Where: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
When: April 21-25, 2010
Revel in the beauty of spring with the brilliant display of wildflowers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Before summer gets going and the leaf cover shadows the ground the plants on the forest floor steal the show. Flowers like trillium, lady slipper orchids, flame azalea, violets, jack-in-the-pulpit, and many others are at their brightly-colored peak in mid- to late- April.
You can tiptoe through the flowers on your own on a number of walks suggested by the park service, or join in the fun at the 60th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. For five days each April, the park offers guided walks, photography and art workshops, birding hikes, nature talks and indoor seminars led by park service staff and other naturalists. Advance reservations are available online from the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage Web site. Or you can register on-site from April 20-24. The most popular programs are held multiple times throughout the week. A one-day adult registration costs $40, students cost only $10, and children under 12 are free.
Who Should Go
Anyone who has ever wanted to learn more about nature, celebrate spring, or get up close with wildflowers will enjoy the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. Kid-friendly walks on insect identification and short, easy hikes are perfect for families. There are bird watching walks every morning for novice to expert birders. Budding nature photographers can take advantage of special tours and even compete for the best flora, fauna, landscape, and youth produced photography.
Planning Your Trip
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in America with 9 million visitors per year. To be sure to get into the walk, talk, or session of your choice, register online in advance. If you want to stay in the park, there are 10 developed campgrounds, most of which allow RVs. There are also many area hotels and bed-and-breakfasts in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Other Things to Do While You're There
- Cataloochee Cove. Check out one of the eeriest sites in the Smokies: a dozen abandoned houses, barns, churches and other buildings show what life was like for the original Cataloochee settlers.
- Asheville. About an hour and a half from the Gatlinburg, Tennessee entrance to the park, this North Carolina gem is the hippest city the South, with gourmet dining and a vibrant arts district.
- Biltmore Estate. Visit America's largest private residence, a 250-room French-Renaissance château, with 8,000 acres of landscaped grounds and gardens.
Resources and Shortcuts
- Fodor's Online Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage Official Site
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Photo courtesy of nps.gov.