Wildflower Walks

Looking for beautiful blossoms this spring? You can do no better than the trails that run through the Small Wild Areas on TVA public lands. Here are six wildflower walks well worth your while.

TVA’s Small Wild Areas are just that—pockets of protected natural lands that are home to natural resources such as unique rock formations, animal and plant habitats, scenic views…and wildflowers. Luckily, you can have direct access to spring’s big show via trail. These six treks through Small Wild Areas are certain to delight your inner flower child. Come take a look. (Maps and driving directions are available on our TVA Trails page.)

River Bluff Small Wild Area

Located on Norris Dam Reservation, the River Bluff Small Wild Area is 125 acres of rich, mixed mesophytic forest on steep north-facing slopes. Its 3.5-mile loop trail—designated by the U.S. National Park Service as a National Recreation Trail—provides access to a 40-year-old pine plantation, rich vegetation and steep bluffs overlooking the Clinch River. It also features one of the most spectacular arrays of wildflowers available on TVA public land. Expect to see trillium, rue anemone, columbine, twinflower, trout lily, pennywort, waterleaf, little brown jug and many others.

Trail rating: Moderately difficult
Coordinates: 36.21382671240, -84.08668410590

Little Cedar Mountain Small Wild Area

For lovers of trees and rocks, the 4-mile loop trail at Little Cedar Mountain Small Wild Area, located on Nickajack Reservoir, is a dreamscape. The 320 acres are forested with cedar, redbuds and post, red and blackjack oaks, and feature boulder fields, rock walls and limestone outcroppings. And, oh yes, there are wildflowers, too: John Beck’s leafcup, cylindrica blazing star, rock cress, twinflower, trillium, hairy gromwell and others.

Trail rating: Moderate
Coordinates: 35.01995226760, -85.58118750260

Whites Creek Small Wild Area

Located on one of the least-developed reaches of the Watts Bar Reservation, Whites Creek Small Wild Area features epic scenery, with lush vegetation, deep ravines, secluded bays and steep bluffs. The 3-mile loop trail begins on the shoreline and continues along ridgetops overlooking the water, providing excellent views. The mixed hardwood and pine forest is dotted with wildflowers, including bloodroot, spring beauty, rue anemone and trillium.

Trail rating: Moderate
Coordinates: 35.75783086810, -84.76420387490

Lady’s Bluff Small Wild Area

Gnarled old cedars, limestone outcroppings and a stellar view of the Busseltown Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge across the Kentucky Reservoir make this a must-see wintertime destination for birders. In the spring, the 2.7-mile round-trip trail transforms into a wildflower wonderland. Commonly spotted are trout lily, spring beauty, trillium, rue anemone, wild ginger, shooting star and purple and yellow violets. 

Trail rating: Easy-to-moderate
Coordinates: 35.68823251390, -88.0184097085

Cave Mountain Small Wild Area

Located on the south side of Lake Guntersville, Cave Mountain Small Wild area contains an eponymous cave that was mined for saltpeter (a base ingredient of gun powder) during the Civil War. The 1.4-mile trail passes by the cave, and also through a flooded forest of tupelo gum trees. Wildflowers wind all along the path; look for Jack-in-the-pulpits, turtlehead flowers, columbine, hepatica and others.

Trail rating: Moderate
Coordinates: 34.4215868848, -86.402978874

Old First Quarters Small Wild Area

There is lots to see at Old First Quarters Small Wild Area on the Muscle Shoals Reservation, including woodlands birds, rock steps and check dams built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC)—a fellow member, along with TVA, of FDR’s “alphabet soup” of public works projects.

Wildflower-wise, look for Dutchman’s breeches, trilliums, mayapple, false and true rue anemone, toothwort, columbine, phacelia and wild geranium along the easy 1-mile trail. Also, consider visiting the nearby Whitey Hall Memorial Garden, which features native wildflowers, shrubs and trees of all varieties and includes labels on many of the plant species so visitors can learn plant identification as they walk the trail.

Trail rating: Easy
Coordinates: 34.78248458610, -87.65657903440

TVA's Annual Norris Wildflower Walks

• Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Saturday, April 1, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Guided walking tours—hosted by TVA in conjunction with Ijams Nature Center, Norris Dam State Park and Friends of Norris Dam State Park—will be held at the River Bluff Small Wild Area along the Clinch River west of Norris Dam. The walks are free and require no reservation.

To reach the River Bluff TVA Small Wild Area, take the Lake City exit (#128) off I-75 north of Knoxville. Follow U.S. Hwy. 441 past the Norris Dam State Park entrance on the left and continue approximately ¾ mile to Dabney Rd. Turn right onto Dabney Rd., bear to the left, and the Small Wild Area trailhead parking area is located approximately ¾ mile from U.S. 441.

For additional information, contact Tim Pruitt, TVA Natural Resource Management at (865) 632-1324.

TVA Trails

Wildflowers grow happily throughout the Tennessee Valley. Find more options for trails to try on our TVA Trails page. There, you'll find maps, driving directions and information about trail use. (Would you like to view wildflowers via horseback? Choose the right trail and you can!)

Go Wild

Want to forge your own path? There's no telling what you'll see! You can walk freely in the woods where wildflower dwell on undeveloped TVA public lands. Interested? Click here to learn more about undeveloped TVA public land and view our interactive map.