Where to Catch the Best Wildflower Blooms in the US
Those in the Northeast will be the first to tell you that spring is a fickle season. One day it's 60 degrees and sunny, and the next? A blizzard has blown your way (thanks for the snow day, Winter Storm Stella). Nevertheless, with brighter days on the brain, we've rounded up 10 spots out west where March (and on) spells out peak wildflower blooms.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA
This March, Coyote Canyon is the place to be in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The spot may only be accessible by a single dirt road, but roughing the terrain (and politely passing by other wildflower gawkers) means catching sight of electric yellow Parish’s poppies, desert lilies, dune evening primrose, desert chicory, sand verbena, and more. If the crowds simply can’t be fought – wildflower viewing is a spectator sport in this neck of the woods – opt for Henderson or Palm Canyons as both are hitting their mid-bloom stride.
Crested Butte, CO
As the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” Crested Butte has a lot to live up to every spring and summer. But without fail, the city shines each season as it shows off its most colorful arrays during its eponymous wildflower festival – falling July 7th-16th, this year. If you’d like to scavenge the hills for lilies, primrose, honeysuckle, iris, marigolds, and hundreds of others, you can use the festival's trusty little alpine and subalpine field guides. You can also reference their bloom locator for suggestions on peak times and places to catch your favorite varieties.
Antelope Valley, CA
Attention! The poppies of Antelope Valley’s 1,780-acre poppy reserve have already started their annual bloom. While the fiery orange flowers will awaken to blanket the entire 8-mile Mojave Desert Grassland tract (and probably last through April), the prettiest of the bunch are currently on display in the eastern end of the park. Check in with the CA Parks Department for bloom updates and current photos before you plan your trek to ensure you hit a truly explosive patch.
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
In Joshua Tree National Park, where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet toe to toe, wildflowers bloom as early as February (in lower elevations) and continue on through June (in higher elevations) each year. Headed sometime soon? Peak blossoms are currently located along the Cottonwood Canyon Bajada Trail; stop by to see towering Arizona lupines, multiple poppy varieties, and chuparosa.
Glacier National Park, MT
More than a thousand species of wildflowers carpet the aspen groves, alpine tundras, lowlands, and steep slopes of Glacier National Park each year; we’re talking purple asters, Indian pipes, geraniums, buttercups, and more. The most tenacious of the bunch – the alpine buds – battle severe winds, harsh temperatures, occasional flurries, and the harsh level of ultraviolet light that comes with such a high elevation, just to peek their heads out for a couple months every spring and summer, so the least you can do is pay them a half-day visit.
Death Valley National Park, CA
For a plot of land so ominously named, Death Valley sure does come to life each spring under a dousing of vibrant gold, purple, and pink blossoms. Scattered throughout the 5,219-million-square-mile expanse, tucked among the desert slopes, mountain peaks, and badlands, you’ll find lush pockets of dandelions, sunbonnets, mariposas, sage, and more; a real feat given the park’s affinity for extreme droughts and chart-topping temps.
Saguaro National Park, AZ
Thanks to a two-punch combination of winter rains and unseasonably warm pre-spring weather, Saguaro National Park is already bursting at the seams with colorful blooms. Hunt down agave, desert honeysuckle, Indian paintbrushes, prairie clovers, and saguaros, of course, by cruising along Bajada Loop Drive, or head to Picture Rocks Road for an eyeful of golden poppies.
Chihuahuan Desert, TX
Southwest Texas’ stretch of Chihuahuan Desert can reach up to 115+ degrees in the summer months and receives less than 8 inches of rainfall a year making it a pretty inhospitable place – unless you’re a prickly pear or creosote bush, that is. Still, despite the ultra-harsh climate, a spat of desert willows, rock nettles, marigolds, and prickly poppies briefly appear each spring.
Hill Country, TX
Texas takes its flowers seriously, and April in Hill Country means peak wildflower bloom. Landscape architects work tirelessly to cultivate 800,00 acres of highway median blossoms, sowing new seeds and pruning existing buds. For the best wildflower vistas, follow the scenic, self-guided Texas Hill Country Wildflower Trail, where you'll spot the finest blooms Austin, San Antonio, Fredericksburg and San Marcos have to offer – we're talking miles of bluebonnets (the Lone Star state's official flower) mingling with Texas paintbrushes, winecups and primrose. If somehow, you fail to stumble upon them yourself, you can always call the Wildflower Hotline for up-to-date advice on where to catch the brightest blossoms.
North Cascades National Park, WA
An extremely diverse crop of wildflowers bloom across North Cascades National Park’s more than half-million acres and multitude of habitats (think: alpine basins, lush meadows, and rocky summits). This means that something or other will be germinating from the end of February right on through September. Among the bunch? Deep magenta calypso orchids, sunny yellow lilies, and white, cotton-like beargrass.
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