Unlike the curated and constructed beauty of organized gardens, wildflower displays have a strikingly haphazard appeal. Bunches of flowers scattered naturally throughout a field, with a mountainous backdrop is truly an amazing sight. The timing and quality of the blooms may vary from year to year, but that just makes their presence even more spectacular.
Check online or call a visitor’s center to get the scoop on the best bloom spots, as they tend to change quickly throughout the season and then visit one of these 11 national parks with amazing wildflower blooms.
This park, larger than the state of Rhode Island, is home to both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. Set at different elevations, these deserts have their own unique ecosystems with diverse species of plants and animals. The different elevation throughout the park cause flowers to bloom at different times, with the low elevation flowers blooming earlier than higher elevation flowers. Catch a glimpse of the Desert Five-Spot or the Teddy Bear Cholla at the low elevation of Pinto Basin from February to early April and head to higher ground to see blooms in April and May.
Rugged coastline, woodlands, mountains, lakes and islands—Acadia National Park has it all and while it’s not the biggest park around, it is home to a wide array of flora and fauna. Trekking through woodlands, you’ll likely come upon native woodland flowers like the Wild Lily-of-the-Valley, the Bluebead Lily (which is mostly yellow) and the Bunchberry. Visit in August and September to see the Asters and Goldenrods in full bloom and be sure not to miss the Wild Gardens of Acadia. The gardens have been curated for more than 50 years to preserve the natural flora and are now home to roughly 300 labeled plants and flowers.
Characterized by majestic peaks and incredible wildlife, the plants and flowers of Grand Teton National Park might be overshadowed, but they are an incredible sight. Blooming from May through September, typically, the growing season of flowers is short due to frost and the flowers at their peak tend to change quickly. Another park where elevation plays a role, Grand Teton is separated into three zones—the sagebrush valley, the forest floor, and the alpine zone. Alpine flowers tend to be small and close to the ground, while those growing at lower elevations are often larger.
If you’re looking for fields full of flowers you won’t find them here, but you might find something even more exceptional. The park named for the Saguaro Cactus offers a stunning array of color under the right spring conditions, including blossoming flowers atop cacti and wildflowers spotting the ground. Head to Saguaro National Park and find Barrel Cactus sprouting red-orange blooms and the Saguaro Cactus showing the state flower, a white petal bloom, most prominent in May.
Nicknamed “the Wildflower National Park,” Great Smoky Mountains is a must-see in the spring. The park that borders North Carolina and Tennessee is home to more than 1,500 different types of blooming flowers during a typical long season and the ephemerals are particularly spectacular. Check with the park rangers to see if the Lady Slipper Orchids or the Iris flowers are still in bloom and visit from April 21-25 to experience the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage.
One of the most popular parks in the system, Yosemite is known for its mighty waterfalls, incredible granite peaks and vast meadows, but most people don’t realize it’s also a haven for wildflowers. According to the National Park Service, roughly 1,450 different species of flowers have been identified in the park and as spring progresses flowers are blooming at higher elevations. Keep an eye out for the Mountain Pride, Jeffrey Shooting Star and Alpine Columbine Wildflowers and take a Wildflower Walk in the park.
What could possibly be more beautiful than gigantic red, orange and pink sandstone cliffs towering overhead and piercing the bright blue sky? What about those same rocks sprinkled with patches of greenery and wildflowers? Utah’s first national park, Zion is home to beautiful Desert Marigolds, Slickrock Paintbrush and Golden Columbine flowers, given the right spring conditions.
Famous for flora, including incredibly tall trees, Redwood National Park has one of the longest flower seasons of any park in the U.S. With at least one flower that thrives year-round (Queen Anne's Lace), this costal park sees flowers blooming from January (Milkmaids) well into September. Visit in the spring to see Redwood Violets, Mission Bells and Giant Trillium flowers.
Home to almost 1,000 different species of flowering plants despite harsh growing conditions, Glacier National Park hosts some unusual flowers. The white fluffy tops of Beargrass make their appearance in June and usually stick around until August, while the treasured yellow Glacier Lilies first appear at the low elevations in April and bloom higher up as the year progresses.
When a meadow full of flowers earns the nickname “paradise” you just know it’s a spectacular display and that’s the case along the mountains southern slope in Mount Rainier National Park. Thanks to lots of snowfall in the winter and fertilizing ash (from the once-active volcano), the valleys are the perfect place for flowers to grow and multiply. A visit, particularly in the stretch of June to August will usually afford visitors a view beyond their wildest dreams. Asters, lilies, paintbrush and so many more stand before Mount Rainer.