Spring at Desoto State Park. (Photo: Contributed)

Wildflower Saturday is an annual event held in DeSoto State Park atop Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Alabama on the first Saturday of May.

Springtime at DeSoto State Park is truly beautiful, with wildflowers & trees blooming around every corner. The public is invited to join DeSoto State Park staff & guest speakers for a wonderful weekend of learning about the many species of blooming plants found on Lookout Mountain. You can choose to stay the whole weekend, or just come for the day to enjoy the hikes and programs.

The weekend starts off with a welcome social and guest speaker program on Friday night, has a day full of hikes to choose from and features a guest speaker on Saturday night.

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Schedule at a glance:

Friday, May 4th

-6:00-7:15-Welcome social & presentation by guest speaker Mike Ezell

Saturday, May 5th

-7:00 a.m.-DeSoto’s Mountain Inn Restaurant begins serving breakfast buffet.

-9:00 a.m.-Hikes start at DeSoto’s Country Store (3 hikes heading out).

-11:30 a.m.-DeSoto’s Mountain Inn Restaurant begins serving lunch.

-1:00 p.m.-Hikes start at DeSoto’s Country Store (3 hikes heading out).

-3:00 p.m.-Hikes start at DeSoto’s Country Store (3 hikes heading out).

-5:00 p.m.-DeSoto’s Mountain Inn Restaurant begins serving dinner buffet.

-7:15 p.m.-Presentation.

The event is free and open to everyone. No pre-registration required. Groups of over 10 are asked to RSVP to help make everyone’s wildflower experience better.

Saturday Hikes: DeSoto’s trails can vary from fairly flat terrain to slightly steep inclines & rocky ground. Each hike is marked for its difficulty level. Participants are encouraged to wear appropriate footwear and bring water and snacks along on the hikes. Throughout the course of the day, you will be able to choose from 3 separate hikes during the day, each hike with different leaders.

The Azalea Cascade Hike:

Starts on DeSoto’s Azalea Cascade Boardwalk and ends at the Country Store.

Meets behind DeSoto’s Country Store on the deck.

Hike Times: 9:00 a.m.,1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

This hike has the easiest terrain, suitable for people with limited mobility or younger children. Starts out along the Talmadge Butler ADA-Accessible Boardwalk Trail & continues along for both an elevated & ground-floor view of the hardwood forest. Ends at Azalea Cascade, with an option to venture off of the boardwalk on a trail that ends back at the country store.

Various plants to see: pink lady slipper, mountain laurel, wild ginger, Catesby’s trillium, galax, trout lily, sweet shrub, mountain honeysuckle, yellowroot, dwarf iris, New York fern, wild geranium, cucumber magnolia, wild azalea, and much more.

The Rhododendron Trail Hike:

Goes from Country Store towards DeSoto’s pool area and down the yellow trail, ending at Indian Falls. Meets at DeSoto’s Nature Center.

Hike Times: 9:00 a.m.,1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Classified as moderate to mildly strenuous because of the length and slightly rocky terrain; this hike is great for walking under the forest canopy & among flowing creeks. Follows along the bluff line overlooking the West Fork of Little River, and ends at scenic Indian Falls.

Various plants to see: Catawba rhododendron, wild camellia, rosebay rhododendron, yellow star grass, wild huckleberry, mountain laurel, trailing arbutus,  bluets, Solomon’s seal, Catesby’s trillium, galax, sweet shrub, fringe tree, partridgeberry, & much more.

The Little River Hike:

Starts at Indian Falls, follows the yellow trail and circles back to Indian Falls.

Meets outside DeSoto’s Country Store on grass.

Hike Times: 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Also classified as moderate to mildly strenuous, this hike starts at Indian Falls & goes down a slight incline to follow along the West Fork of Little River. The terrain is rocky with some minor rock-hopping next to the river. Trail curves around & starts a gradual curve up to the bluff above Little River & ends back at Indian Falls.

Various plants to see: mountain honeysuckle, mountain laurel, Catawba rhododendron, Nuttall’s rayless goldenrod, yellowroot, oakleaf hydrangea, Indian cucumber root, wood sorrel, tag alder, ashy hydrangea, oxeye daisy, coral honeysuckle, flatrock onion, neverwet, royal fern, Joe Pye weed, cinnamon fern, rattlesnake plantain and much more.

Trail maps and wildflower checklists can be found at the Lodge, Country Store and Nature Center.

All presentations & hikes are free to the public and no registration is required.

For more information, contact Brittney M. Hughes, the park naturalist at Desoto State Park.

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