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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is an annual event in its 67th season. This four-day pilgrimage starts April 11 and ends April 15, 2017, during the height of the spring flowering season. It consists of 148 programs. These are divided among evening presentations and daytime guided tours. Events will be led by park staff, educators, amateur and professional naturalists, and park volunteers.

Spring Wildflower PilgrimageThe walks are conducted by park professionals and allow visitors to explore wildflowers, wildlife, natural history, culture and ecology. Programs include photographic tours, motorcades, evening seminars and art classes. A lot of the events happen outdoors on the park trails, rain or shine.

Some of the remaining programs take place at the Mills Conference Center in Gatlinburg. This is also where attendees obtain pre-registration packets, complete their on-site registration and board vans for tours. Additionally, the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts hosts some events on April 12.

You will receive a program booklet, which lists each event according to date and time. Each description includes registration limits, meeting places, trail ratings, hiking difficulties, walking distances and driving times from the center to the meeting places. The brochure also has an alphabetical index of all destinations and discussion topics.

If a particular program has a trolley icon, it means that vans will be provided because of limited trailhead parking. Listings for events without an icon require attendees to plan for their own transportation. Popular events repeat on different days and at various times but will be noted as such.

Since several walks have been scheduled to teach about the effects of fire on habitats, this is an ideal time to learn about how the wilderness recuperates from damage caused by this destructive force. This topic will also be covered in the Friday evening discussion titled Fire Ecology of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Other environmental aspects are also up for discussion and will be covered by assorted speakers throughout the duration of the pilgrimage.

Participants can obtain commemorative t-shirts on-site at the center’s gallery and even observe the printing process. The gallery also exhibits native plants, functions as the site for Sunlight Gardens Native Plants and hosts the store of the Great Smoky Mountain Association.

The auditorium will accept visitors for onsite registration and pick-up of pilgrimage brochures on April 11, 2017 between 5 and 9 p.m. The actual programs begin on the following day and end on April 15.

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