Great Smoky Mountains Wildflower Hikes

Springtime has visitors flocking to the Great Smoky Mountains for wildflower walks, but summertime has its own delights, too, and many species are still in bloom. Take in some of the Park’s prettiest trails, balds, and riverside strolls on your next visit to the mountains. And before you go, check out the National Park’s webpage on wildflower species so that you know just what to look for.
The Forney Ridge Trail is just one of several scenic Great Smoky Mountains Wildflower hikes

Take a summertime stroll along these scenic mountain trails

Andrews Bald

If you’re willing to do a bit of a drive, consider the hike up to beautiful Andrews Bald—a treasure of the Smokies with its grand views and abundant flora. Drive 13.2 miles south on Newfound Gap Road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to Clingmans Dome Road; follow this road seven miles to its end. Use the trailhead for the Forney Ridge Trail at the far end of the lot to access the bald. One of our favorite Smoky Mountains wildflower hikes, this moderately difficult trail will take hikers up to the lush meadow that is Andrews Bald. First take in the extraordinary views (reaching as far as Fontana Lake) and then look for rhododendron blooms and flame azalea. Enjoy a high-elevation picnic in the meadow, toss a baseball around, or set up your perfect photograph while you’re here. Hikers may continue on from here or return to the parking lot via the same route.

Little River Trail

At lower elevations is Elkmont’s Little River Trail, a popular destination in all seasons. Campers enjoying the riverfront grounds will want to take this trail at some point during their stay, and those touring the Park as a daytime excursion can easily fit in a short-to-long hike here. Drive just five miles on Little River Road from the Sugarlands center and turn left into the Elkmont Campground. Follow signs to the trailhead. You will spot wildflowers like orange jewelweed and mountain mint almost immediately as you start your stroll with the river on your left. The trail meanders deeper into the forest and at 2.5 miles loops back via the Cucumber Gap Trail—another trail rich in scenic beauty. This is an easy, level hike.

Gregory Bald

For a bigger challenge, consider the trek up Gregory Bald, closer to Cades Cove. Take the Cades Cove loop road to its far end and then take Forge Creek Road to the Gregory Ridge Trailhead. The tough climb to the summit is worth it: Gregory Bald is renowned for its flame azaleas, which blossom in incredible abundance and in radiant shades of pink, orange, coral, yellow, white, and red. The Bald is a must-see for lovers of mountain flora and for mountain photographers, as it is extremely rare to find such a display. Hikers will of course be treated to spectacular views, but it’s the azaleas that steal the show here and make it worth the labor of climbing to the meadow.

Interested in participating in some of the National Park’s wildflower walks, or in learning more about which species are in bloom? Visit SmokiesInformation.org or NPS.gov.

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