Blooms and Buds: Where to Find the Best National Park Flowers

March 10, 2017Travel Ideas
Mount Rainier National Park

There’s nothing quite like spring in our national parks. Wildflowers fill the fields and line the trails through some of the most breathtaking places across our nation. Some of these brilliant blooms can be found in a park near you! Peruse through these photos of some of the best places to see national park flowers this spring. 

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Purple flowers on a green forest floor at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
National Park Service

Spanning 70,000 acres, densely wooded Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is home to a wide assortment of flowering trees that come into full bloom in spring and early summer. Flowers like dogwood, pink azalea, mountain laurel, and rhododendron are easily seen along the Appalachian Trail, which swings through Delaware Water Gap on its way from Georgia to Maine.

Saguaro National Park

Fluffy pink fairy dusters blooming with a brown dessert hill and saguaro cacti in the background at Saguaro National Park
National Park Service

Pinpointing the time when desert wildflowers blossom across Saguaro National Park is a nearly impossible task. Some flowers bloom nearly every month, while others only do so when rainfall, temperature, and other conditions perfectly align — which may not happen for years at a time. That being said, spring visitors to this Arizona park can count on a wide variety of flowers during a normal season, from yellow desert marigolds to the white blooms of the giant saguaro cactus.

Mojave National Preserve

Red Indian paintbrushs blooming among purple desert sage in desert landscape at Mojave National Preserve.
National Park Service

Some years see an abundance of spring wildflowers in California's Mojave National Preserve, while other years bring only a scant few. It is difficult to predict, but you have a good chance of seeing cacti, annuals, Joshua trees, and yuccas in bloom if you time your visit just right. These national park flowers typically start to appear at lower elevations in March, and make their way to higher elevations by May. 

Mammoth Cave National Park

White and pink Pepper and Salt flowers blooming close to the forest ground at Mammoth Cave National Park
National Park Service

While it is the underground portion of Mammoth Cave National Park that draws many visitors, there is plenty going on above the surface in springtime. The valleys, hillsides, and river bottoms above these famous Kentucky caves come alive in spring with trillium, larkspur, columbine, and more than a dozen other varieties.

Flight 93 National Memorial

A meadow filled with bright yellow wildflowers slopes down toward the edge of the Memorial Plaza at the crash site of Flight 93 National Memorial
National Park Service

The bravery of ordinary passengers and crew members who joined together for an extraordinary act of selflessness is remembered at Pennsylvania’s Flight 93 National Memorial. A wildflower meadow sweeping up the slopes above the Memorial Plaza at the crash site brings color and life to a place of healing and renewal. The National Park Foundation played an essential role in raising funds to establish, design, and construct this memorial.

White Sands National Monument

The Cane Cholla is blooming with vibrant magenta flowers at White Sands National Monument
National Park Service

By the middle of April, you can usually find sand verbena, Hartweg’s sundrops, desert mentzelia, and white sands mustard blooming on the desert floor of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico — much earlier than in the surrounding mountains. Gypsum centaury, white evening primrose, and greenthread join the party by May, and some species produce flowers well into summer. However, as with all wildflower blooms in desert environments, predicting exact times can be tricky.

Alt tag: A solitaire indigo flower blooms in the midst of nature at Cuyahoga National Park.

Credit: Ferdie Tinio, Share The Experience

Cuyahoga National Park

Macro shot of an indigo flower blooming at Cuyahoga National Park
Ferdie Tino, Share the Experience

The wooded lowlands along Ohio's Cuyahoga River harbor a brilliant assortment of spring wildflowers, many of which are in full bloom during the month of April. In Cuyahoga National Park, a stroll along the Towpath Trail often rewards hikers with glimpses of purple cress, marsh marigold, yellow and white trout lilies, spring beauty, and bloodroot. Toward the end of the month, you may also spot rue anemone, squirrel corn, and cut-leaf toothwort in the woods along the Brandywine Gorge Trail. 

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

At Golden Gate National Recreation Area, orange bush monkeyflowers bloom amongst large leaves with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Ray Ann Sullivan, Share the Experience

Peak wildflower season lasts from late February through June at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. A diverse habitat at this California park supports an incredible diversity of spring wildflowers, from the delicate yellow-petal sun cup to the prickly cobweb thistle and the bright-red Indian paintbrush.

The arrival of spring is good news for wildflower enthusiasts, and some of the most stunning blooms can be seen in our national parks. No matter what part of the country you call home, you'll find national park flowers ready to spring up this season.

Comments

In addition to these wonderful National Parks, include State Parks such as Carizzo Plain (CA)! Greatest display of poppies anywhere! - Rodger Dawson
Rodger
Dawson
To all NPS employees, Thanks for the beauty, your dedication to preserving these cultural, wildlife, and scenic treasures. I enjoy the access you give me via my computer.
Mary
Alapa
I appreciate notes on above-mentioned wildflower viewings, but sadly nothing is mentioned about one of our greatest wildflower & spring blooming national parks, Shenandoah National Park and along Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Could you please include them asap so we can plan early hikes there to view them? Thanks.
Linda
Frank
It is interesting to us that you would use a photo of Mt Rainier to head your article yet you do not mention us. We have amazing flowers to see here on Mt Rainier.
Laura
Esler

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