This winter has been one for the books. With record-breaking temperatures, rainfall, and snowfall across the continental United States, the country has been holding its breath with the promise of spring and warmer weather around the corner. And just like winter, this spring will be one worth talking about.
As temperatures continue to rise and the country defrosts, wildflowers will begin dotting the landscape, offering spectacular displays of color. While wildflowers are a common springtime occurrence in much of the country, this year the flowers can be found in warmer, drier regions as well, due to the high amounts of rainfall.
California, in particular, has been receiving special attention for its “super bloom” in the deserts, an event that typically occurs once a decade. But just because it is rare doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best.
Here, we’ve rounded up five of the best places to view wildflowers this spring, so you can decide for yourself which is your favorite.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte, also known as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” is the perfect place to view nature’s bounty in the late spring and early summer. Peak viewing time is actually said to fall around the week of July 4th, and during this time park visitors can expect to see a variety of sunflowers, heartleaf arnica, sneezeweed, sky pilot, elephantella, purple fringe, and the Colorado state flower, the blue columbine.
From July 5-14, the town hosts its annual Wildflower Festival, complete with photography classes, art workshops, guided hikes, garden tours, and birding and butterfly watching.
Crested Butte is located in the southwest region of Colorado, in a high valley of the Colorado Rockies. The remote location keeps the air fresh, the water clean, and the views breathtaking.
There are countless hikes to choose from in the area but a few of the most popular for wildflower viewing are the Lupine Trail, Lower Loop Trail, Rustlers Gulch Trail, Columbine Trail, and the Strand Bonus Trail. For updated info on what’s currently blooming and the top hikes for each season, be sure and stop by the Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
Located just a few hours outside of Seattle, North Cascades National Park is home to 500,000 acres of protected land. The park includes the North Cascades Range, a massive glacial system, wetlands, and an expansive forest, with the widest flora biodiversity of all the U.S. national parks.
Included in that category is an impressive wildflower display that contains numerous different species, many of which are endemic to the region.
Wildflowers can be found all throughout the park, from the wet hillsides to the exposed alpine ridges. Due to the wide variation in elevation, exposure, and precipitation that occurs in the North Cascades, flowering times occur from late February to early September.
A few commonly sighted flowers are the glacier lily, skunk cabbage, alpine cinquefoil, red columbine, pink wintergreen, Oregon iris, elephant’s head, lupine, and mountain ladyslipper. For more information on the park and when to visit, check out the North Cascades National Park website.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California
Named after 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the largest of the California state parks, covering 1,000 square miles over 650,000 acres.
A few areas in the park have day-use fees, but the majority of the park is open to the public and offers free hiking, camping, site-seeing, and of course, wildflower viewing. Thousands of visitors flock to the park for the spectacular wildflower bloom each year – the bloom typically occurs in the early spring, with peak time being mid-March.
Although wildflowers dot much of the desert landscape, there are a few select areas that experience an exceptionally dense explosion of color. Borrego Palm Canyon, Hellhole Canyon, Cactus Loop, and Calcite Mine are all easily accessible hikes that offer spectacular views of the hundreds of different species of wildflowers.
In addition to wildflowers, keep your eyes peeled for deer, golden eagles, bobcats, and the numerous birds and reptiles that call the desert their home. For up to date info on conditions, call or visit the Anza Borrego Visitor Center.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Located just 75 miles outside of Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park is home to 200,000 acres of protected land along the famous Blue Ridge Mountains. The park includes 500 miles of hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, rocky peaks, and in the springtime, a wide array of wildflowers. Flowers begin popping up toward the end of March and can be spotted throughout the park all summer long.
Of the 1,406 species of vascular plants that call the park their home, 862 of those are wildflowers. A few of the most commonly sighted flowers are hepatica, pink lady’s slippers, bloodroot, wild geraniums, columbine, touch-me-nots, wild sunflowers, and pink azaleas.
In the springtime, the majority of wildflower sightings occur at lower elevations, specifically near streams like South River, Hughes River, Mill Prong, and Rose River. During the summer and early fall, flowers can be found at higher elevations along the banks of Skyline Drive and the Big Meadows. For detailed information of which species to expect when, visit the Shenandoah National Park wildflower calendar.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina/Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, often referred to as “Wildflower National Park” is situated on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. Due to its stunning mountains and forests, wide variety of plants and animals, and its preservation of Southern Appalachian mountain culture, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park rings in as America’s most frequented national park.
Another draw is the incredible display of wildflowers – the park is a world-renowned preserve of wildflower diversity, and over 1,500 species call the region home.
Ephemerals – plants that only appear above ground in late winter/early spring – dot the landscape February through April and are dormant by late spring. Each spring, the park hosts the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, complete with guided hikes/walks to enjoy the spring bloom.
After the ephemerals have gone dormant a new group of summertime flowers bloom and include species such as pink turtleheads, Turk’s cap lily, small purple-fringed orchids, red cardinal flowers, jewel weed, and many more. Although wildflowers can be found all throughout the park there are a few popular hikes for viewing them: Husky Gap, Rich Mountain Loop, Little River Trail, Schoolhouse Gap, Spence Field, and Kanati Fork.
For more information on local flowers and where to find them, check out the Species Mapper.
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