Embark on a floral adventure with these three spectacular hikes, perfect for witnessing nature's colorful blooms in the Highlands area. As spring unfolds in May, the landscape comes alive with vibrant flowers, including the iconic Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron. Explore the Coker Rhododendron Trail at the Highlands Botanical Garden for a mesmerizing display of densely packed Rhododendron blooms, or venture to Scaly Mountain Summit via Hickory Knut Road for breathtaking views and picturesque Rhododendron tunnels. For a more challenging hike, tackle Chinquapin Mountain via Glen Falls Trail, offering creek crossings, elevation gains, and opportunities to spot Trillium, Native Iris, and Trout Lily amidst the lush scenery. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast, these trails promise unforgettable encounters with blooming flowers against the stunning backdrop of the Highlands' mountain landscape.   

Highlands Botanical Garden’s Coker Rhododendron Trail 

 The Coker Rhododendron Trail, located within the Highlands Botanical Garden, forms a part of the Highlands Plateau Greenway and begins at the Highlands Biological Station off Lower Lake Road. Spanning approximately 0.2 miles, this trail offers a moderate walk that concludes at Bowery Road. Renowned for its abundance of Rhododendron, as implied by its name, the Coker Rhododendron Trail provides spectacular views of densely clustered Rhododendrons, making it an ideal destination to admire their stunning blooms. 

Scaly Mountain Summit via Hickory Knut Road 

This trail offers spectacular views and is ideal for hikers seeking scenic vistas surrounded by flower blooms. The Scaly Mountain Summit can be reached via the Osage Overlook on Highway 106 but can also be reached from Hickory Knut Gap Road. Accessing the summit via Hickory Knut Gap provides an easier route with less elevation gain for those who prefer a gentler ascent.   Adorned with Rhododendron tunnels throughout, it's perfect for witnessing the blooms of Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel. Aim to hike this trail towards the end of May to catch the vibrant Rhododendron blooms and the early blossoms of Mountain Laurel. With moderate difficulty, occasional muddy patches, and slight elevation changes, this hike promises an enjoyable outdoor adventure. 

To reach the trailhead via Hickory Knut Gap Road, head down Dillard Road (Highway 106) for 4 miles and then turn right onto Turtle Pond Road. You will then drive for 0.25 miles and take a left onto Hickory Knut Gap Road. Continue on to the top of the gap for 0.9 miles. The trail is a Forest Service Road on the left but parking is on the right side of the road. Start heading up the Forest Service Road for 0.28 miles until the trail leaves the road sharply to the right. Then you will continue to follow the blue blazed trail to the junction of the Bartram Trail. When you reach the junction of the Bartram Trail, follow the yellow blazes to the Scaly Mountain Summit.  

Chinquapin Mountain Via Glen Falls Trail 

The Chinquapin Mountain Trail is a great hike that has everything from creek crossings, views and lots of opportunities for viewing the blooming flowers. The multiple creek crossings and elevation gain makes this a moderately challenging hike. To get there from Highlands, take Highway 106 toward Clayton for 1.7 miles and then turn left at the Glen Falls sign and immediately head down the gravel road to the right. Follow this gravel road until you reach the Glen Falls trail head. The trail for Glen Falls is on the left, take the trail on the right to begin the ascent to Chinquapin Mountain. Be sure to follow the sign for Chinquapin Mountain as there are other trails that intersect with this one. The trail spans 1.8 miles one way, offering an out-and-back hike with opportunities to spot flowers such as Trillium, Native Iris, and Trout Lily along the way. Be sure to check out the five overlooks at the top of the mountain for scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

These hikes in the Highlands area offer a wonderful springtime adventure. From the Coker Rhododendron Trail to Scaly Mountain Summit and Chinquapin Mountain Trail, each path shows off nature's vibrant blooms amidst a mountain backdrop. So whether you're a seasoned hiker or just love soaking in nature's beauty, these trails are where it's at for spending time in the Highlands wilderness. Click here for more hikes in Highlands.