As spring makes its way into the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, a wave of bright green foliage cascades down mountainsides, the air fills with birdsong and native wildflowers brighten up roadsides and mountain trails.
Brilliant blooms in every color of the rainbow begin to emerge in March and April and continue in a parade of flowers until early fall, each variety giving way to the next. Bright golden groundsel guilds forested coves and meadows, ornate three-petaled trillium pop up from forest floors and showy mounds of rhododendron blooms decorate mountain thickets.
Observant hikers will find any number of wildflower species along favorite Blue Ridge Mountain hiking trails. Keep your eyes open on your next picnic or camping trip, or even as you’re driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
And remember, you can help protect these precious plants — keep your feet on marked trails, and bring your camera for long-lasting memories!
Here are a few top spots for finding wildflowers in the Blue Ridge Mountains this spring:
The Crabtree Falls trail and picnic area at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 339.5 is a favorite destination for waterfall-lovers (don’t miss the stunning 60-foot falls!), and it’s also home to many wildflowers including golden groundsel and foam flower in April and May, bright fire pink and columbine in early summer and even white rhododendron in June and July.
Follow the Parkway to the north toward Little Switzerland and the North Carolina Museum of Minerals to see more blooms.
Lake James State Park
The area surrounding Lake James offers more than 30 miles of hiking and biking trails, winding through forests and alongside the lakeshore. Look for pink lady slipper, Jack-in-the-pulpit, passion flower, Indian pipe and cardinal flower. Those who venture into the park’s hillier areas may also see Mountain laurel, rhododendron and flame azalea.
Mount Mitchell State Park
The slopes of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the Eastern United States, are home to a uniquely diverse ecosystem of plants and wildlife. The park protects one of North Carolina’s biggest variety of rare plants, including wildflowers. Look for ox-eye daisy, white snakeroot, purple-fringed orchid, St. John’s wort and pink turtlehead. Be sure to notice the subtle aroma of Christmas trees coming from the forests of Fraser fir trees!
Another favorite spot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Craggy Gardens picnic area (at milepost 367.6) and Craggy Pinnacle trail (at milepost 364.1) are known for the explosion of rhododendron blooms that appears in late May or early June. The blooms known as spring beauty and squirrel corn are also on display in April and May.
The 12,000 acres of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area contains dozens of wildflower species including wake-robin and large flowers trillium, purple spiderwort, and white and pink varieties of rhododendron. Look for spring flowers along the trails at Linville Falls, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 316.