Where to See Spring Wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains
Springtime is a time of renewal. The spring wildflowers begin to bloom, the trees begin to fill with green foliage again, and the fields of green grass return. For the Great Smoky Mountains, this is a beautiful sight to see! Spring in the Smoky Mountains offers beautiful scenery and refreshing weather, making Pigeon Forge the perfect location for a spring family vacation.
If you’re planning on coming to Pigeon Forge over the next few months, taking a trip to see spring wildflowers that bloom in the Smoky Mountains is a must.
Wildflowers that bloom during spring in the Great Smoky Mountains
Some of the earliest spring wildflowers to bloom in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) don’t even wait for spring. Ephemerals like daffodils, jonquils, chickweed and violets start blooming in late winter, sometimes as early as February.
- Wild daffodils are some of the most common wildflowers you’ll see in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Daffodils have distinct white/pale yellowish petals and a yellow trumpet. These flowers are unique because once planted they tend to come back every year in bigger numbers than before.
- Jonquils are another common type of wildflower that are closely related to the daffodils. Jonquils have bright yellow petals and a matching yellow trumpet. Both jonquils and daffodils were very common around households in the pre-park days. If you come across a patch today, you’re likely standing where an old home site once stood.
In addition to names like “daffodils” and “jonquils”, these flowers were also referred to as “Easter flowers” by inhabitants of the Smokies. This is because the blooming period peaks around the same timeframe as the Christian holiday Easter.
Greenbrier, and specifically the Porters Creek area, is famous for its wildflowers. Trilliums, lady slippers, and the famous fringed phacelia will begin to sparkle throughout the Greenbrier area sometime in March or April.
- White trillium are beautiful wildflowers typically found in the mid to lower elevations of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The large bell-shaped flower has three white leaves that surround a yellow center and turn pink with age.
- White fringed phacelia are tiny delicate flowers that grow in large colonies throughout the park, typically in mid to high elevation areas. In the Porters Creek area of Greenbrier, these wildflowers blanket the ground during peak bloom.
You’ve heard the saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, that saying is certainly true in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Higher levels of precipitation mean even more rainfall accumulation at higher elevations up in the mountains. The additional rainfall results in even more spectacular wildflower displays during spring in the Smoky Mountains.
Several species of wildflowers that typically reach their peak during May include foam flower, rue anemone, yellow trillium, painted trillium, catesby trillium and little brown jugs.
- Yellow trillium has a single yellow flower with petals that are narrow and stand erect. Yellow trillium is most often found in lower elevations of the park.
- Painted trillium has three white leaves around a yellow center, with a maroon “v” painted near the bottom. These wildflowers are most often seen in higher elevations of the park.
- Crested dwarf iris is a unique wildflower with its blue/purple colors and petal-like sepals each dawning a yellow crest. These wildflowers often grow in large clumps in mid to low elevations and are especially beautiful after a recent rain when there are still drops on the petals. It’s the perfect opportunity to grab great photos!
- Showy orchis has two long egg-shaped basal leaves and each flower has a pink or lilac-colored hood with a white lip. These unique flowers are typically seen in mid to lower elevations of the national park during the early part of May.
- Dutchman’s britches has an appearance like that of a pair of pantaloons hung on the line to dry. This white flower hangs over a leafless stalk and is commonly seen throughout many different areas of the national park.
Best places to see spring wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains
With more than 1,500 different kinds of flowering plants growing throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you won’t have to go far to enjoy an amazing wildflower experience. Here are a few of the best places to see spring wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains.
- Cades Cove is one of the best places to see daffodils and jonquils. After you enter the “loop” in Cades Cove, you’ll pass one of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps that were active in the 1930s. The flowers were planted in a pattern that spelled out “CO 5427”- the official name of the CCC camp. Today, these jonquils have multiplied and spread across the field, but if you look closely, you can still see the name of the camp spelled out by the patches of bright yellow flowers.
- Schoolhouse Gap Trail features many early blooming spring and summer wildflowers. This scenic 2.2-mile trail starts at Laurel Creek Road and gradually inclines in elevation to School House Gap. You’ll see Virginia bluebells along the lower portions of this trail. And then pink lady’s slippers, golden aster, trillium and many more beautiful wildflowers as you proceed higher.
- Little River Trail is a wide and flat graveled trail in the historical district of Elkmont that parallels the Little River. Along the lower portions of the trail are patches of rhododendron. And during spring, from mid-March through May, you’ll also see spring beauties and trailing arbutus.
- Porters Creek in the Greenbrier area of the park has some of the most beautiful displays of spring wildflowers in the world. Just after you cross the large foot-log spanning Porter’s Creek, you’ll see fringed phacelia covering the ground during peak bloom. The terrain is covered with it all the way up to Walking Fern Falls. And purple dwarf irises grow in large clumps throughout the area. White trilliums begin to bloom in this area, but typically don’t peak until May. The same goes for the little white squirrel corn and Dutchman’s breeches. Mayapples, which are large umbrella-like plants, are plentiful here. And you’ll see the tall skinny bishop’s cap pretty much everywhere.
- Gregory Bald, accessed via Gregory Ridge Trail in Cades Cove, is known for its incredible views any time of year. But a visit to Gregory Bald when the spectacular flame azaleas reach peak bloom around mid-to-late June is truly a sight to behold. The trailhead is located at the end of Forge Creek Road.
- Middle Prong Trail, located in the Tremont area, near Townsend, is an amazing waterfall hike. This trail passes three major waterfalls, in addition to smaller falls and cascades. During spring and early summer, you’ll see violets, crested dwarf iris, wood sorrel and trilliums on the first two miles of this trail.
Make plans now to visit Pigeon Forge and discover the beauty of spring wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains!
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