Where the Wildflowers Are
Even locals are surprised when they find out there is a nearby state park nearly the size of Rhode Island. At 650,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California's largest. It's also a wildflower wonderland.
Flowers begin blooming early—around February—and recent rains mean the grounds continue to dazzle visitors, especially in the higher elevations. This is a true desert, with rugged rockscapes and cacti, and blooms spanning the spectrum from bright-red chuparosa and ocotillo to yellow brittlebrush.
The park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails that offer prime viewing. The most well-trod trail is the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, a moderate 3-mile loop that's accessible from the visitor center. Another manageable hike for viewing desert flowers is the Trail to Yaqui Well, an easy 2-mile walk.
Read more about this park—and the Borrego Ranch Resort and Spa—at PeterGreenberg.com.
Colorado's mountains are abundant with bright flowers and ample hiking, biking and driving trails to experience nature up close. The blooms are more prevalent in summertime, so start planning now.
Gunnison-Crested Butte, home to the annual Wildflower Festival in July, offers easy access to the 1.2-million-acre Gunnison National Forest. A few hours west, the Grand Mesa National Forest, near the town of Cedaredge, is awash in color every summer. At the Grand Mesa visitor center's garden, guests learn about the variety of flowering plants that are common in the area, with more than 50 species on display around an accessible path.
Beauty comes bursting out of the desert
Far from being barren and sparse, the Sonoran Desert has a diverse array of annual wildflowers that are on display from late February through May. The 120,000-square-mile desert spans parts of Arizona, California and Mexico, but it's also possible to view the bright purples, reds and golds of native Sonoran flowers inside botanical gardens.
Try driving along US-60, where flowers bloom beside the highway, and head toward the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park, just west of Superstition, where the spring wildflowers are at peak in early spring.
Or head to Phoenix, where the Desert Botanical Garden covers 50 acres with one of the best collections of desert flora in the country. The garden, which is accredited by the American Association of Museums, offers educational programming such as nature photography and guided hikes with desert naturalists.
Learn about Arizona's great wildflower hikes at PeterGreenberg.com.
Texas Hill Country
It doesn't take a florist to know the state flower of Texas is the bluebonnet. One peek at the Texas hill country reveals a landscape covered in these brilliant blue flowers. But there is also an array of other brightly colored florals scattered along the highways. The unofficial "wildflower trail" runs through the charming old German-flavored towns of Fredericksburg, Brownwood, Mason and Goldthwaite, with various festivals and fairs throughout spring and summer.
Or head straight to what is considered the world's largest working wildflower farm, just outside of Fredericksburg. Wildseed Farms features 200 acres of wildflowers from spring through fall, plus a market where visitors can pick up their own seeds, as well as a butterfly garden and an outdoor beer garden.
How "Wildflower National Park" earned its nickname
They don't call it "Wildflower National Park" for nothing. The Great Smoky Mountains are among the most diverse sites in America, with more than 1,660 flowering plants blanketing the park throughout the year.
Enthusiasts can participate in the 60th annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, which takes place in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, April 21-25, 2010. Operated by the Great Smoky Mountains Association, the event highlights everything you would ever want to know about wildflowers, with more than 150 programs including guided hikes, lectures and photography workshops.
After a frigid Minnesota winter, spring flowers are a welcome sight to locals and visitors. Starting around May, wildflowers bloom in all types of landscape, from open prairies to the wetlands and hardwood forests.
Get in a good hike on a visit to Minnesota's first state park, Itasca State Park. Home to more than 100 lakes and the originating point of the Mississippi River, the park was designed to protect some of the largest old-growth pine trees in the country and to preserve the river source. It's also the only place you can walk across the mighty Mississippi on its 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico! The Dr. Roberts Nature Trail is popular for snowshoeing in winter and hiking in spring and summer, with interpretive signs to showcase the unique bog wildflowers visible along the way.
Do you have a favorite spot to see wildflowers in your area? Share your best in the comment area!
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