Flower Power: America’s Best Spots to View Wildflowers
With spring in full swing, chances are you’ve had flowers on the mind lately. Perhaps a getaway to see some of the finest wildflowers in the country is in order? These six places have been hailed as some of the best areas for spring and summer blossom viewing in the nation.
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, California
Although the wildflower blooms in this reserve reached their peak on May 4, there are still a good number of flowers painting the hills vivid colors. Poppy fields will remain for another two weeks and two wildflowers -- beavertail cacti and buckwheat -- have yet to reach their height. If you’re more of the planning type, be sure to go in April, when the nearby town of Lancaster holds an annual California Poppy Festival featuring live music and family-friendly activities like camel rides.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
The most visited national park in the US, the Great Smoky Mountains covers areas across both North Carolina and Tennessee. With extensive wildflower bloom information updated multiple times a week, this national park makes it easy for you to plan the perfect time to visit and see all your favorite wildflowers. After seeing some of the 1,500 varieties of flowering plants, you’ll understand why many have nicknamed it “Wildflower National Park.”
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park has over 200,000 acres of protected lands and boasts more than 850 species of wildflowers. While it’s too late to catch some of the popular flowers, including purple violets and pink lady slippers, the later spring and early summer months still bring plenty of colorful buds to take in. Keep an eye out for columbines, ox-eye daisies, and orange touch-me-nots around this time of year.
Fort Pierre National Grassland, South Dakota
This mixed-grass prairie covers over 100,000 acres and is a special sight in the summer when wildflowers are in full bloom. If you’re not as excited about the opportunities for spotting bluebells, bellflower, and Eastern red columbine, you can alternatively keep an eye out for some of the more lively species inhabiting the area, like prairie dogs and burrowing owls.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Fortunately for the latecomers to the wildflower scene, the species in Glacier National Park typically don’t peak until July and August. This may feel far into the future, but planning a trip to see the nearly 1,000 species of blossoms will be worth the wait. Make sure to get the inside scoop on which trails will be best for wildflower-viewing. If you want a flower-filled weekend you can even stay overnight in one of the park’s historic lodges or campsites.
White Mountains, New Hampshire
Despite this year’s polar vortex, wildflowers will still come to New Hampshire! Orchids are typically the first to blossom, kicking off wildflower season in late May. Make your travel arrangements now to come out during the 21st Annual Celebration of Lupines during the month of June in Franconia Notch. If the bright blankets of lupines covering the ground isn’t enough to convince you to book your travel now, the month will also feature a variety of ongoing and one-time events that attract crowds from far and wide.
-- image courtesy of iStock/jamcgraw
Jessica Zischke is a former editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College. On campus she works as an editor of Dartbeat, the blog of the student-run newspaper The Dartmouth, and as the Sustainability Chair for her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta.