Wildflowers add special treat to GSMNP trails

June 23, 2024

Blue-eyed grass

by Julie Dodd

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a vast array of flowering plants. The more than 1,500 species have earned GSMNP the title as “Wildflower National Park.”

The Park identifies ten trails as Wildflower Walks, which are especially good locations for seeing wildflowers.

Oconaluftee River Trail is one of those walks. The trail is an easy, three-mile roundtrip walk alongside the river. The trail begins at Oconaluftee Visitor Center, which is located two miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina, on U.S. Route 441.

Catawba rhododendron
Catawba rhododendron is one of the flowering shrubs in GSMNP. Photo by Linda Spangler

Thanks to Linda Spangler for sharing her wildflower and plant photographs from her hike on the Oconaluftee River Trail with Friends of the Smokies Trails Forever Hike in May.

“I love the Smokies and love photographing all of its beauty. I love capturing the flowers, plants, landscapes, and wildlife,” Spangler said. 

Phlox – Photo by Linda Spangler

“The flowers and plants in the Smokies are like little surprises along the trails. Some are hard to spot and others are like a young child impatiently waving to get the teacher’s attention.”

“You can’t help but want to capture the gorgeous colors and beautiful scenes of nature unfolding as you walk the trails. At least, that is how I feel when I am in the Smokies.”

Spangler took these photographs with her Nikon Z9 and a Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 S lens. [The flower at the top of the page is Blue-eyed grass.]

Trails Forever Hikes

The Trails Forever Hike program offers expert guided hikes twice a month now through October 2024. It’s just $25 per hike and all proceeds go to Trails Forever restoration of the most beloved trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Check out the schedule and register at https://friendsofthesmokies.org/hike-with-trails-forever/