|California poppies at Pinnacles National Park, courtesy Pinnacles NPS.|
From rare California poppies to sweet-scented phlox, wildflowers begin to bloom this month across much of the country. Filling green meadows, desert basins, and forest floors, wildflowers bring a special beauty that usually can only be seen for a few weeks.
Our national parks rank among the best places to enjoy wildflowers. As those parks cover wide swaths of protected land, they offer ample area for massive blooms, enhancing the already beautiful scenery.
Here are six not-to-miss spots at our national parks for spotting wildflowers from now through summer.
Pinnacles National Park
Each spring, brilliant orange California poppies, lavender-colored bush lupine, and white mariposa lilies blossom across the nation’s newest national park. To see a variety of them at different elevations and from a number of vistas, take the High Peaks and Bear Gulch trails.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
About the same time on the other side of the continent, the forest floor on the Mingus Creek Trail turns fragrant with the pleasant sent of blue phlox. Several other shade-loving flowers also can be found along the creek, including violets, Virginia bluebells and white trillium.
During late April, expect to see flame azalea in bloom on the Deep Creek/Indian Falls trails. In May, look for mountain laurel, and in June keep an eye out for rhododendron.
Glacier National Park
From late June through early August, summer wildflower blooms are at their peak. Check out the Swiftcurrent Lake Loop Trail for meadows strewn with purple asters, white torch-shaped clusters of beargrass, and sun yellow glacier lilies, all with majestic mountains as a backdrop.
Sequoia National Park
Next to the world’s largest trees are blossoms that somehow manage to stand out despite their size. On the Crescent Meadow Trail in early July, lavender Mustang clover with yellow centers look like little pins of brilliant light against the immense pine cones that have fallen into the grass.
Crater Lake National Park
Wildflowers usually bloom along the stream next to the Annie Creek Trail and across the meadows from mid-July through August. Among those that might be spotted are Macloskey’s violet, big huckleberry, sulphur flower, Crater Lake currant, western mountain ash, and wax currant.
Great Basin National Park
Amid the high desert is an oasis of summer wildflowers on the Alpine Lakes Trail. Spring-fed Lehman Creek flows into a lake and supports Parry’s primrose, penstemon, and phlox, all set against vibrant green grass. Butterflies are abundant here as well.
Rob Bignell is the author of several hiking books, including the bestselling “Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks.”
Learn more about national park day hiking trails in my Best Sights to See at America’s National Parks guidebook.