By Leif Palmer
Posted on March 17, 2022
This weekend's freak late-winter blizzard notwithstanding, we're getting into a great time of year to go hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What makes spring so conducive to hitting the trail is the abundance of wildflowers found within the park. And this week, we're going to tell you about some of our favorite trails when it comes to spotting wildflowers and other seasonal flora in the Smokies.
This four-mile trek is ideal for families visiting the Smokies. Along the trail, you'll discover yellow trillium, wild geranium and dwarf ginseng. The first mile runs through lush woodlands, which is where you're likely to spot the yellow trillium. Two miles into the hike, you'll encounter Fern Branch Falls, a 60-foot waterfall.
This one presents more of a challenge and is more suitable for experienced hikers. The loop trail covers a total of 8.5 miles, but it's a unique way to experience the Cades Cove community in the national park without dealing with the crowds. Early on, you'll pass one of the cove's iconic meadows, which is blanketed with everything from black-eyed Susans to butterfly weed in spring. On the loop trail, look for mountain laurel, flame azalea, violets and more. You'll also encounter the John Oliver Cabin, one of the oldest structures in the national park.
You'll access this mountaintop meadow from the Clingmans Dome site, near the crest of the Smokies range. It's a 3.5-mile hike round-trip and packs in some stunning views of the mountains. Start on the Forney Creek Trail, and 1.7 miles in, you'll reach Andrews Bald, known for its flame azalea and rhododendron.
From the Elkmont area of the national park, you can take a 4.9-mile hike on the Little River Trail. The wildflowers usually bloom in mid-March and April and include rhododendrons, yellow trillium, Canadian violets and hepaticas. That's in addition to the river views, old cottages and even a 20-foot waterfall.
Taking this trail will lead you to three major waterfalls and several smaller ones. But it's a great spring hike because of the wildflowers, which are abundant in the first couple of miles of the trail. These include violets, foamflower, trillium and more. Also, see if you can spot the rusted-out remains of the vintage Cadillac automobile that sits just off the trail.
While having a car would certainly be necessary for accessing any of these hikes, remember that when you get back to town, we have abundant parking in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Just one low price lets you park for the entire day while you enjoy all the shops, restaurants and attractions downtown.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in Gatlinburg. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.