It’s shaping up to be a beautiful week here in the Smokies, which means you should definitely get outside and explore what the mountains have to offer. Since we’re in the thick of spring, the timing is just about perfect for seeing all the plants and wildflowers that are blooming in the mountains. The Great Smoky Mountains may be known for their fall colors, but the colors of spring are pretty impressive as well.
This week, everyone from serious botanists to weekend gardeners has the ideal opportunity to see, learn about and explore the flowering beauty of the Smokies at the 65th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. The event offers unprecedented access to some of the nation’s leading botanical experts and authorities on Appalachian wildlife.
The Wildflower Pilgrimage takes place the rest of this week, through Saturday the 25th, at the W.L. Mills Conference Center in downtown Gatlinburg. The event is presented by the Great Smoky Mountains Association.
“This is a rare chance for those with a personal love of flowers to have the same access to leaders in the field as professional researchers,” says Ken McFarland, a botanist and University of Tennessee professor. “Through seminars and guided tours, participants will expand their knowledge of the unmatched flora and fauna of the Smokies.”
Over the course of the week, some 150 demonstrations, lectures and other programs will be presented, including instructional walks and guided hiking tours that are designed to match the walking skills of participants. Tours will showcase the abundant varieties of wildflowers, plants, ferns, mosses, trees and shrubs as well as birds, reptiles and amphibians that are native to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Most of these activities will take place outdoors, but there will also be a number of educational sessions and entertainment programs taking place at the Mills Center.
Registration is required for events, and note that this week, you can register on site at the Mills Center throughout the day. Fees range from $15 for a one-day student fee to $75 for an adult two-day fee. Children 12 and younger can participate for free when accompanied by a registered adult.
Free parking is available in the municipal lot on Reagan Drive, next to the fire station. Otherwise, guests can expect to pay for parking at any of the other municipal lots in the downtown area.
Sponsors include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, City of Gatlinburg, the University of Tennessee Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Friends of the Smokies, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, TVA, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society and the Gatlinburg Garden Club.
And if you’re thinking about rolling into town this weekend, it’s not too late to book one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabins. We have properties that will place you within a convenient drive of Gatlinburg, the national park and all the Wildflower Pilgrimage events. We also have rental cabins convenient to Pigeon Forge and the area’s abundance of attractions, restaurants and shops.