After all the rainy days indoors in April, make May a month of outdoor exploration. And what better place to experience the beauty of spring than the Smokies?! As the most biodiverse national park in the United States, the Great Smoky Mountains boasts over 1,500 kinds of flowering plants and 100s of native animal species, making the Southern Appalachians a wondrous sight to behold. Springtime isn’t just for cleaning, changing your desktop background, and packing up your winter wardrobe — cool breezes, fresh mountain air, enchanting wildlife, and warm days are all waiting for you. So what are you waiting for?
Wildflower National Park
Soft and vibrant hues paired with sweet and subtle scents…beautiful spring blossoms of all shapes and sizes can be found throughout the forests of the Smokies, putting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — nicknamed the Wildflower National Park — on the map of top places to view wildflowers in the country. One Google image search on the lovely flowers of this national park, and your innate desire to see them in person will grow until you go! A scenic drive through Cades Cove or a classic mountain hike should do the trick, but if you want a more in-depth understanding of these natural beauties, give the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage a try. Complete with guided walks, indoor seminars, and more, this annual event of 68 years will be an eye-opening, unforgettable experience, perfect for families and friends.
7 Must-See Spring Flowers
Spring Beauty | Claytonia virginica
Featuring stripes ranging from light to bright pink on 5 fair petals, look towards the forest floor for bunches of these early spring bloomers.
Halberd-Leaved Violets | Viola hasata
With arrowhead-shaped leaves and dainty petals of a sun-kissed yellow, find these small, early April wildflowers in mid to low elevations.
Wild Geranium | Geranium maculatum
Growing 1-2 feet tall and blooming in mid to low elevations, dazzling pinks and vivid purples grace the 12-18 inch petals of these bold blooms.
Showy Orchis | Gelaris spectabilis
Reminiscent of the talking flowers in Alice in Wonderland, these blossoms boast pink or lilac hoods with a white lip and reside in mid to low elevations.
Dutchman’s Britches | Dicentra cucullaria
Hanging from a leafless stalk and taking on the familiar form of pantaloons, the kids will really get a kick out of this wide-range, nodding flower in the park.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit | Arisaema triphyllum
Commonly found within shaded areas of the park in early spring, a standing “Jack” awaits inside a “pulpit” that lies underneath a curved-over flower petal, which can range from leafy green to dark purple.
Flame Azalea | Rhododendron calendulaceum
From low elevations in April to high elevations in June and July, these wild bloomers of fire reds and vibrant yellows can be seen in great clusters throughout the park.
Can You Pick the Flowers?
Well, would you like to be taken away from your home, neighbors, family, and friends? Quite reasonably, the Smoky Mountain wildflowers feel the same. To ensure their species’ survival, they must remain within the national park boundaries. However, if you really want to bestow your loved one with fragrant flowers on your trip, there are many flower shops in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area (check out a few below), or you can request a bountiful bouquet delivered right to your cabin — what a sweet surprise!
849 Glades Road, Suite 2C6
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Flowers of Gatlinburg
402 East Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
From the Heart Flowers and Gifts
821 Middle Creek Road
Sevierville, TN 37862
Little Pigeon Florist
3326 South River Road
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Amazing Wildlife You May Encounter
Maytime is mammal time — in the Smokies! From gallivanting black bear cubs and gracefully grazing white-tailed deer to relaxing river otters and canopy-gliding southern flying squirrels, snapshots of these amazing mountain creatures are a must! Remember: distance is key in safely viewing wildlife. If an animal’s behavior changes, you are TOO close! Should this occur, calmly and quietly step away…
After giving birth to a cub or 4 in winter, mother black bears awaken to their small cries in spring. Though eager to explore, the adorable cubs stick close to their mother at all times for protection, food, and warmth. With springtime vegetation comes happy herds of white-tailed deer. Favoring open graze spaces, the fields throughout Cades Cove are great places to catch a glimpse of the antler-growing bucks. Find a wallowed down area near a creek or river bank, and you may just spot a river otter! Reintroduced in the 1990s, their numbers have steadily increased throughout the park, which is great news for these playful critters. Meeting the Disney classic Tod (a famous red fox) could be possible in the Smoky Mountains. From scouring the forest floor for food to lurking in his elevated den, keep your eyes peeled low and high for this guy. Speaking of higher places, southern flying squirrels may be gliding overhead in the late afternoon. Even though they lack proper wings, they are experts at utilizing their side flaps as parachutes, so keep your camera ready!