The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some of the best hiking in the southeast and there are few better times to go than in spring. After a long winter’s slumber, the Smokies burst into color, but a trip in April and May will have you arriving before the crowds of summer. As an added bonus, those months are peak wildflower season and feature lower humidity. Your list of things to do in the Smokies should start with a trail or two and we have three here of varying levels of difficulty to get you inspired.
Hiking in the Smokies Brings You Closer to Nature, History
If you are not much for the great outdoors but want to check out the wildflowers, Metcalf Bottoms is a short trail. With virtually no elevation gain and series of ascents and descents, it is perfect for children or a quick stretch of the legs. You can enjoy the sounds of the Little Greenbrier River running parallel to the trail, which is covered by tall trees.
Along the way, you will encounter the Little Greenbrier Community, now deserted, though the almost 140-year old log school building still has occasional local history talks. If you wish to see more of settler life, carry on the Little Brier Gap Trail, which takes you to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin. You will see plenty of wildflowers on either trail and rhododendron in the early summer.
A slightly longer trail with minimum elevation gain, Schoolhouse Gap Trail clocks in at 3.8 miles. This walk is a great choice for spring wildflowers, with a wide variety from spring to summer. In spring, you might see Virginia bluebells, beaked violets, or lady’s slipper, while rhododendron and mountain laurel will grace the path slightly later.
Cardinal flower, lobelia, and harebells come in summer. This trail offers the option of carrying on for longer walks on other trails, including the Chestnut Top Trail, another great choice for wildflowers.
Your List of Things to Do in The Smokies Should Include Wildflowers
For experienced walkers that have planned a vacation around hiking in the Smokies, the Rich Mountain Loop offers a challenge with plenty of rewards. This 8.5-mile trail has a steep elevation gain, but a bevy of wildflowers, history, and views. At the beginning of the path, you will see one of the meadows in Cades Cove and pass the scenic John Oliver Cabin, one of the oldest structures in the national park.
Further on, however, is the real treat, as Rich Mountain Loop is regarded as one of the most diverse wildflower hikes in the Smokies. Violets, butterfly weed, and phacelia give way to mountain laurel and flame azalea in the summer, offering a riot of color for those taking the trail. Near the end of the hike, you will be graced by Crooked Arm Falls as well.
Whichever trail you choose, your base for things to do in the Smokies should start and end at one of our cozy cabins in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. Few things are better at the end of a long and satisfying day of hiking in the Smokies than relaxing in a hot tub and then curling up in front of a fire.