The natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains is unparalleled. As one of the largest undeveloped tracts of wilderness left on the east coast, the park is truly one of a kind. The federally protected status of the gem of the national park system helps protect the many plant and animal species found here.
The Smoky Mountain wildflowers are world-renowned. More than 1500 species of flowering plants and shrubs can be found inside the national park. As spring progresses, the color of the flowers become more vibrant. Check out our list of great places to view the Smoky Mountain wildflowers.
While there are plenty of places to hike inside the Great Smoky Mountains, some locations are better than others when it comes to spotting flowers. Depending when you’re visiting the park, you’ll want to visit different locations for the best viewing opportunities.
This quintessential Smoky Mountain wildflowers trail is a must-see for those who want a lot of flowers in a short amount of time. Just make sure you arrive early – parking fills quickly on beautiful spring afternoons.
Located at the end of Greenbrier Road in the national park, Porters Creek trail is a gentle uphill walk packed with history of a time gone by.
You’ll pass old homesites, a cemetery, a farmstead, and even cross a unique log bridge before you reach the carpet of spring wildflowers.
Spring beauties, fringed phacelia, bishop’s cap, squirrel corn, and Dutchman’s britches immediately welcome you after crossing the bridge. This area is known for the beautiful white flowers in early spring.
So many flowers cover the ground you’ll almost think there’s a dusting of snow.
This hike is 3 miles round trip. Take your time – there’s so much to see!
Cosby Nature Trail
The Cosby Nature Trail is located just down the road from Gatlinburg and is often much quieter than Porter’s Creek. This gentle 1.1-mile loop walk leaves the hiker parking lot at the front of Cosby Campground.
Cosby Nature Trail crosses several small streams and old homesteads. There is more than one forest type on this beautiful trail, which makes for a variety of flowers.
Vasey’s trillium, brook lettuce, squawroot, and showy orchis are just a few of the flowers you’ll spot here.
Be sure to stop and look around for salamanders at the stream crossings!
This lovely trail makes a great early morning stop before spending the day sightseeing in Cades Cove.
Park at the Townsend Wye and cross the road to the Chestnut Top Trail. Walk uphill for ¾ of a mile before reaching a nice flat spot to take a break and take in the flowers.
This area sees more yellow colors in the springtime than some of the others on our list.
Yellow trillium, bloodroot, hepatic, beaked violets, and plantain-leaved pussytoes can all be spotted on Chestnut Top.
This is an out-and-back walk and you can go as far as you like.
Little River Trail
Located in the historic Elkmont District, Little River Trail is wide and well-graded. It is the perfect walk for visitors of all ages.
Park in either parking lot located in the Daisy Town area. Little River Trailhead is hard to miss at the bottom of the lot.
Stroll through the area before hitting the trail. This once very posh neighborhood was home to the cream of Knoxville society in the early 1900s. Always follow signs and don’t enter the homes. Many are in poor repair and unstable inside.
Spring beauties and trailing arbutus are the early flowers, which give way to stonecrop, dwarf cirquefoil, Canadian violet, and hepaticas.
Walk out 2.5 miles on this easy trail to Huskey Branch Falls before returning to your car. You’ll be glad you did.
LATE SPRING (APRIL-EARLY MAY)
Located at the very end of Rich Mountain Road (if you’re driving out of Cades Cove) you’ll find the hidden Ace Gap Trail. This seldom-walked trail is truly off the beaten path and is underappreciated.
During the mid spring months, you’ll see mountain spiderwort, fire pink, pink lady’s slippers, and Solomon’s seal along this walk.
Ace Gap Trail is a perfect example of the park’s protected status. Neighboring homes encroach upon this trail, which abuts the park boundary.
Walk as far as you want on Ace Gap for this flower walk before deciding to turn around and go back to your car.
Cove Hardwood Forest Nature Trail
Arguably the best Smoky Mountains wildflowers trail in the national park. Make sure you arrive early for this beautiful nature walk, as many photographers will be here to see the wildflower display.
Located inside the Chimney’s Picnic Area on Newfound Gap Road, this moderate 1-mile nature loop is easy to find.
Trout lily, wild geranium, mountain mint, and wild ginger are only a few of the flowers you’ll spot here.
This loop is best hiked counter clockwise and does have one steep hill.
Walking up the hillside here in late spring is a thrill to the senses. Nearly every surface looks to be covered in wildflowers.
Yellow, white and painted trillium decorate the hillside. Violets, stone crop, bloodroot, and hepatica are also common in this area.
Feel free to walk out as far as you like before returning to your car.
April is also the annual Great Smoky Mountains Wildflower Pilgrimage. Be sure to register for the events if you’re visiting during the week.
EARLY SUMMER (LATE MAY – EARLY JUNE)
Late spring brings the pinks and reds many think of when they think about Smoky Mountain wildflowers.
Schoolhouse Gap Trail is a large parking area on the right-hand side of Laurel Creek Road as you’re headed toward Cades Cove.
This old road bed is very wide and easy to walk with a few small stream crossings along the way. Many Smoky Mountain wildflower peepers use this trail to access White Oak Sinks, which is open seasonally for flower viewing. Always check with the National Park Service before deciding to head out on this route, as the trail closes often to protect the health of bats in the area.
Blooming rhododendron and mountain laurel are common here in the early summer months. As the plants drop their flowers, you’ll be walking through tunnels of white and pink.
Flowers commonly spotted on Schoolhouse Gap Trail are pennywort, fairy wand, pink lady’s slippers, and sundrops.
Rich Mountain Loop
Located at the beginning of the Cades Cove Loop Road, Rich Mountain Trail makes a great alternative if you want to visit and not sit in traffic.
Beginning gently, you can walk alongside a gentle stream a little over a mile to the John Oliver Cabin. The low elevations will show you a colorful display of wild geranium, pussytoes, and trout lily.
You’ll be treated to a wide variety of Smoky Mountain wildflowers if you choose to continue past the Oliver Cabin. Purple phacelia, mountain laurel, and even flame azalea put on a colorful display.
This classic Smokies hike is 8.5 miles round trip, so come prepared with snacks, lunch, and plenty of water!
A strenuous hike, not for the novice, Spence Field is an incredible meadow in the early summer months.
Hiking up the strenuous Lead Cove and Bote Mountain Trails will take you to the Appalachian Trail. Take a left on to the AT to find Spence Field. (Not the same as Spence Field Shelter, which is to the right).
Mountain laurels abound during these months and, as a result, cover the surrounding area in millions of blossoms. Spring beauties and wood sorrel are also common ground flowers in the early summer months.
This hike is 9.5 miles round trip via Lead Cove and Bote Mountain and gains nearly 3000 feet in elevation.
SUMMER (JUNE – JULY)
Flame azalea and blueberry bushes abound the rolling top of this trail.
Botanists from all over the world travel to Gregory Bald for the stunning display of flame azalea every year in June.
Colors range from pale orange to deep red to pinks and white.
As mentioned before, this hike is more than 11 miles round trip. The trail gains more than 3000 feet in elevation. Cades Cove Loop Road closes at sunset.
If Gregory Bald sounds a bit too challenging for you, Andrews Bald is your better option for flame azalea and catawba rhododendron in the summer months.
Drive along the highest road in the east to the Clingman’s Dome parking area. While the crowds are headed up to the top, you’ll take the Clingman’s Dome Bypass Trail to Forney Ridge Trail. Follow Forney Ridge approximately 1.75 miles out to the beautiful clearing of Andrews Bald.
Along the way, you’ll see delicate ground flowers as well. Thyme-leaved bluets and violets grow along the ground and wood sorrel is growing between rocks. When you reach the Bald, head out and see the explosion of color from the azalea. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the sunshine before returning to your car.
Andrews Bald is approximately 3.5 miles round trip and is an easy to moderate walk. It’s a great walk for families.
No matter which area you want to visit, there’s a Smoky Mountain wildflower trail for you! If you’re visiting in late April, you may want to check out The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. The National Park Service hosts this amazing even every year. Guided hikes for all ages and abilities are offered throughout the week.
Get Ready for Your Spring Vacation
If you’re ready for the sunshine and Smoky Mountain wildflowers American Patriot Getaways can help! We have plenty of cabins for couples and families visiting the area. Whether you choose Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge as your home base, you can find the perfect cabin with us.
Be sure to check out all of our local guides to help you plan your Smoky Mountain vacation.