Favorite Spring Wildflower Hikes in the Smokies

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By Holly Scott, Marketing Director

On a recent ‘Get On the Trail with Friends & Missy‘ hike in Elkmont, several of my hiking companions complimented me for being a fairly competent identifier of spring wildflowers as we trekked along the Little River- Cucumber Gap- Jakes Creek Loop. I had to give credit to Genia Stadler for sending me dozens of named images each year from her wildflower walks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It all started back in June of 2011 when she accidentally sent me an email meant for someone else in her friend/family circle, and included was a lovely image of the high elevation rhododendron blooming at Roan Mountain State Park. Thus began our correspondence and the beginning of an image archive here at Friends of the Smokies documenting her trail travels with her husband, Gary.

7 Favorite Spring Wildflower Hikes in the Smokies

Q- Genia, how do you decide where you’re going when you’re ready for a wildflower walk on a spring day?

A- It’s an elevation thing. I know early in the spring the flowers are going to be starting at the lower elevations, and then I can see those flowers again at the higher elevations in late spring. plus some early summer flowers as well.

Q- When do you start?

A- I always start with Porter’s Creek at the end of March, regardless of how harsh the winter’s been. There’s always something peeking its little head up. I’m rarely disappointed. There’s such a variety there. I love the early violets.

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Q- When you go out, is there anything special you look for?

A- I look for things I haven’t seen before. I have yet to find a Lily of the Valley. That’s my flower for this year. Last year, it was dwarf ginseng, which we found along the trail on the way to the waterfall at Porter’s Creek.

Dwarf Ginseng by Genia Stadler

Dwarf Ginseng along the Kanati Fork Trail in mid-April this year

Q- What are your favorite wildflower walking trails in the Park?

A- Porter’s Creek- I never get tired of Porter’s Creek. Of course, that first little section of Chestnut Top is incredible. A lot of pretty flowers bloom along Abrams Falls. Kanati Fork this year had the highest concentration of anything that I’ve seen so far with the trout lillies.

Trailing Arbutus by Genia Stadler

Genia found this Trailing Arbutus blooming along Abrams Falls Trail in very early March

In mid- to late-spring, I like to go up the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to the Sweat Heifer Trail and then come out at Kephart Prong. Because of the elevation, you see the early spring wildflowers, plus you see some you never see anywhere else, and as you come out down at Kephart Prong you see the late spring flowers.

Q- Do you take 2 cars to do that one? Leave one at Newfound Gap and one at Kephart Prong trailhead?

A- Yes. It’s not for the faint of heart at 8 miles, but it’s a little bit of everything to enjoy in the Smokies. Beautiful views…it’s not difficult, but it’s a long hike. Of course if you reverse it, and start at Kephart, it would be uphill the whole way, if you really want a challenge.

Trout Lillies by Genia Stadler

Hundreds of trout lillies along Kanti Fork are Genia’s highlight, so far, of the 2014 spring wildlfower season

Q- Any others?

A- The Little River Trail. This year, we hike the Middle Prong out of Tremont, and it was a great trail. We saw tons of flowers! It was covered in wild ginger.

Wild Ginger by Genia Stadler

The very exotic-looking wild ginger


Q- Do you have a favorite spring wildflower?

A- One of my favorites is the Rose Twisted Stalk. It’s not very big, but it’s a gorgeous little flower. I also love the Dwarf Ginseng.

Rose Twisted Stalk by Genia Stadler

Rose Twisted Stalk from 2011

Q- Why wildflowers? Do you take pictures of other things?

A- I take pictures of everything in the Park- landscapes, animals, snails. I send you the flowers! I bet people forget that we have flowers that bloom up here right up ’til winter. The fall flowers are gorgeous and the summer ones are too.

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Stay tuned for more of Genia’s wildflower photography later this spring & summer. You can always see her latest pictures on our Facebook page.

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit organization has been helping to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and awareness and recruiting volunteers for needed projects. Over the last 21 years, support from Friends of the Smokies members, sponsors, donors, and Tennessee and North Carolina specialty license plate owners has totaled more than $44 million. To see this year’s list of Park Support Projects visit our website at FriendsOfTheSmokies.org

Invest in Salamanders, Elk, Cades Cove and Education in the Smokies

By Holly Scott, Marketing Director

Every year, Friends of the Smokies commits to supporting a list of Park needs. This year the list adds up to nearly $1.6 million. The projects and programs fall into several broad categories with federal governmenty-sounding names like Natural Resource Management & Science, Resource EducationFacilities Management, and Resource & Visitor Protection. We want you to know just how good it is to be a Friend of the Smokies. We want you to know some of the things that your giving makes possible. Orange Eft by Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Billy Jones

Support of Salamanders

Did you know that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the salamander capital of the world with over 30 species including the largest and most elusive hellbender? Friends of the Smokies funded air & water quality research last year totaling $150,000 to ensure that they have a healthy habitat to live and grow in.

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Group hiking opportunities: ‘Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends’ and Danny Bernstein’s ‘Classic Hikes of the Smokies’

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by Julie Dodd

If you are just getting into hiking or if you are looking for a more social hiking experience, group hiking could be just what you’re looking for.

Experienced hikers Danny Bernstein and Missy Kane each lead group hikes that provide great hiking opportunities and also benefit the Friends of the Smokies.

Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends

Missy Kane

Missy Kane

“Get on the Trail with Missy and Friends” hiking program is a partnership with Missy Kane, Covenant Health and the Friends of the Smokies.

Missy is an Olympic runner, a Pan American Games medalist, and a member of the Knoxville Sports hall of Fame. She is the Covenant Health fitness expert and leads a number of fitness programs, from hiking and biking to corporate wellness and senior fitness.

Missy’s hiking series takes place each Wednesday during the months of April and October. Each hike has about 50-60 participants.

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Hiking 101 workshop at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports (Farragut location), on March 27, helps get you ready for hiking

by Julie Dodd

Blue Ridge Mountain Sports logoJust in time to help you get ready for Spring hiking, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports is hosting Hiking 101, on Thursday, March 27, at the Farragut location, 11537 Kingston Pike.

This free workshop starts at 6:30 p.m., and light refreshments will be served.

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Ice on the Appalachian Trail vs. Spring flowers in Cades Cove = Smokies Surprises

by Holly Scott, Marketing Director

When last week’s blog post debuted on Wednesday at 6 a.m., it was 60+ degrees at my house, and I had the windows and screen doors open. Sam McGroom’s excellent advice about Winter Hiking seemed untimely, but winter was on its way.

The temperature dropped 40 degrees that same day, and I woke up Thursday morning with a sheen of snow covering my driveway. Things can change quickly in the foothills of the Smokies this time of year.

As a study in contrast, I wanted to share with you some high elevation views that the Smokies’ long-season Ridgerunner Billy Jones captured from the Appalachian Trail in the first week of February along with Genia Stadler’s latest Smoky Mountain wildflowers from the floor of Cades Cove and other lower evaluation places. These photos were taken within days of each other at different elevations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


On Billy’s first patrol of the season at the end of February, he captured this image of icicles one mile south of Dry Sluice Gap Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Daffodils in Cades Cove the first week of March

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Tips for winter hiking in the Smokies

by Sam McGroom

Sam McGroom with GSMNP trail sign

Sam McGroom during a “magical” winter hike at the trail intersection of the Gregory Bald Trail and the Appalachian Trail at Doe Knob. All photos (including this one with a self-timer) by Sam McGroom

I used to be a big cold weather wimp until I moved to the edge of the Smoky Mountains and decided to try to hike all of the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Winter hiking became a wonderful experience that now I anxiously look forward to as I poke along in leaf peeper traffic each fall, trying to find places to hike that aren’t choked with tourists admiring the spectacular autumn show in the Park.

What’s so great about winter hiking?

For starters, no bugs!!  It’s nice to not coat the body with repellant and stick dryer sheets in the hat to keep the pesky buggers at bay.

On many trails, winter offers views that simply aren’t there when leaves are on the trees and the lower humidity and cool air often result in amazingly beautiful azure skies. The quiet that occurs with less traffic, fewer people and less forest activity is delightful.

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Secretary Sally Jewell Hikes Chimney Tops Trail with Friends of the Smokies

By Holly Scott, Marketing Director

March 3, 2014

Secretary Sally Jewell and Interim Superintendent Pedro Ramos on Chimney Tops Trail

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Interim Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pedro Ramos at Chimney Tops Trail. Photo by Warren Bielenberg

United States Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited the Smokies over the past few days. She says she’s been here a half-dozen or so times to hike and enjoy the culture of the area, like in 1977 when she spent the summer with her sister who lived in Waynesville, NC.

The purpose of her trip was to join Senator Lamar Alexander and Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials to announce the construction schedule for the Joint Curatorial Collections Facility in Townsend, TN, also known as the Collections Preservation Center. This $4.3 million facility is coming to fruition with nearly $2 million in support from Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and will be built on 1.6 acres of land donated by the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

The center has been a long time coming. In the words of Senator Lamar Alexander, “Someone had to make the decision, and she did it.” The approval process began a few years ago, and has taken the hard work of recently retired Smokies’ Superintendent Dale Ditmanson, Senator Alexander, and the cooperation from the boards of the Heritage Center, Friends, and GSMA.

Click here to read park press release of Collections Preservation Center construction timeline

Secretary Sally Jewell in Great Smoky Mountains

United States Senator Lamar Alexander with Secretary Jewell and Superintendent Ramos. Photo by Jack Williams

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