Walk and learn about Appalachian history and the wonders of flora and fauna in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a participant in the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a 4-day event. With 72 years under its belt, the pilgrimage has a lot to offer nature lovers in Tennessee, from bird watching and wildflower sketching to lessons on wildfire ecology, ecosystems, natural history, salamanders, and forest forensics! Join fellow pilgrims from around the country on an artistic and scientific journey outside along guided walks and inside with detailed presentations April 26-29, 2023.
With a professional guide to lead the way, pick up new knowledge as you stroll through the national park, featuring 100s of animal species and over 1,500 flowering plant species. The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage offers more than 150 programs, art classes, talks, and seminars, ranging from photography and journaling to navigating and wildlife viewing. There’s something for everyone at this annual event!
Experiences from Recent Years
Pick up registration packets and info at the Mills Conference Center before heading out to…
- Wander through the forest as you hunt for the perfect photographic shot of birds and wildflowers.
- Bust out your binoculars and scour the trees for the American goldfinch, warblers, vireos, sparrows, and more!
- Bring your favorite art tools and sketch birds and wildflowers like a pro, with top tips from a wildlife artist.
- Delve into the realm of wildfire ecology as you discover the relation of burn intensity to vegetation regrowth.
- Behold the innate beauty of butterflies as you endeavor to identify various mesmerizing species in Cades Cove.
- Harken to an oral history round a cook fire as you learn how native people utilized nature’s garden.
- Aid the Great Smoky Mountains National Park provide information on plants worldwide by digitizing plant specimens.
- Journal your pilgrimage with writing and sketching techniques combined with mixed media to preserve fond experiences.
- Take tips from your time in nature and spruce up your home garden with wild Smoky Mountain beauty.
- Study mammals, such as black bears and wild hogs, along with amphibians and insects as you explore the national park.
- Walk back in time while diving into the local history with a park ranger, visiting historic sites along the way.
- Navigate the land old school with maps, a compass, and pace counts — with a bonus lesson on GPS!
- Prepare for future adventures by learning various uses of wild plants, including medicinal and edible species.
- See the Smokies in a whole new light (or should we say dark?) as you take on a nighttime bat walk or night owl prowl.
- Learn how humans and nature impact forests with discussions and evaluations on the long-term survival of different vegetation biomes.
- Pose in serenity, breathe in mountain-fresh air, and relax your mind as you stretch and unwind in nature with yoga.
- Take a closer look at ferns, edible mushrooms, trilliums, mosses, trees and shrubs, cascades, and — of course — wildflowers!
What You Need to Know
As a traditionally hardy pilgrimage, all events will proceed rain or shine, unless the weather presents extremely dangerous situations (such as tornadoes). While many hikes are short and relatively easy, there are some with more strenuous terrain, so be sure to check if the event involves a backcountry hike. Should this be the case, come prepared with plenty of water, energizing snacks, rain gear, appropriate clothing (layers recommended) and shoes, a hat, change of socks, toilet paper (just in case), a flashlight, first-aid kit, and a comfy backpack to store it all. If an item’s unnecessary, leave it behind — your back will thank you later! They also offer evening programs, so be prepared for nighttime adventures if you’re heading out on the hiking trails later in the day.
Recharge at the Cabin
After a full day of learning, walking, talking, and processing, you’ll appreciate the comforts of home and soothing amenities at your cabin rental in the Smokies. Offering hundreds of cabins ranging from 1-14 bedrooms in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Cabins for YOU has the perfect Smoky Mountain escape for your Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage.
Unwind in the bubbly hot tub under the stars, settle in for a restful snooze in the king-size bed, take in the majestic morning views from the deck with a cup of joe, and whip up fruit smoothies in the fully equipped kitchen before heading to the first event of the day. Speak with your personal Vacation Specialist at 1.800.684.7865 or book online with ease today — before the other wildflower pilgrims snag your preferred cabin choice!
Your Own Adventures
Beyond the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, you can have your own adventures in the GSMNP (Great Smoky Mountains National Park). Stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up cultural resources, maps, and more. Take a scenic drive through the park for a break from the main Parkway, enjoying the beauty of the area. It’s also a great place for field trips!