April showers bring May flowers, as the saying goes, and El Niño rains can bring on even more spectacular wildflowers than usual. So head to the desert, the mountains, or the coast to catch spring in all of its flowering glory.
Anza-Borrego Desert, California
This winter’s above-average rainstorms across California have apparently triggered an early and plentiful wildflower season in the desert, a welcome arrival after years of drought. Spring is also a great time to visit the desert, before it gets unbearably hot. Rent a vintage trailer or an Airstream at the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort, a mile from Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and take a hike through the desert to catch the brittlebush, poppies, and cacti in full bloom.
Columbia River Gorge, Washington
From March to June, the Columbia River Gorge comes alive with blossoms. Take a hike through Lyle Cherry Orchard for views of the Columbia River and fields full of flowers—the gorge has hundreds of types of wildflowers. Afterward, hit up a concert at the Gorge Amphitheater, a 20,000-person outdoor stadium and home to the annual Sasquatch Music Festival each May.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been dubbed the Wildflower National Park, thanks to its more than 1,500 different species of flowers, which bloom from early spring through late summer. You’ll spot rhododendrons, orchids, iris, violets, and more. Visit during the park’s Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in April for guided tours, art classes, and other events.
Catalina State Park, Arizona
Early April is the best time to catch wildflowers in the desert of Arizona. Go for a hike in Catalina State Park, at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, and you’ll wander amongst golden poppies, lupine, and thistle. The park also hosts live outdoor concerts on Saturdays, so schedule your visit to catch a bluegrass show after your hike.
Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte calls itself the Wildflower Capital of Colorado—a designation granted by the Colorado Legislature in 1990—and for good reason. Their annual Wildflower Festival takes place each July with photography classes, guided hikes, garden tours, and more. Wait till the snow melts and show up mid summer to catch the mountains ablaze with yellow mule’s ears and blue columbine.