Categories: CampingGuides & hacks

Nature Alert: The Ultimate Guide to Spring Wildflower Camping

Lupines, poppies, blue bonnets, and more—wildflower season is upon us, with waves of new color coming over the next couple of months as each flower species takes its turn. Whether a full-on super bloom is taking place or just some regular springtime sprouts, you don’t want to suffer from a bout of floral FOMO, and timing your adventures for maximum blooming is equal parts art, science, and luck.

But no worries—we’ve got you covered with this super guide to wildflower camping laying out all the best spots. We’ll update this post with breaking floral developments as the season continues. As always, please uphold Hipcamp’s value to #LeaveItBetter and also adhere to the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. If flowers are crushed, they cannot re-seed for the next season, so it’s crucial that all visitors stay on trail.

And of course—book your campsite now to get the best spot!

Photo by Ezequiel Gonzalez

Where to find wildflower camping

Southern California

When to go: March & April
Flowers to see: Poppies, lupine, wild heliotrope, and forget-me-nots
Photo by Alyssa Ravasio, Borrego Palm Canyon, CA
Where to go:

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
The name says it all—this poppy reserve north of Los Angeles draws the masses with eight miles of trails lined with colorful blooms. While poppies are the star attraction, you may also spot fiddlenecks, lupine, and forget-me-nots if visiting during peak blooming season in March or April.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Check out bright wildflowers contrasted against the stark high desert at California’s largest state park. If the conditions are just right, you may even witness a super bloom, in which a whole variety of species blossom in near unison.

Lake Elsinore
You can still see wildflowers without heading to a state park by visiting Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, a short drive southwest of LA. In 2019, a 1,600-acre superbloom put this small Southern California city on the wildflower-viewing map, drawing in hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Find all of our top tips and best spots to go for a California wildflower getaway: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to a California Super Bloom.

Texas

When to go: March & April
Flowers to see: Bluebonnets (the state flower), Verbena, Indian Paintbrush, and Yucca
Photo by Julie Murrell at Big Bend National Park
Where to go:

West Texas: Big Bend Ranch State Park & Big Bend National Park
With over 1,200 species of plants, you’re bound to see more than a few beauties in the Big Bend area. While rainy years see the biggest blooms, some flowers—such as bluebonnets and yucca—blossom in even drier conditions.

McKinney Falls State Park
You don’t have to stray far from Austin to see wildflowers bloom—some of the state’s best viewing is just a short drive from the capital in McKinney Falls State Park. The Onion Creek and Rock Shelter hiking trails have some of the highest concentrations.

Texas Hill Country
The rolling hills in this part of the state are prime growing territory for wildflowers, with thousands in hues of blue, red, purple, and yellow blanketing big swathes of the region. Take a drive around the Highland Lakes Bluebonnet Trail for some of the best views.

Virginia

When to go: March & April
Flowers to see: Ox-eye daisy, wild geraniums, columbine, and bluets
Photo by Rob Brink
Where to go:

Wildflowers make up a big part of the plant life at this national park, with 862 different species of colorful flowers found within its boundaries. Spring blooms are at their finest at lower elevations, particularly along waterways, while late spring blooms are best viewed in the Skyline Drive and Big Meadows areas.

Some 80 percent of this national parkway’s vascular species are wildflowers, with plenty of species that aren’t generally found elsewhere. Keep an eye out for Appalachia’s own catawba rhododendron and vibrant Turks cap lily.

Arizona

When to go: March & April
Flowers to see: Desert marigold, desert primrose, and New Mexico thistle
Photo by Alysa Bajenaru
Where to go:

Picacho Peak State Park
About halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, this park is one of the best areas in the state to witness both wildflowers and blooming cacti. Its warm, dry weather makes it ideal for a mid- to late-spring camping trip. For the best views of the landscape, take a challenging hike up to the top of Picacho Peak.

White Tank Mountains
Head about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix to see orange and red poppies. Trails to check out include Goat Camp and Mule Deer for a short stroll or the eight-mile loop starting at Area 7 toward Willow Canyon Trail.

Saguaro National Park
While the saguaro cacti are this park’s biggest draw, it’s also a fantastic place to see wildflowers and flowering shrubs, particularly in early spring. The weather this time of year is still cool enough to make daytime hiking bearable—you’ll get stellar views from the Douglas Spring Trail.

Tennessee

When to go: April & May
Flowers to see: Trilliums, lady slipper orchids, and crested dwarf iris
Photo by Blake Rafferty at Grandmother Mountain
Where to go:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Straddling Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smokies make up a habitat for more than 1,500 varieties of flowering plants, including many wildflowers that bloom from late winter through spring. For the most immersive experience, visit in April, when the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage draws in flower-lovers from around the country with a full schedule of guided hikes and educational talks. And don’t miss the wildflower-strewn Smokemont Loop Trail.

South Cumberland State Park
Spread out over more than 20,000 acres, this enormous park offers an extensive trail system and lots of opportunities for backcountry camping. Get up-close views of wildflowers blooming on the forest floor by hiking the Collins Gulf Trail, which runs alongside the Collins River.

New Hampshire

When to go: May & June
Flowers to see: White Mountain saxifrage, bluebead lily, and mountain wood sorrel
Photo by Anna Donlan in the White Mountain National Forest
Where to go:

White Mountains
The White Mountain National Forest offers the best wildflower viewing opportunities in the state, and a great place to see the tiny ivory blooms of the region’s native white mountain-saxifrage. If you’re looking for a hike, the Sawyer Pond Trail is an easy option generally flanked with a diversity of flowers during peak bloom season.

Montana

When to go: June & July
Flowers to see: Arctic lupine, mountain arnica, and glacier lilies
Photo by Andrea Di Nino at Ellison Ranch Camp
Where to go:

Glacier National Park
Glacier is known for summer flower viewing, with wildflower enthusiasts making a beeline for Logan Pass, the highest point in the park that can be reached by car. If you have time, it’s worth taking a hike along the Hidden Lake Trail with moderately fewer crowds.

Colorado

When to go: July
Flowers to see: Mules ears sunflowers, mariposa lilies, and Colorado columbine
Photo by Wendee Wingfield
Where to go:

Crested Butte
Colorado’s best-known spot to see wildflowers, Crested Butte offers tons of viewing areas, particularly along the Snodgrass Trail and the Brush Creek Trail. The Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, held over 10 days in July, offers guided hikes and hundreds of workshops on everything from flower painting to cooking.

Rocky Mountain National Park
This park’s varied terrain—and its position on the Continental Divide—means that it gets all sorts of wildflowers, with blooms of seemingly every hue found in its meadows and hills. You’ll find the best views around many of the park’s numerous lakes; for an easy hike, head to Nymph Lake via the Bear Lake Trailhead.

Alpine Loop Scenic Byway
If you want to see not just wildflowers but also gorgeous landscapes, take a road trip along this 65-mile-long scenic byway, which crosses two mountain passes and meanders through the adorable mountain town of Ouray. For the best wildflowers, make a pit stop at the American Basin in the Gunnison National Forest, where you’ll spot beautiful blooms surrounded by massive craggy mountains—just make sure you have four-wheel-drive.

Washington

When to go: July & August
Flowers to see: Sitka mountain ash, heather, lupine, and aster
Photo by Ryan Stone
Where to go:

Mt. Rainier National Park
You’ll find all sorts of flowers in this alpine national park, with varieties cropping up in the forests and subalpine elevations. Get the best chance at seeing them all along the relatively easy Sourdough Ridge Trail, which connects the park’s Sunrise Visitor Center to Frozen Lake, about a mile and a half away.

North Cascades National Park
This remote national park is full of places to see wildflowers, generally without many crowds to get in the way of your perfect shot. You’ll get great views from the challenging Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail, passing through alpine meadows set against a dramatic backdrop of craggy peaks.

Photo by Ezequiel Gonzalez

Our favorite Hipcamps near wildflower super blooms

Of course, we had to chime in with some of our favorite Hipcamps before capping this off. Here’s a quick rundown on our top spots to check out.

If you find yourself outside this weekend, let us know! Tag @hipcamp or #hipcamp so we can share the love. And stay up to date on the latest hot spots to view the blooms by following Hipcamp on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Go forth and frolic (responsibly) in the flowers, gang!

Margot Bigg is a freelance writer and editor specializing in travel and culture. Her stories have appeared in publications around the world, including Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Afar, Rolling Stone, and National Geographic Traveller. She’s the author of three India guidebooks for MoonGuides and has co-authored Fodor’s guides to India and the Pacific Northwest. When not traveling or writing, she enjoys reading, studying languages, discovering new music, and daydreaming about her next destination.

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