It’s that time of year again in the Smoky Mountains, where snowy peaks bring runoff that forms a trickle, then a rivulet and into a rushing stream. The fields and trees shed their wintery coats, and new blooms carpet the landscape nearly everywhere you see.
The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage marks the start of the warmer months in the eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. For five days in April, nature lovers arrive from everywhere to take walks around the National Park and the surrounding areas to get their first glimpse of the season of renewal. Visitors not only learn about the wildflowers but also about the ecology, wildlife, cultural and natural history of the region.
These are five things that you can’t pass up when you’re here for this truly magical event:
1. Look for the spring ephemerals. The first sign that the new season is inevitable is the presence of the spring ephemerals. Just like the name implies, they act as the preview for the more common wildflowers appearing later on, then complete a whole growth cycle and fade out within two months. The Park features many of these early bloomers. Try to find one of the ten species of trillium, lady slipper orchids, showy orchis, columbine, little brown jugs, and others.
2. Join one or several of the wildflower tours. One must-do when you come to the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is to take at least one trek on the Park trails. Nearly 150 different tours, some specializing in a particular area of interest, are planned for this year’s event. You’ll see the flowering plants up close, and also have the benefit of expertise from the knowledgeable guides. Don’t worry about your fitness – there are hikes for all abilities and skill levels. While the tours occur rain or shine, there are plenty of indoor events and motorcades on the agenda.
3. Channel your inner artist. Would you like to capture the stunning floral landscape through photography, writing or another type of visual arts? A variety of classes will help you develop your artistic expression in this very inspirational setting. Later on, walk around Gatlinburg or other surrounding towns and see other works in the local galleries. Be sure to check the official site for workshops offered, and sign up as early as possible to reserve your place.
4. Learn something new. Along with tours on the trails, fascinating lectures populate the Pilgrimage schedule. This year’s offerings include the Artist-of-the-Year reception at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Bill Landry’s “A Celebration of People and Their Land” video program, a Smoky Mountains trivia contest, an exhibition of nature photographer Steve Bohleber’s works of the National Parks (and the Great Smoky Mountains in particular). You can find details to these events and a more complete list here.
5. Enjoy the more temperate Smoky Mountain weather. While the springtime weather around the Park region can change quite rapidly, the temperatures are beginning to warm up from the winter months. Most years, the highs will reach the low 60’s and the lows dip into the low 40’s. The weather during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage becomes even milder, often reaching the 70’s during the daytime. Just be sure to bring some rain gear, because April and May can get rainy.
Whatever you choose to do during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, be sure to come stay with us at Christopher Place Resort, a serene Smoky Mountain bed and breakfast inn. We will share some of our own favorite events and places to go during the Pilgrimage when you come for a visit.