There are some things just as beautiful as they are fleeting. When it comes to wildflower season, you only have a handful of weeks to see the landscape reveal itself in splendor. But where should you go? We’ve compiled a list of the best places to see wildflowers in America. Remember to pack your camera and hiking boots in your car. You don’t want to let this experience slip through your fingers.
1. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California
Best time to visit: January through March
What you’ll see: desert wildflowers
For most of the year, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is known for its cacti and desert landscape, but the super blooms are unreal. The delicate buds contrast with the harsh scenery with startling clarity. Given how rainy the year has been, forecasts are looking good for another super bloom in 2019. While you’re in the area, consider stopping in Borrego Springs. The town offers its own set of beautiful sights, with dozens of giant metal sculptures of serpents, dinosaurs, and horses.
2. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Best time to visit: late March
What you’ll see: bloodroot, trillium, violets, geraniums, and pink lady slippers
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you might feel like Professor Snape when you spot flowers and plants with names like “bloodroot,” “liverwort,” and “oxeye daisies.” Luckily, the magic of spring is real and all of these beauties are here for you when you walk through Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive is the most popular route for flower viewers. In fact, you can simply cruise along the windy road to spot the flora and fauna. For hiking, walk along the South River Falls, Mill Prong, and Rose River trails for the best views.
3. Chappell Hill, Texas
When to visit: early April
What you’ll see: bluebonnets
Texas is bluebonnets central. For miles, these gorgeous flowers dot the scenery. Start your driving tour in the small town of Chappell Hill, which puts on the annual Bluebonnet Festival each April. There are over 250 arts and crafts vendors, live music, and activities for the kids. Then, hit the road. Make a trip along the Bluebonnet Trail that touches the cities of Brenham and Chappell Hill, and runs for 80 miles alongside these pretty flowers. It’s widely considered one of the best wildflower drives in Texas.
4. Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Best time to visit: late April
What you’ll see: 1,500 wildflower varieties
It doesn’t get much better than Great Smoky Mountain National Park for variety. You’ll see everything from trillium, lady slipper orchids, and violets in spring. And in summer, black-eyed Susans make their annual reappearance. That said, the best time to visit is April during the 69th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, where visitors can enjoy guided walks and photography workshops. You’ll also want to make a stop in Townsend—especially if you can make it for the Townsend Spring Festival & Old Timer’s Day, with bluegrass music, arts, and barbecue.
5. Mima Mounds, Washington
When to visit: early May
What you’ll see: camas and wildflowers
Mima Mounds is a rather unusual sight, with soft lumps of grass rolling as far as the eye can see. When it’s clear out, you can even view Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens in the distance. There’s a half-mile trail that’s ADA accessible, plus an observation deck if you want to enjoy the view and not the hike. Plus, it’s located only 16 miles outside of the capital city of Olympia, if you want to do some city touring before nature exploring.
6. Sugar Hill, New Hampshire
Best time to visit: early June
What you’ll see: lupine
Fields of lupine create postcard-perfect views in early June. These purple-budded flowers are, interestingly, members of the pea family. But unlike those pesky green things left on your child’s dinner plate, these plants are more than a welcomed sight. Arrive in town for the annual Sugar Hill Lupine Festival in June, which features lupine walks and an open-air market. If you need some fuel before your hike, head to Polly’s Pancake Parlor. This local staple has been around since 1938 and offers flapjacks with authentic New Hampshire syrup.
7. Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Best time to visit: June through mid-July
What you’ll see: lupine, pink spring beauty, cushion phlox, aspen bluebells, and little sunflowers
Serious “bloom” enthusiasts like you will love Cedar Breaks National Monument. For starters, the trek has a 10,000 foot elevation, and due to the heights, the season is short. You’ll be rewarded for the effort when you see blue flax, aspen bluebells, pink spring beauty, and scarlet paintbrushes. Visit during the two-week long Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival in July, with guided walks and games. Just remember to submit your photos to the park’s site before you leave. The winner earns a prize and has the picture featured on the festival poster.
8. Crested Butte, Colorado
Best time to visit: early to mid-July
What you’ll see: mountain wildflowers
There are few states with a greater outdoor reputation than Colorado, and you’ll understand why when you walk along paths like Rustler Gulch Trail and Lower Loop Trail. The landscape of Crested Butte (known as the wildflower capital of Colorado) is painted in yellow alpine sunflowers, lavender elephant’s heads, and indigo larkspur. The best time for wildflowers in Colorado is July—especially during the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, which offers photography classes and art shows. Speaking of beauty, Elk Avenue is nearly as colorful as the wildflowers, and you’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants to check out after your hike.
9. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Best time to visit: early August
What you’ll see: common harebells, alpine speedwells, avalanche lilies, and evergreen violets
If you want to know where to see wildflowers in Washington state, just head to Paradise. This famous meadow in Mount Rainier National Park has some of the best scenery and popular paths, including the paved Skyline Trail. Keep your eyes open for bellflowers, bog orchids, bleeding hearts, and cinquefoils. When you’re ready to turn in for the night, head to the charming town of Ashford. Fill up on hearty eats from places like Copper Creek Restaurant and The Highlander before going on your next hike.
10. Fort Pierre National Grassland, South Dakota
Best time to visit: summer
What you’ll see: blue daisy fleabane, purple prairie clover, and purple coneflower
The Mount Rushmore State knows a thing or two about setting a grand impression. Stop into Fort Pierre National Grassland to see what rugged countryside is all about. Due to the lack of roads inside the park, you’ll need to bring those hiking shoes. But all the better. The reward on the other side is a variety of flowers, including purple prairie clover, bluebell, and silver bladderpod. Park your wagon—well, rental car—for the night in Fort Pierre. This was one stomping ground for Lewis and Clark on their journey west.
Wildflower season doesn’t last long, so book your road trip soon. Whether you’re going into the plains, the desert, or the forest, the beauty of these colorful buds is too hard to ignore. Happy travels!
Header image via Dean Fikar/Shutterstock.com