have read and accept the tour conditions for school groups and child-related organizations and will abide by the garden rules posted at the entrances.

Your name and contact information:

Name of the school group or child-related organization:

5) Parking

There is limited parking in the Arboretum’s lot. Visitors must park large vehicles such as motor coaches or school buses at the Porter North parking lot on Porter Road near Beaver Stadium. A map showing this lot is available here: Bus Dropoff and Parking Map

You may contact Timothy Gould via email ( or telephone (814-865-4262).

Download Group Visit Policy

Docent-led tours are scheduled through the Arboretum by the volunteer coordinator, Timothy Gould. You may contact him via email ( or telephone (814.865.4262).

1) Docent-Guided Tours for University Affiliates (No Fee)

Tours are available by reservation for University-affiliated groups.

These tours are available on a limited basis from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, subject to the availability of volunteers. Groups must request a tour guide at least two weeks prior to their visit. Reservations are taken on a first-come basis. A minimum of 8 people is required for a group tour, and groups larger than 20 will be divided between two or more guides. If a group needs to cancel or reschedule a guided tour, the organizer should notify the Arboretum as soon as possible, preferably at least 48 hours before the tour.

2) Docent-Guided Tours (Fee-based)

Tours of approximately 60 minutes are also available by appointment for a nonrefundable fee of $60 for groups of up to 20 individuals. These tours are available on a limited basis, subject to the availability of staff or volunteers. Tours may be arranged for larger groups at a fee of $60 for each increment of 20 persons.

Persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian who will provide appropriate supervision.

Reservations must be made at least three weeks in advance and the nonrefundable fee must be received no less than ten days before the tour. Once a fee has been determined for the size of the group and the tour has been confirmed by the Arboretum’s volunteer coordinator, please make a check payable to The Arboretum at Penn State and mail the check to the following address:

The Arboretum at Penn State
Attention: Timothy Gould
The Pennsylvania State University
209 Forest Resources Building
University Park PA 16802-3604

3) Parking

There is limited parking in the Arboretum’s lot. Visitors must park large vehicles such as motor coaches or school buses at the Porter North parking lot on Porter Road near Beaver Stadium. A map showing this lot is available here:

Download Docent-Led Tour Policy