If you’ve ever visited the Smokies in the spring, you know that mountain vistas and snow-capped peaks aren’t the only show-stoppers of the park. Each year, the park’s fields erupt with color as the wildflowers bloom dramatically.
In fact, the Great Smoky Mountains National park is so well-known for its diverse flowering plants – there are over 1500 kinds! – that it’s sometimes called “Wildflower National Park.” Between late February and April, a group of flowers called spring ephemerals make their appearance, dazzling visitors with colors as beautiful as their names (showy orchis, fire pink, bleeding heart).
Best time to see wildflowers in the park? Mid-to-late April is when the flower fields really show their stuff (at higher elevations, a few weeks later), but blooming flowers can be found as early as February. Check out the National Park Service’s site for specifics on blooming patterns for different flower species.
Here are some nice walks to see wild flowers:
Porters Creek Trail
On this hidden gem of a trail, you’ll see wildflowers in bloom from late March through April, particularly on the first 1.5 miles of the trail. A mere 6 miles from town, you’ll feel worlds away on this peaceful, serene hike.
If you’re looking to hit Instagram gold, this is it. In the spring, Spence Field is packed with mountain laurel that seems to stretch on for acres; frame yourself in white and pink. No filter needed.
Rich Mountain Loop
This trail boasts a diverse number of wildflower species including mountain laurel, purple phacelia, rattlesnake hawkweed, and more that’ll take your breath away.
Schoolhouse Gap Trail
Take Schoolhouse Gap Trail from Laurel Creek Road to School House Gap; you’ll see wildflowers in bloom in both spring and summer.
Gregory Ridge Trail
You’ll see spectacular fields of color on the first two miles of this trail. Take Cades Cove Loop past the Cable Mill area, then turn onto Forge Creek Road.
Cove Hardwood Nature Trail
This is a self-guided nature trail offering some of the best wildflower views in the Smoky Mountains. At a manageable 3/4 mile, it’s perfect for families and novice hikers. The hike begins at Chimneys Picnic Area on Newfound Gap Road, making it a perfect stop during your scenic drive.
Cosby Nature Trail
This easy one-mile trail beginning in Cosby Campground offers a variety of wildflowers, including squirrel corn, brook lettuce, bleeding heart, and showy orchis.
Want even more wildflowers? Check out the park’s annual Smoky Mountain Wildflower Pilgrimage from April 19 – 23.
Hungry after a day of wildflower viewing? Check out our expert, local reviews of the best spots to eat in the Smoky Mountains area, or browse our list of cabins and condos for rent!
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