When to Go: Southern Appalachians

Fall Trees in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
tropewell-Flickr
When spring arrives, the eastern forest hollows of the Southern Appalachians burst into brilliant wildflower blooms.

Spring

Wildflowers are a special feature for spring visitors to the cool, old-growth eastern forests of the Southern Appalachians.

Spring in the Southern Appalachians brings more than 1,500 species of wildflowers — more than in all of Europe — from violets and orchids to trilliums and phacelias.

Wildflowers signal that the cold blanket of winter is slowly melting away and that Spring is breathing life back into the Appalachian’s majestic eastern forests. Their beauty is rare and unique and worth a trip to see.

Regular visitors to the Southern Appalachians of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina are familiar with the kaleidoscope of colors wildflowers paint on the eastern forest floors. Visitors often seek out forest trails that wind through areas where blooms change daily, evidence that the eastern forests are living, breathing beings.

Wildflowers signal that the cold blanket of winter is slowly melting away and that Spring is breathing life back into the majestic Appalachian forests.

Winter is milder in the Southern Appalachians than in many other parts of the Appalachian mountains. If you want a seat at this natural show, plan your trip in April or early May to be sure to catch the forests in bloom.

If you enjoy nature walking and hiking, find a forest trail and begin your quest for flowers. Along the way, you may pass stunning waterfalls, climb scenic overlooks and wind through cool, old-growth forests—so even if you don’t see flowers, the Southern Appalachians won’t disappoint.

When you go, don’t forget to pack plenty of water, a camera and an Appalachian wildflower guide. Before you go, also check with your destination park to see if they may be hosting any wildflower events. Greater Smoky Mountain National Park, for example, hosts an annual wildflower walk.

While spring is a wonderful season to visit, the Southern Appalachians are truly a four-season wonderland.

Winter

If you are looking for solitude, winter is the time to go. The cool mountain trails are quiet and, since the trees are bare, the mountain vistas are easier to see. Make sure to dress in layers, because it can get quite cold.

Summer

Summer is one of the most popular seasons for visiting the Southern Appalachians. The weather is warm and welcoming and the mountains and forests offer a wide array of recreation opportunities — from hiking and camping to backpacking and fishing. While spring is peak wildflower season in the eastern forests, summer in the Southern Appalachians brings rhododendron and mountain laurel blooms. 

Fall

Fall is the best time to visit the Southern Appalachians to see the autumn foliage. When the leaves begin to turn, the eastern forest canopy bursts into a firework display of reds, oranges, yellows and even purples at every elevation — from the sweetgum trees in the valley to the red maple trees at the summit.

Helpful links

  • Top Ten Parks for Spring:

http://www.gorp.com/hiking-guide/travel-ta-hiking-sidwcmdev_053296.html

  • Greater Smoky Mountains National Park:

http://www.nps.gov/grsm  

  • Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage:

http://www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org