Grizzly Bears forage for wild edibles in Denali National Park.

Grizzly Bears forage for wild edibles in Denali National Park.

 

“The Earth laughs in flowers,” said the great American novelist Ralph Waldo Emerson, and especially is that true for the season of Spring.  This Spring, why not join the Earth in its laughter! ParkVisitor has ranked the Top 10 National Parks to observe the wildflower bloom this Spring, and we know that you’ll visit atleast one of these magnificent sites to enjoy the spectacular colors Mother Nature has used to paint with.

 

10.) Glacier National Park , Montana

 

Whoa! Snow and flowers? Yup, and in Glacier National Park you’ll find plenty of both. Dozens of hiking trails weave across the bases of the mountains that these majestic glaciers sit atop. During Spring, as the snow melts and gives way for the soil to breathe, flowers that were dormant during the winter start to sprout through the frozen soil. You’ll find the infamous glacier lily sprouting its sun-colored yellow petals through the snow  as fields of lavender fireweeds populate the rolling hills of this beautiful National park. If you want to enjoy Springtime with snow-capped mountains and vibrant colors against a receding winter chill, Glacier National Park ensures both.

Where to start: Apgar Visitor Center, Preston Park, Gunsite Lake, Firebrand Pass, Iceberg Lake

Best time to go: April-June

 

 

9.) Saguaro National Park, Arizona

 

Named after the iconic saguaro cactus which is  known for its 30’-50’ foot height, and beautiful flowers that bloom only during the nighttime and are pollinated mostly by bats, the Saguaro National Park is one destination for wildflowers that cannot be ignored. This desert is more than just a home to the saguaro cactus and the Tohono O’odham tribes. The desert boasts a wild bloom of prickly poppies year round, wild larkspur, owls clovers, desert marigold and dozens of more species peppered throughout the park.

Where to start: Tucson Mountain District (red hills visitor center) Arizona -Sonora Desert Museum, Bajada Loop Drive, Rincon Mountain District, Mica View Loop

Best time to go: February-May (for wildflowers), May-June (for Saguaro Cactus flowers only)

 

 

8.) Channel Islands National Park, California

 

Riding across the pristine blue waters of the Pacific by ferry from Ventura harbor, the Channel Islands National Park is the most unique wildflower adventure on our list. These islands offer more than just seclusion, and a coastal breeze. Home to the very rare island malacothriz- a sunflower family wildflower which has reached endangered status because it is only found on these islands; as well as the Anacapa Island desert-dandelions and twelve more rare flowers. Hike these majestic peaks, and enjoy the clear views of the Pacific ocean while you bask in the sunlight and scent of the Channel Islands wildflower bloom.

Where to start: Channel Islands Harbor, Port of Ventura, Island Packers Co. , Camarillo Airport

***Note: Visit the www.theodorepayne.org Wildflower Hotline for a weekly report of wildflower blooms

Best time to go: March – May

 

 

 7.)  The Great Basin National Park, Nevada

 

Walk through this park, and you’ll see more than the four thousand year old bristlepines. The Great Basin National Park’s wildflowers are more than just ‘Great.’ Their variety of poppies, primrose, lupine,  crimson columbine, manzanita bells, bluebells, harebells, will make your head ring side to side as you attempt to absorb the vast palate of colors strewn across the mountain slopes and the park’s valleys. Multiple trails woven across the Great Basin allow for visitors to look down at the fields of color, or to walk right past them in the valley. Either way, The Great Basin National Park is a great destination to go to this Spring.

Where to start: Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, Baker Creek Trail

Best time to go: April- July

 

 

6.) Big Bend National Park, Texas

 

Everything in Texas is big, and that doesn’t stop being true for the Big Bend National Park. For this wildflower adventure, we suggest you stay in your car as you drive with your windows down, passing over fifty miles of ten-foot tall Texas Yuccas, miles of lavender Cenio blossoms,  and Ocotillo ruby flowers being pollinated by hummingbirds and swarms of friendly bees. The Gulf’s breeze allows for this desert climate to be the least of your worries as you stop your car and hike around the vast array of wildflowers blooming with arms wide open, waiting to be photographed.

Where to start: Rose Maxwell Scenic Drive, Panther Junction, Rio Grande Village, Persimmon Gap, Maverick Entrance Station

Best time to go: February – May

 

 

5.) Gunnison National Forest , Colorado

 

Although it’s a National Forest, we couldn’t ignore the fact that Crested Butte valley inside of the Gunnison National Forest has been hosting a Wildflower Festival for more than sixty-years. The festival does more than just invite nature enthusiasts and wildflower admirers to this part of Colorado. The festival coordinators plan over eighty hikes all over the park that explore different species of wildflowers. There are wildflower photography classes, medicinal-plant education classes, ‘Yoga among nature,’ and ‘Gardening with wildflowers’ classes. Even if you’re not interested in the activities, once you get to Crested Butte, it’s easy to see why there is a week long festival centered around the wildflower bloom.

Where to start: The Wildflower Festival Office

Best time to go:  April-July , July 8-14 (for the festival)

 

 

4.) Denali National Park, Alaska

 

How did Alaska, the closest state to the North Pole, make it so high on our list of Springtime wildflowers? Being the northern most state in America, Alaska’s wildflower bloom is often ignored, or likely never considered. It’s a shame though, because during the Springtime Denali National Park becomes a place of outstanding beauty. Crystal blue glacier runoff feeds the dormant seeds of the Spring wildflowers, and soon the thawing tundra bursts with a spectacular array of colors that rival Picasso’s palette. If you find yourself looking for unique, search for the fields of fireweeds, or the Alaska state flower: ‘Forget-me not’s.’ You’re sure to not forget endless, untouched fields of these azure beauties.

Where to start:Talkeetna Ranger Station, Alaska Railroad, Alaska Airlines

Best time to go: May- September

 

 

3.) Great Smokey Mountain National Park, Tennessee

 

The first thing to be said about the Great Smokey Mountain National Park is that its wildflower bloom is one of the most diverse on this list. The park boasts more than 1,500 flowering plants, ten different species of the Trillium flower, a broad variety of orchids, and violets, as well as a number of bleeding hearts. The park’s designated wildflower trails allow visitors to explore all the different species of flowers, and fully appreciate the diversity of the park’s natural plants. During the Spring, the Park hosts a week long Wildflower Pilgrimage where visitors can participate in a multitude of activities, including: nature walks, wildflower hikes, historic tours through the park, education classes on wildflowers, lectures on Cherokee Indian uses for wildflowers, and much more.

Where to start: Great Smokey Mountains Association, Cades Cove, Sugarlands Visitor Center

Best time to go: March- June, April 23-27 (Wildflower pilgrimage)

 

 

2.)  Death Valley National Park, California

 

It would be hard to  believe that a park named ‘Death Valley’ would conjure up images other than cracking dirt and tumbleweeds.  But, believe it or not ( trust us, you should believe it) Death Valley offers one of the best Spring time wildflower blooms of all the parks in the nation. What makes this destination so unique is the potential lingering below the surface of the valley floor, waiting for the right balance of moisture and sunlight to burst from the dirt and become one of the most beautiful wildflower blooms you’ve ever experienced. The wildflowers here have to adapt to the extreme conditions, and that means that some years may go with a meager display. Fortunately, the wildflower bloom has a dedicated following, so checking in the Springtime to see the weekly updates is an advantage. But when the wildflower bloom peaks during a good season, you’ll see why it’s our number two pick.  A golden carpet of desert wildflowers populate the clear ground as far as the eye can see, while a cool Spring breeze makes the tiny stems sway in the wind.

Where to start: Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Stovepipe Wells Village

Best time to go: Check the National Park website for a schedule of times that are best for the variety of flowers, and the different elevations they bloom at

 

 

1.) Mt Rainier National Park, Washington

 

Looking at the snowcapped peak of Mt. Rainier, one wouldn’t expect it to host the most beautiful wildflower bloom in the nation. Mt. Rainier’s volcanic slopes introduce minerals  and nutrients that are washed down every Spring by the melting snow. The result is a fertile bloom of wildflowers to the backdrop of this majestic mountain. The overlap of the forests and hills surrounding this park is what makes it number one on our list. Wild orchids, tiger lilies, and candy sticks grow under the shade of the old-growth forests in the Park. The subalpine open fields offer a more assorted collection of wildflowers, with varying species of lupine, arnica, glacier lilies, and stems of elephant’s head peppered across green, lush fields. Fortunately, the land produces an endless stream of flowers to pollinate before the Winter colds send the bulbs back into dormancy, so, expect the grandest display of colors throughout these pastures through the Spring!

Where to start: Henry M Jackson Memorial Visitor Center at Paradise,  Camp/picnic areas of: Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise Picnic area, and Carbon/Mowish picnic area.

Best Time to go: April-July