KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Spring is here in East Tennessee and spring means wildflowers. There are over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Blooming flowers can be found throughout the year in the park, the spring ephemerals begin the annual display.
Ephemerals only appear above ground in late winter and early spring. According to the National Park Service, they emerge from February through April and are dormant by May or June. For people hoping to see the flowers, there are several hikes in the park that offer a good view.
Wildflower Hikes within the Smokies
Deep Creek Trail — 2 miles roundtrip
This easy walk begins at the end of Deep Creek Road. Along the trail, you can see two waterfalls, Indian Creek and Tom Branch. Wildflowers that can be found along the trail include foamflower, galax, crested dwarf iris, beard tongue, Solomon’s seal, cinquefoil, bloodroot, bluets and blue-eyed grass.
Kanati Fork Trail — 4 miles roundtrip
The first two miles of the Kanati Fork Trail have the best displays, especially in early spring. The best time to visit this trail is in April when cut-leaved toothwort, dwarf cinquefoil, large-flowered bellwort, white baneberry, Canadian violets, Vasey’s trillium, painted trillium, wake robin, Solomon’s seal, Northern white violets and brook lettuce should be in full bloom.
Schoolhouse Gap Trail — 3.8 miles roundtrip
This easy trail includes a wide array of spring and summer flowers, including beaked violets, pink lady’s slippers, fairy wand, golden aster, star grass, red clover, Robin’s plantain, sun drops and mountain laurel. The GSMNP adds that this is a good spot to see some unusual species.
Little River Trail — 4.9 miles roundtrip
This footpath follows the Little River toward its headwaters. The first two miles offer good wildflower viewing from mid-March through, April according to GSMNP.
Cove Hardwood Self-guiding Nature Trail — 3/4 miles loop trail
This 3⁄4 mile loop trail offers some of the best spring wildflower viewings in the park, according to GSMNP. HikingintheSmokys.com said that this is one of the best areas in the park for wildflowers, especially in late April.
Porters Creek Trail — 4 miles roundtrip
This trail often has spectacular wildflowers from late March through April according to GSMNP. Wildflowers that can be seen include yellow trillium, toothwort, wild geranium, May-apple, dwarf ginseng, blue phlox, baneberry, foam flower, halberd-leaved violets, woodland bluets and Jack-in-the-pulpits.
In addition, every spring the park hosts the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. This week-long festival of programs and guided walks and hikes explores “the wondrous diversity of life in the park.” In 2023, the festival runs from April 26-29. To find out more, click here.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park added that its wildflowers face a number of threats including air pollution, off-trail hiking, and poaching. You can help protect wildflowers by staying on the trial and not stepping on them. The park also asks that if you see anyone digging plants, to report the activity to the nearest ranger station or call (865) 436-1230.