Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an annual seven-day event consisting of a variety of wildflower, fauna, and natural history walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes, and indoor seminars. Most programs are outdoors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, while indoor offerings are held in various venues throughout Gatlinburg, TN. This popular annual event will be headquartered at the W.L. Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The week-long event offers participants the opportunity to experience the national park to its fullest. Over 180 programs will be offered, including hikes, short walks, and indoor programs led by park rangers and other knowledgeable professionals and naturalists. Topics focus on both the cultural and natural history aspects of the Park. The Pilgrimage is sponsored by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the University of Tennessee Division of Biology, Great Smoky Mountains Association, the City of Gatlinburg Department of Tourism, Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society, the Gatlinburg Garden Club, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.
The week begins with a kickoff luncheon on Monday at W. L. Mills Auditorium, followed by the first of 170+ educational programs that begin that afternoon and continue daily through Sunday morning. National Park Service staff and professional and amateur naturalists will lead the outdoor events. Some programs require an additional admission fee.
The first Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was held in April of 1951. The two-day event was devoted to arranged tours, field trips, and evening programs. Four hundred pilgrims attended from 20 different states. Paintings of flowers, flower and plant arrangements, nature exhibits, and photographs of flowers were offered during evening programs.
Dr. A. J. Sharp, head of the Botany Department at the University of Tennessee, directed the event. National Geographic magazine sent a photographer and an impressive article with pictures was featured in a subsequent issue of the magazine. Today more than 1,200 pilgrims from 32 states come to participate in more than 170 indoor and outdoor programs.
A gallery of exhibitors, artists, and merchants located in W. L. Mills Auditorium will be open to the public during the pilgrimage at the following times:
Monday: Noon–7:00 PM; Tuesday–Friday: 9:00 AM–7:00 PM
Most programs are outdoors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Art classes will be held at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. Additional indoor offerings for the 2006 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage will be held in the newly-renovated W. L. Mills Auditorium in Gatlinburg, TN. On-site registration, indoor seminars, and departing for programs on trolleys will all be conducted from the W. L. Mills Auditorium.
Descriptions of the morning, afternoon, all day, and evening programs are listed by date and time. Each description includes information on congregation points, walking distances, hiking difficulties, and registration limits. Driving times listed are from W. L. Mills Auditorium in Gatlinburg, TN. Popular programs are repeated at different times and days and are referenced under "similar programs."
Programs congregating at trailheads or other sites in the park will require participants to arrange their own transportation. Other programs will congregate at W. L. Mills Auditorium where trolleys will provide free transportation to trailheads upon presentation of official event nametags. Limited parking is available at many of the trailheads—participants are strongly encouraged to utilize the complimentary trolley service.
More detailed information and a list of all the programs can be obtained by visiting the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage website at www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org.