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The 5 Best Places to Spot Spring Wildflowers

Head to the desert, the mountains, or the coast to catch spring in all of its flowering glory.

(Lisa Seaman/TandemStock)

Head to the desert, the mountains, or the coast to catch spring in all of its flowering glory.

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

Palm Canyon Hotel
Click to enlarge. (Palm Canyon Hotel)

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

Click to enlarge. (dosecreative/iStock)

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

Case's Fitweed
Click to enlarge. (jonmullen/iStock)

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.

Filed To: Travel / Nature
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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