Sixty-three years ago, Bart Leiper had a big idea that’s blossomed into one of the area’s most-loved spring rituals: the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies.Today, the Wildflower Pilgrimage attracts more than a thousand people from thirty-five states and other countries. The four-day event features more than 140 guided walks and indoor presentations that cover the region’s rich wildflowers, fauna, ecology, and cultural and natural history.
Wildflower Pilgrimage News
Each year more than six hundred people from more thirty-five states and beyond descend on the Great Smoky Mountains as flowers bloom in almost every shade of the rainbow to explore and enjoy plant and animal life. The five-day exploration of plant and animal life will be held April 23 through 27 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Online registration is now open.
As flowers blossom and birds and insects emerge, so will hundreds of pilgrims—as they head to the Great Smoky Mountains for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. In its sixty-second year, it is a tradition led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Every year, they leave their homes, work and families—or many come with their families—and head to the Great Smoky Mountains to observe the beauty and learn about the wonders nature reveals at this time of year. These people are taking part in the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a tradition led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for sixty-one years. This year’s pilgrimage—a five-day exploration of plant and animal life—will be April 26 through May 1.
Each spring, hundreds of pilgrims from across the country and around the world, descend upon the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to experience and celebrate the remarkable views in what is known as the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. In 1951, the year of the first annual pilgrimage, visitors atop Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, could have seen rich green hillsides and a view that stretched for 100 miles.
“Would it be feasible to promote some sort of a spring flower jubilee?” It was that simple question, posed 60 years ago, that birthed an event that now attracts people from all over the country and the world to the Great Smoky Mountains every year for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, being held this year April 21 through 25.
Sixty years ago it was just a seed of an idea inside Bart Leiper’s head — a celebration of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Leiper, general manager of Gatlinburg’s Chamber of Commerce, wrote Samuel Meyer, then head of the botany department at UT Knoxville, requesting the department to arrange a so-called spring flower jubilee. Seeing the opportunity to turn the park into a giant outdoor classroom for students, botanists and nature-lovers alike, Meyer recruited professors Fred Norris and Royal Shanks to organize the first ever Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in the Smokies.