The forests surrounding the Yaddo mansion are one of the estate’s notable landscape features. Visitors travel down meandering dirt lanes winding through the forests before arriving at the mansion or gardens. The forests are key in creating the feeling of pastoral wilderness found at Yaddo.
White pine forests are native to the Yaddo property. Some of these virgin white pine forests remain along the banks of Lake Alan. The estate, however, was considerably less wooded during the late-nineteenth century, before Spencer Trask consolidated properties to make the Yaddo estate in the 1880s when much of the land was used for farming and timber harvesting. Spencer began reforesting the estate shortly after acquiring it. Around the house and gardens, the Trasks planted pines to the west of the mansion to serve as a windbreak in the 1890s. The larger Norway spruces to the north and east of the mansion were likely planted by Jacobus Barhyte who settled near the site of the mansion the 1780s. The Trasks added the pines and hemlocks surrounding the gardens in 1901. Reforestation continued after Spencer and Katrina died. In the 1910s, Kristina Trask hired John Peterson to manage the Yaddo forests. By 1933, Peterson had planted over 250,000 evergreen and deciduous trees, many of them from the State Tree Nursery of Saratoga.
Continuing Spencer and Katrina’s interest in trees, close friend and President of the Corporation of Yaddo George Foster Peabody created the arboretum during the late 1920s. Peabody had the field between Lake Alan and Union Avenue to the east of the main entrance planted with species of evergreen trees well-suited for the climate. The arboretum had winding paths with benches and other features, like a sundial, interspersed through the trees. Like other portions of the estate, here there are many walks and carriage drives through the forests at Yaddo, creating a naturalistic and contemplative setting to help inspire creativity in guests and a place to conduct lovers' trysts.