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Travel News Where to See the Best Wildflowers in the U.S. this Spring

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Where to See the Best Wildflowers in the U.S. this Spring

Let’s face it. After a long winter we can all use some cheer. Planning a trip to see spring and summer wildflowers can be the perfect antidote to winter.

California’s 2019 Super Bloom attracted Instagrammers who flocked to the state, iPhones in hand. While some got a bad rap (ah, don’t land a helicopter in a field, please), others have taken to the social media platform to encourage thoughtful and responsible visits that don’t endanger the flowers, bother neighbors, or pollute the area.

From California to New Hampshire, you’ll find National Parks, small towns, and even a center devoted to wildflowers. No matter which site you choose, the vibrant blooms are sure to make for a positive and joyful visit.

Tips for Viewing Wildflowers:

  • Check for bloom status updates
  • Check weather updates and dress accordingly
  • Always stay on designated trails
  • Never pick the flowers
  • See parking, photography, and other rules prior to your visit

Gear up for fun and the beauty of the great outdoors. From the West Coast to the East Coast, we’ve got eight top spots for wildflower viewing. 

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve

California’s vibrant state flower, the poppy, is a must see of the botanical world. About a two-hour drive north from Los Angeles, you’ll find eight miles of Mojave Desert grasslands at an elevation of 2,600-3,000 feet where the iconic and stunning orange flower is typically in bloom from the middle of February to May (with a peak time for viewing around late March).

A Day-Use pass not only gives you full access to the park for your visit, but also allows free entry to any state park in California with the same or lower ticket value price. According to the National Park Service, you can expect high winds and rattlesnakes so layer your clothes and stay on paths. Picnic tables are available to eat lunch and benches are there for a respite.

The park is open sunrise to sunset year-round. The visitor center is scheduled for a March 2020 reopening and will feature exhibits and films on the poppy and poppy-image gifts in case you were too mesmerized by the flowers to snap a pic.

Anza-Borrego Desert Park®, California

This state park, the largest in California, has often topped the list for best wildflower viewing. A dozen wilderness areas and multiple trails make up the area that’s under a two-hour drive from San Diego.

A fire in the canyon has closed the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail so you’ll want to check for updates closer to your visit. If you want to stay up-to-date with news and bloom updates, the Anza-Borrego Foundation has a wildflower hotline 760-767-4684 and an e-mail list. Past seasons have seen the delicate, purple-hued desert woolstar and goldfields from the daisy family.

The park is an International Dark Sky Park, with a mission to keep dark skies unspoiled, so don’t forget to check out the stargazing while you’re there.

Mount Rainier, Washington

Just over a two-hour drive southeast of Seattle, Mount Rainier is known for its vibrant and plentiful blooms. July through August is typically the time to hit the Pacific Northwest wildflower trail but the area park is open year-round.

Be sure and check the “Currently Blooming” information prior to your visit. It’s possible to see hundreds of species including the elegant glacier lily, pink elephant’s head that can grow up to three feet high, and a variety of lupines. 

Lodging, campgrounds, picnic areas, restaurants, and visitor centers are on site. There you can pick up a printable trail map for the park’s 369-square mile reserve.

Glacier National Park, Montana

According to the National Park Service site, glacier lilies “carpet” the landscape as part of the 1,000 species on display, a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of Missoula. Late summer means meadows full of purple asters. The months of July through August are typically peak times to see blooms here. You can see all of this thanks to President Taft who signed the bill for national park status in 1910. The 1,583-square miles of Glacier National Park now includes 375 properties, six of which are historic landmarks. This includes the 1913-built Lake McDonald Lodge which is available for overnight stays May-September.

Crested Butte, Colorado

It’s no wonder with a coveted title as “Wildflower Capital of Colorado” that a mid-July festival has been happening here for over 30 years. The mission is to preserve and appreciate wildflowers and this is a prime place to do it. This year’s events include over 200 programs such as hikes and walks, photography classes, and art workshops.

Self-guided hikes in the area include the scenic Lower Loop that follows the Slate River and includes the aptly named “Oh Be Joyful” trail. Violet-hued larkspur and deep burgundy kings crown are among the flowers you might see depending on the time of the year and which route you choose. The town boasts a range of budget-friendly and upscale lodging.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas

Just five miles from downtown Austin, this organized wildflower center–co-founded and named after the former First Lady–is part of the University of Texas.

This botanic garden’s mission is to inspire the conservation of native plants and features an arboretum set on 16 acres, along with nine acres of garden areas. Almost 900 plant varieties of native Texas plants have been cultivated or grow here. 

A mile of trails in the 70-acre area allows for hikes and views of wildflowers and wildlife (including roadrunners). Stroll the 1/4-mile trail around the peaceful Savanna Meadow that may be dotted with red, purple, and yellow stems, depending on the time of year, and learn about the landscape and use of water. Check the “What’s in Season” tab for a preview and information on the plants.

Free daily public tours are available as well as ticketed/paid private tours (reserve two weeks in advance). The on-site Wildflower Café offers beautiful and peaceful inside and outdoor dining.

Great Smoky National Park, Tennessee

The National Park Service reports there are over 1,500 flowering plants in the Smokies, a four-hour drive east of Nashville, so it’s no wonder it’s been referred to as “Wildflower National Park.”

Springtime brings varieties of lilies, violets and even wild strawberries in the park that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site comprised of over 500,000 acres. The park recommends ten trails for wildflower viewing, including a two-mile section of the famed Appalachian, the Middle Prong Trail, featuring flowers and waterfalls, and the Schoolhouse Gap Trail, an easy walk that features unusual species. A weeklong Spring Wildlife Pilgrimage includes guided walks and hikes.

One of the largest protected areas in the U.S., the park is the perfect place to go off the grid as cell and Internet service isn’t available in many areas (you’ll have to snap and post later). A campground and a lodge are available for overnights at the summit of Mt. LeConte.

Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

If your free time falls in June, consider a trip to Sugar Hill, a three-hour drive north from Boston, to see the lupines that are in bloom for about a month. The tall, dramatic cone-comprised flowers in blue, purple, pink and white hues are the reason behind the annual June Celebration of Lupines in the town that boasts a population under 600.

An open-air market, concerts, and tours complete the weekend scheduled for early June. Indulge in small-town charm with a stop at Polly’s Pancake Parlor and the Harman Cheese & Country Store before walking paths to see the flowers along with views of the Franconia, Presidential and Kinsman Mountains.