The Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Gatlinburg is a five-day event offering over 140 professional programs that explore the region’s wildflowers, fauna, ecology, cultural and natural history. Most programs are conducted on hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and indoor programs are available at Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Quick Guide to the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage

Everyone from serious botanists to weekend gardeners can experience access to some of the nation’s leading botanical experts as well as Appalachian wildlife authorities. Programs cover bats, bears and birds, photography, sketching and, of course, wildflowers.

“It’s a rare opportunity for those with a personal love of flowers to have the same access to leaders in the field as researchers,” said Ken McFarland, a botanist and professor at the University of Tennessee. “Through seminars and intimate guided tours, each participant will expand his or her skills and knowledge of the unmatched flora and fauna of the Smokies.”

The Wildflower Pilgrimage, which dates from 1951, offers an array of instructional walks and guided hiking tours tailored to meet individual walking skill. At the same time, guides showcase the abundant varieties of wildflowers, plants, ferns, mosses, trees and shrubs — not to mention the birds, reptiles and amphibians, all native to the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage occurs in late April and early May each year. Visitors should register in advance, and guides and maps are available to download before arrival. Guided walks and activities go on rain or shine, so pack and dress ready for Tennessee weather. Tip: It tends to be cool in the mornings and evenings, and warmer during the day. Jackets, raincoats, umbrellas, hats and comfortable shoes are recommended.

Rent a cabin or home in Gatlinburg and stay for the entire Pilgrimage. It’s a nature-lovers retreat.