65th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage April 21-25

Celebrate spring in the mountains with a fascinating 5-day event focusing on all things Smoky Mountain nature! Revel in the beauty and complexity of the area’s natural phenomena by immersing yourself in the many offerings of the 65th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage April 21-25, scheduled in the heart of the flowering season in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Beautiful Bluets in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo credit: Jack Thyen

The 65th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage offers a spate of exciting opportunities ranging from wildflower walks and birding excursions (bring your binoculars and a sense of adventure) to a tree identification tour and a guided hunt for edible mushrooms among many, many other interesting outdoor experiences. These walks on breathtakingly beautiful trails will be led by experts who will be sure to fill your mind to capacity with the wonders here in “God’s Country.”

The Pilgrimage will also feature an array of indoor seminars designed to ignite your imagination and stoke your curiosity about the secretive natural world of the legendary mountains whose presence overshadows us all. Retired Park Ranger, Arthur “Butch” McDade will lead participants into the world of prominent Smoky Mountain writers in a program entitled “Old Smoky Mountain Days.” Jon Elder, a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee will take attendees back in time to explore the “Legacy of the Cherokee.”


At a welcoming luncheon in the Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg, the crowd will warm to stories by former Chief Park Ranger Kim Delozier. Author of Bear in the Backseat: Adventures of a Wildlife Ranger in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (two volumes), Kim will regale the crowd with unforgettable tales of encounters with wildlife and visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park garnered over his long career. Kim says, “You know your chances of being hurt or killed is much greater driving your vehicle to a trail head, being struck by lightning, or having a tree fall on you than being hurt by a bear.” This truth does not mean that humans should not respect bears. “Some people still feel like it’s okay to get close to black bears. Others feel like it’s okay to feed them,” adds Kim. Luncheon tickets are available online only at www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org. Reserve yours today!

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Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue-ridge-parkway-sign-heysmokiesDid you know that the Blue Ridge Parkway is connected to Great Smoky Mountains National Park? That’s right; another National Park is attached to the Smokies! The Blue Ridge Parkway begins (or ends) at milepost 469, a half mile south of the Oconaluftee Visitors Center in North Carolina. The Parkway meanders from there along the mountain tops to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469-mile long scenic drive through the Southern Appalachian highlands. The average speed limit on the Parkway is 45 mph. The Parkway has no red lights or intersections to slow traffic. All access to the Parkway is via on and off ramps connecting to nearby roads. There are no places to purchase fuel on the Parkway so plan carefully.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has access to camping, trails, waterfalls, and historic structures.

Blue Ridge Parkway Campgrounds

Otter Creek @ Mile Post 61 This campground has sites for 45 tents and 24 RV trailers. Facilities currently include water, comfort stations with flush toilets and sinks but no showers or hook-ups. Area hikes include Trail of Trees, Otter Creek, Otter Lake Loop and James River Canal Trails.

Peaks of Otter @ Mile Post 86 This campground has sites for 90 tents and 53 trailers or RVs, water, comfort stations with flush toilets and cold water sinks but no showers or hook-ups. Area hikes include Sharp Top, Elk Run, Harkening Hill and Johnson Farm Trails.

Rocky Knob @ Mile Post 167 This campground has sites for 81 tents and 28 trailer or RVs, restrooms, trailer dumping stations, and a campfire circle that accommodates up to 150 campers. For the more adventurous, backcountry camping is permitted at the designated site in Rock Castle Gorge. A permit is required and can be obtained from the Rocky Knob Campground by calling 540-745-9664 from May-October and calling 540-745-9668 during the off season.


Blue Ridge Parkway

For those in primitive camping areas, keep in mind the following: camping and campfires are only allowed in designated areas, only dead firewood may be gathered for fuel, pack out all trash, do not use soap or shampoo in any streams, and toilet facilities must be at least 200 feet from water supplies. Area hikes include Rockcastle Gorge, Black Ridge, Rocky Knob Picnic Area and Round Meadow Creek Trails.

Doughton Park @ Mile Post 241 This campground has 110 campsites and 25 trailer sites, 4 comfort stations, and a campfire circle at the campground. Area hikes include Bluff Mountain, and Fodder Stack Trails.

Julian Price Park @ Mile Post 297 This campground has 129 tent sites (2 handicap sites) and 68 trailer sites, 6 comfort stations (1 handicap accessible). Area hikes include Green Knob, Boone Fork, Price Lake, Gwyn Memorial and Tanawha Trails. For boat rental info call 828-963-2292 or visit blueridgeparkway.

Linville Falls @ Mile Post 316 This campground has 50 tent and 20 RV sites which sit on the banks of the Linville River. It is the Parkway’s smallest, most popular campground and the only developed site on the Parkway that allows group camping. Area hikes include Flat Rock, Camp Creek, River Bend, Duggers Creek, and Linville River Bridge Trails

Mt. Pisgah @ Mile Post 408 This campground has 70 tent and 70 RV sites and shower facilities are available. The campground is the highest, coolest and most secluded on the Parkway. The campground is located in Flat Laurel Gap. Area hikes include Buck Spring, Mount Pisgah, Picnic Area Loop and Frying Pan Mountain Trails.

Camping is $16 for each site. Reservations for ALL campgrounds can be made online at recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.

Blue Ridge Parkway Hiking

There are numerous trails suitable for hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Find out about trails near you by stopping at a Ranger Station or Visitor Center for information. Trail conditions may change suddenly and unexpectedly. Bear activity, rain or thunder storms and downed trees may temporarily close trails.

At a minimum be sure to carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It is recommended that you hike with another person. No permit is required for hiking.

One of the most daunting tasks facing hikers is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Old-growth forests? Endless views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. It can be as easy as that!

There are over 369 miles of trails to choose from along the Blue Ridge Parkway! The Appalachian Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail are two long distance trails that follow closely with stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sections of these trails can be hiked in a day, or for the more adventurous, over a number of days.

Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfall Hikes


Crabtree Falls at Mile Post 339

Remember to always take caution while enjoying waterfalls around the Parkway. Do not climb on rocks near waterfalls and use extreme caution when walking along riverbanks. The rocks are slippery due to mist and algae. Never dive or jump into the water. Submerged rocks, trees or debris could be immediately below the surface of the water.

Here is a list of popular hikes with waterfalls along the Parkway:

Linville Falls @ Mile Post 360 Linville Falls has four different overlooks to properly appreciate the falls with two main hiking trails. Both begin at the Linville Falls Visitor Center and pass through remnants of a virgin hemlock forest mixed with other familiar tree species such as white pine, oaks, hickory, and birch. A colorful and varied display of wildflowers decorates the trails in spring. Red and golden leaves in fall beautifully contrast with the soothing green of hemlocks. The Linville Falls trails range in difficulty from moderate to strenuous.

Looking Glass Falls @ Mile Post 411 Looking Glass Falls is one of the most symmetrical waterfalls in western North Carolina. The name comes from Looking Glass Rock which resembles a wintertime mirror, or “looking glass,” of sunlight as water freezes on its side and reflects the sun.

Crabtree Falls @ Mile Post 339 At the base of the 2.5 mile loop trail is spectacular Crabtree Falls, where water cascades over a 60-foot rock cliff. Many types of ferns and wildflowers thrive in the hollow benefiting from the fall’s cool spray. Originally, these falls were known as Murphy’s Falls. The National Park Service changed the name to Crabtree Falls when the Parkway was built in the 1930’s.

Graveyard Fields Falls @ Mile Post 419 The name “Graveyard Fields” originates from a time when a great windstorm felled hundreds of spruce and fir trees in the area. The moss covered stumps resemble graves.

Skinny Dip Falls @ Mile Post 417  Skinny Dip Falls features a swimming hole at the bottom of the cascades. These falls lie along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Falling Water Cascades @ Mile Post 83 Near Peaks of Otter, the trail is lined with rhododendrons creating a beautiful hike setting.

Apple Orchard Falls @ Mile Post 78 These falls have a viewing platform directly underneath the falls creating a refreshing shower during the summer months.


Be mindful of your picnic supplies or may have an unexpected guest!

The Blue Ridge Parkway has something for everyone. Here at HeySmokies we love to pack a picnic basket and drive until we find a beautiful spot for lunch. Critters love your “pickanick” basket, so please be extra careful with your picnic supplies! Be mindful with your picnic basket or you may have some unexpected guests!

Are you up Fore a Smoky Mountain “Masters” Golf Challenge?

It’s that time of year when duffers, slicers and storytellers heed the call of spring and head to the links. With the azaleas in bloom and a driver in hand, the tee box is the ticket to happiness! And while we’ve been keeping up with all the action over in Augusta this week, we wanted to share with you some of our great golf courses here in the Smokies. So in that spirit, we decided to create our own Smoky Mountain “Masters” Golf Challenge!


The Smoky Mountain “Masters” Golf Challenge can be championed by anyone with the drive to take it on! Here’s the challenge: play these four golf courses in the Smokies before the end of spring (June 20, 2015), and as you play along each course, post a selfie of you and your scorecard on HeySmokies’ Facebook page. Complete all four courses and you’ll win a special prize from the HeySmokies Gear closet!

You can start the Smoky Mountain “Masters” Golf Challenge on any of the courses. We can’t wait to see your photos and give away some cool HeySmokies Gear! Remember the deadline is June 20, 2015. Sounds simple enough, but that simplicity can be deceiving. The courses have been played by the best and now it’s your turn!

Bent Creek Golf Club
3919 East Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
800-438-2929 | 865-436-3257
Designed by three-time Masters and British Open winner Gary Player, this par 72 course has been rated as one of the “Top 50 Golf Courses in the South” by Southern Living Travel Guide. Nestled just across the road the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the 18-hole course offers you a challenge in a relaxing environment with scenery that can’t be beat.

Gatlinburg Golf Course
520 Dollywood Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN
800-231-4128 | 865-453-3912
The views of the Great Smoky Mountains from this 18-hole course designed by William Langford are breathtaking. You’ll certainly find a challenge at #12, also known as Ski Hi, that is 194 yards in length with 200 foot drop! Oh, and we know that it’s weird that the Gatlinburg Golf Course would actually be in Pigeon Forge, next to RiverStone Resort and Spa, but that’s a good thing. It’s also very convenient to Dollywood too.

River Islands Golf Course
9610 Kodak Road, Kodak, TN
Designed by internationally renowned golf course architect Arthur Hills, this spectacular course features numerous holes crossing or playing along the beautiful French Broad River. With four holes actually located on islands in the middle of the river, River Islands Golf Course offers a truly unique golf experience.

Sevierville Golf Club
1444 Old Knoxville Highway, Sevierville, TN
A gorgeous clubhouse combined with two championship 18-hole courses, the Sevierville Golf Club is a great place to spend a day. The River is a par 72 that plays along the Little Pigeon River. The Highlands is a par 70 that plays through the beautiful country hillside dotted with ponds. This is a great place to see a variety of birds including bald eagles that have recently made a return to the area.

Celebrate Earth Week in Gatlinburg April 19-25

It’s a full week of family-friendly fun in Gatlinburg this spring! Highlights for this year’s celebration include the Earth Day Festival in Mynatt Park on Thursday, April 23 and the Annual Earth Day 5K Run/Walk on Friday, April 24. Come celebrate Earth Week in Gatlinburg where it’s easy being green!

The Earth Day Festival in beautiful Mynatt Park will be from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 23. The whole family will enjoy free music, games, crafts stations, great food, and more activities. You can pick up your very own Gatlinburg Earth Week T-shirt specially designed by a local student. All proceeds from the event benefit the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation which provides local scholarships, school donations, sponsors and the Gatlinburg Goes Green Program.

earth-day-5k-gatlinburg-heysmokiesLace up your athletic shoes and take part in the Fourth Annual Earth Day 5K Run/Walk on Friday, April 24 in downtown Gatlinburg. All ages and abilities are encouraged to participate. Registration for this night race begins at 8:00 p.m. at Nantahala Outdoor Center located near traffic light #10 on the Parkway. The race begins at 10:00 p.m. The cost for the race is $20-$30 and is sanctioned by USA Track and Field. To register for the race visit runsignup.com. For more information, call 800-588-1817 or 865-436-0505.

On Saturday, April 25, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrates National Junior Ranger Day. At all three of the National Park’s Visitor Center’s there will be all kinds of fun and free activities to excite young minds about the natural world around them.

For more information on other fun activities throughout Earth Week in Gatlinburg, contact Gatlinburg Convention & Visitor Bureau Special Events Division at 800-588-1817 or 865-436-4178.

Music of the Mountains Festival on April 17-19 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrates National Park Week with the 11th Annual Music of the Mountains Festival Friday, April 17 through Sunday, April 19, 2015.


Boogertown Gap performs at Music of the Mountains Festival

Music is a tradition that runs deep in the hills and hearts of Southern Appalachia. It tells the varied stories of the pioneering folk who called these mountains home. What we know today as Bluegrass, Roots, or Old-Time music had its beginnings in the traditional Celtic and religious music of these early mountaineers. And this weekend you can hear some it at Music of the Mountains in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Performances will be held in the National Park and at venues in the surrounding communities. Here’s the schedule so you can get your toes a tapping!

Friday, April 17
Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, Townsend
Admission: $5
7:00 p.m. – Four Leaf Peat (traditional Celtic music)

Saturday, April 18
Sugarlands Visitor Center
Admission: Free
10:00 a.m. – Boogertown Gap
11:00 a.m. – Lost Mill String Band
12:00 p.m. – The Freight Hoppers
2:00 p.m. – Time Simek on Dulcimer (Two-time National Champion)

Saturday, April 18
Plaza at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Admission: Free
4:00 p.m. – Youth Pickin’ Contest* (ages 8-17)
*For registration information, call Gatlinburg CVB at 800-588-1817.

Sunday, April 19
Liberty Church of Cosby, 4304 Liberty Road
Admission: Free
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Heritage, Harps and Hymns Old-Fashioned Community Sing


The Freight Hoppers perform Sat, April 18


Four Leaf Peat performs Fri, April 17