For 68 years wildflower lovers from multiple states and even several countries have traveled to the Smokies for the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage and to celebrate the return of spring the mountains. Each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 520,000 acres come to life with all different types of fungi, ferns, wildflowers, trees, medicinal plants and more. Life returns after the winter, and the park becomes a wonderland of nature and beauty. Approximately 1,500 types of flowering plants can be found in the park, making every trail seem magical and alive.
Below, you'll find 10 wildflower hikes of the Great Smoky Mountains to get you started. The keyword here is "started," because if you experience one spring in the Smoky Mountains, it's certain that you will hope to return time after time.
- White Oak Sinks: White Oak Sinks is an area located off of the Schoolhouse Gap Trail, an area that is one of the most treasured and protected areas of the park. Educate yourself about why it is such a gem before visiting, then respect this unique wildflower wonderland. It is a rare and beautiful treasure that we must protect for future generations.
- Porters Creek Trail: A fantastic year-round trail, Porters Creek also includes a waterfall and backcountry campsite. However, in early spring the forest floor of Porters Creek becomes carpeted with fringed phacelias and multiple other Smoky Mountain wildflowers.
- Little River Trail: The Little River Trail is located in the historical district of Elkmont. It's an excellent hike for those just starting to explore the park, for families, or for anyone looking for a relaxing stroll by the river. Elkmont and the Little River Trail are also home to the world-famous synchronized fireflies that appear every June.
- Middle Prong Trail: History, waterfalls, tucked away treasures, cascades, a 100-year-old Cadillac, and wildflowers galore. You'll find it all on the Middle Prong Trail, and if you explore for a bit, you'll find even more slivers of days gone by in the Smokies.
- Oconaluftee River Trail: One of only two trails in the park that allows dogs, you'll find the Oconaluftee River Trail on the Cherokee side of the Smokies. A simple trail that offers wildflower exploring, elk viewing, river time and an opportunity to take a step back in time.
- Gregory Bald: This bucket-list adventure in the Smokies includes experiencing the views from Gregory Bald and the breathtakingly beautiful flame azaleas that cover the bald in June.
- Cove Hardwood Nature Trail: A .9-mile loop located in the Chimneys Picnic area that puts on an impressive display of wildflowers. Don't let the short hike keep you from checking this one out because you'll see more wildflowers in under 1 mile here than you will see on some trails 10 times its length.
- Kanati Fork Trail: At an elevation of 4,328 feet, you'll find wildflowers from early spring to fall on the Kanati Fork Trail.
- Chestnut Top Trail: Starting in early spring, you can get the first glimpses of wildflowers in the park on the Chestnut Top Trail. Park at the Townsend Wye and work your way up the first mile of the trail to get lost in the wildflowers. Alternately, combine this trail with an adventure to White Oak Sinks during the spring, when the park allows hikers into the sinks.
- Rich Mountain Loop Trail: If you're visiting the Smoky Mountains and make a trip into Cades Cove - take time to do the Rich Mountain Loop Hike. You'll get an opportunity to escape the crowds, view wildflowers, see Cades Cove from a different perspective, and get a much needed stretch of the legs before making the drive back home.