Wildflower season in national parks is unlike any other. From golden poppies and white columbines to mariposa lilies and bluebonnets, check out these parks for the perfect seasonal photo-op, and start planning your national parks adventure.
Parks with Spring Blooms
Sequoia & Kings Canyon, California
Redbud trees and golden poppies fill the bottom of the river canyons in the foothills, and sky pilots burst with color at the top of the highest peaks. Every elevation of Sequoia and Kings Canyon boasts blooming wildflowers from February through August. You’ll be able to spot a rainbow of colors as you hike, from crimson columbine to violet lupine. Pull your car over along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway to admire towers of yucca and blasts of blazing star blossoms. No matter where you are in the parks, there will be wildflowers.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Wildflowers do not bloom park-wide all at once. When spring hits lower elevations, popping open buds around Lake McDonald and St. Mary, big Logan Pass alpine meadows cower under snow. As summer progresses, like a mist lifting, higher and higher habitats spread out floral displays.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
One of the state’s venerable springtime activities is viewing wildflowers. Bluebonnets, daisies, and Indian paintbrushes turn pastures and highway medians into colossal canvases of vivid color, a compelling counterpart to northern states’ fall colors. Big Bend National Park comes alive in March-April, with migrating birds and butterflies dotting the landscape as they feed on fresh foliage.
Death Valley National Park, California
Spring is the best time to view wildflowers at Death Valley National Park. Lee Flat is a high-desert valley, and a drive through the graded roads will skew your idea of what a desert should look like. Mounded green hills keep you snaking along at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet, and wildflowers pop out at every turn.
Zion National Park, Utah
Spring and fall are the choice seasons for pleasant temperatures and the best chances of seeing wildlife and wildflowers. From about mid-October through early November, cottonwoods and other trees and plants blaze with color. Coalpits Wash trailhead is the lowest spot in Zion. This low elevation makes it an ideal winter hike, and it’s also the best place to look for early spring wildflowers, including mariposa lilies, purple sagebrush, and pale evening primrose.
Parks with Summer Blooms
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
Andrews Bald (3.5 miles round trip) is a trail that starts at Clingmans Dome, a few miles off Newfound Gap Road, and leads to a high mountain meadow filled with wildflowers and shrubs that bloom throughout summer, making it one of the most rewarding hikes you’ll find.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Hike Grand View Point in Grand Teton for pink sticky geraniums or backpack Alaska Basin for prolific wildflower displays in August, including white columbine.
Denali National Park, Alaska
In early summer stop to look at wildflowers at Primrose Ridge and scan for sheep or take a hike in Eielson Alpine Trail where tiny wildflowers such as pink moss campion thrive tucked in the rocks.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Late July and August is prime time for viewing the peak framed by fields of wildflowers. At Paradise, the Skyline loops through sub-alpine wildflower meadows, waterfalls, and vistas of Nisqually Glacier tumbling from the ice cap of Rainier.