By Leif Palmer
Posted on April 23, 2019
One of the best (and most beautiful) aspects of springtime in the Great Smoky Mountains is the emergence of the many species of wildflowers that call our area home. It's a phenomenon that attracts visitors from all over the world as they venture into the national park – often with cameras or binoculars in hand – to hit the trail in search of spring's multicolored blooms.
This has long been a tradition in the Smokies, to the extent that one of the oldest and most successful special events in the area is dedicated to just that. The 69th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage, which takes place at multiple venues and meeting sites throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as the city of Gatlinburg, promises to be a celebration of all living things in the Smokies.
This year's event takes place April 24 through 27 and is open to everyone from weekend gardeners to serious botanists, all of whom will have unprecedented access to some of the nation's leading botanical experts and Appalachian wildlife authorities.
“It's a rare opportunity for those with a personal love of flowers to have the same access to these experts as researchers do,” says botanist and University of Tennessee professor Ken McFarland. “Through seminars and intimate guided tours, each participant will expand his or her skills and knowledge of the unmatched flora and fauna of the Smokies.”
The event, which dates back to 1951, offers more than 150 programs, including an array of instructional walks and guided hikes tailored to meet individual walking skill and ability as well as demonstrations and guest lecturers. These tours are all designed to showcase the abundant varieties of wildflowers, plants, ferns, mosses, trees and shrubs – as well as birds, reptiles and amphibians – that are native to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Programs include Birding on Cades Cove Loop Rd., Wildflower and Wildfire Walk at the Chimney Tops, Fern Walk at Little River above Elkmont, Native People's Use of Nature's Garden at Twin Creeks Pavilion and Photography of Birds at Cades Cove.
In most cases, you'll need to be able to provide your own transportation to the various meeting sites inside the national park. But remember that several of the events take place in town. In such cases, parking in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is easy thanks to our seven downtown lots, where you can leave your vehicle safely for an entire day for one low price. You can also use this as a strategy to park in town and then take a Gatlinburg trolley to the Sugarlands Visitor Center inside the park, where some event activities are also scheduled.
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.