Spring in the Smokies is truly a spectacular sight. The great Smoky Mountains boasts a wet and humid climate, as well as a broad range in elevation, creating a haven for over 1600 species of flowering plants. Because of this diversity in plant life, visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains can enjoy different species of wildflowers throughout the Spring months.
When planning a Smoky Mountain hike for wildflower viewing, it is important to know which hikes offer the best blooms for the time of year.
Mid-March through April
If you prefer the Peaceful Side of the Smokies, you won’t want to miss Chestnut Top Trail located just 100 yards north of the popular Wye in Townsend on Route 73. This trail is easy to access, and while the entire length of the trail is 8.6 miles round trip, you won’t have to hike it’s entirety to see an incredible display of Smoky Mountain wildflowers. After hiking Chestnut Top Trail just a few hundred yards, you will come across several species of gorgeous wildflowers like White Trillium, Bloodroot, Yellow Trillium, Hepaticas, Violets, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bishop’s Cap, Purple Phacelia, Fire Pink, Plantain-Leaved Pussytoes, Star Chickweed and Wild Stonecrop.
For those who don’t mind adventuring a little further into the mountains, we suggest a trip to Elkmont Campground. About a 45 minute drive from Townsend, not only is this abandoned village a must-see location in the National Park, but you will find the Little River Trailhead here. This moderate hike is only 4.9 miles round trip and will offer displays of Spring Beauties and Trailing Arbutus. Later in the season, you may also find Hepaticas, Yellow Trillium, Dwarf Cinquefoil, Stonecrop, Canadian Violets, and Umbrella Leaf. The Husky Gap area of this trail is also great in late April and through mid-May.
Late April through Mid-May
If you are visiting in late April or early May, Ace Gap Trail is a great hike on the Peaceful Side of the Smokies. Located on Rich Mountain Road, this 10.2 mile roundtrip hike may not offer any mountain views, but the abundance of wildflowers will make up for it. On this trail, you will find Yellow Trillium, Beard Tongue, Solomon’s Seal, Spiderwort, Fire Pink, Hawkweed, Pink Lady Slippers, Catesby’s Trillium, Yellow Mandarin, Rue Anemone, Wild Geranium, Little Brown Jugs, Robin’s Plantain and Flame Azalea.
For those visiting later in May, we suggest visiting Schoolhouse Gap Trail or Rich Mountain Loop, which are both located on the Peaceful Side of the Smokies. To find both of these trails, you will head towards Cades Cove – one of the most popular destinations in the Smoky Mountains.
Schoolhouse Gap Trail is located on Laurel Creek Road, just 3.7 miles from the Wye in Townsend. At 3.8 miles round trip, this trail is perfect for all skill levels and offers beautiful displays of wildflowers. At the beginning of the trail, you will find Virginia Bluebells before running into Beaked Violets, Pink Lady’s Slippers, Fairy Wand, Golden Aster, Star Grass, Red Clover, Robin’s Plantain, Sun Drops, Catesby’s Trillium, and Lyre-Leaf Sage.
Rich Mountain Loop is located inside Cades Cove and is the perfect hike for those who want to avoid the traffic in Cades Cove. The trailhead is just 50 feet beyond the gate for Cades Cove, allowing you to park at the entrance and leave without driving the 11-mile loop. Rich Mountain Loop is 8.5 miles roundtrip, and is considered more strenuous so keep this in mind when planning. In mid-May, you will find Mountain Laurel, Flame Azalea, Purple Phacelia, Rattlesnake Hawkweed, Yellow Ragwort, Violets, Sweet Shrub, Wild Geranium, Blackberry, Fourleaf Milkweed, Everlasting Pea, and Butterfly Weed.