Park & Pilgrimage Information

2016 Event Information

Registration Information

On-line Registration
Online registration begins Sunday, February 14, 2016.

NOTE TO Pilgrimage Participants: Check in at the Onsite Registration Desk at Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg, TN to pick up your official 2016 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage nametag, and event schedule. These will not be mailed to you. Participants without official nametags will not be… Read More »

Important Details About the 2016 Pilgrimage

The 66th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is a five day event offering 146 professionally guided walks and indoor presentations which explore the region’s rich wildflowers, fauna, ecology, cultural and natural history.

Most programs are conducted on the trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, while indoor offerings are held in Mills Conference Center and Sugarlands… Read More »

Wildflower Checklist

Printer Friendly Wildflower Checklist (PDF)

  * Abundance
  * c = Common—characteristic and dominant
  * f = Frequent—generally encountered
  * o = Occasional—well distributed, but nowhere abundant
  * i = Infrequent—scattered locales throughout park
  * s = Scarce—several locales or scattered… Read More »

History of the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage

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… Read More »

Exhibitors, Artists, and Merchants

This year there is limited space for exhibits and vendors. The Gallery (map on page 23) will be limited to a native plant display, the Great Smoky Mountain Association store ( and Sunlight Gardens native plants ( The gallery will be open to the public during the following hours:

Registration hours remain… Read More »


1540—Hernando De Soto explores the southern Appalachian Mountains and encounters the Cherokee who had inhabited the region for centuries.

1775—Botanist William Bartram explores the southern Appalachians.

1795—Mingus and Hughes families clear homesteads in Oconaluftee River Valley.

1814—Caldwells establish first homestead in Cataloochee Valley.

Circa 1818–1821—First non–Indians settle in Cades Cove.

1819—Cherokee relinquish claim to the… Read More »

Creation of the National Park

The Perils of Paradise
Becoming a national park was not easy for the Smokies. Joining the National Park System took a lot of money and a lot of work by thousands of people. Establishing most of the older parks located in the western United States, such as Yellowstone, was fairly easy. Congress merely carved… Read More »

Historic Areas of the Park

Cades Cove
Cades Cove contains more historic buildings than any other location in the park. Among the collection are a working gristmill, three churches, cantilever barns, and homes, which reflect a variety of 19th century construction styles.

The Cherokees called the cove Tsiyahi—otter place—presumably because river otters lived there. Although there are no signs… Read More »

Historic People of the Park

Horace Kephart
Horace Kephart was one of the first writers to celebrate the people and natural beauty of the southern mountains in literature. His most famous book, Our Southern Highlanders, first published in 1913, is considered by many to be the classic study of southern Appalachian culture. Kephart was also a renowned outdoorsman, and… Read More »

Park Information

Park Issues
Air Pollution is Blurring Park Views

Air pollution, usually considered a city problem, is mucking up scenic views in the wilds of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Whereas 50 years ago a vacationer perched at Newfound Gap could see an average of 113 miles, today he or she can see only 25. In… Read More »