PHOTO: Wildflowers in bloom at the Silver Star Key Exchange at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. (Photo via Flickr/US Forest Service)
It was way back in 1557 when Thomas Tussler reportedly penned some form of the phrase “April Showers Bring May Flowers” Fast forward 450 years, and there’s no longer any reason to wait until April to get your bloom on. Across the west, wildflowers started making noisy and colorful appearances in early March.
But if you're a late bloomer (sorry, pun intended), don't fret. There's still a great deal of wildflower action to be found.
In fact, while the most famed sites for wild blooms might be Washington DC and its delicate cherry-blossom-infused vistas and the western deserts with their riotously blooming wildflowers, these are by no means the only locales across the country to enjoy the spring and summer bloom.
Recreation.gov, an information and planning portal that represents 12 federal partners, among them the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, reminds travelers that plenty of parks across the country serve up unique blooms and distinct viewing seasons.
Looing for a place to go? Recreation.gov has some suggestions:
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
The must-see here, obviously, is the saguaro cactus blossom, which enjoys its peak season from late May through July. While the blossom is the Arizona state flower, it also sustains many of the animals that make their home in the national park.
Carrizo Plain National Monument, California
Located in California’s Great Central Valley, just a few hours from Los Angeles, the Carrizo Plain National Monument is notable for its variety of blooming plants set against a stark backdrop comprised largely by the San Andreas Fault. Flowers at the park started blooming in mid-March and should continue through the end of April.
READ MORE: Beyond the California Poppy: Exploring Lancaster
Gunnison National Forest, Colorado
In the Gunnison National Forest, the wildflower season runs late, starting in June and continuing through August, thanks to the higher elevations that keep snow on the ground well into spring. Recreation.gov recommends the West Elk Scenic Byway, a 25 mile stretch of gravel road that is located at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. Here, photographers can snap colorful wildflower fields and stunning alpine vistas.
Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana
Just beyond West Yellowstone, Montana’s Custer Gallatin National Forest has plenty of wide open spaces and amazing hiking trails alongside hills filled with wildflowers. The peak season runs early July through mid-August when the meadows are often " choked with wildflowers."
Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
For wildflowers set against hardwood forests and whitewater rivers, North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest is the place to be. The season runs from late March to late April and then starts up again in July running through September. The area is also home to the first-ever school of forestry in the United States, making it an American historic site.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma
Wildlife refuges are also a great place to catch flowers in bloom. At the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, volunteers run spring wildflower walks on three Saturday mornings in May. The season is a short one here, with the peak blooms emerging from mid-May until the end of the month.
Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
Not far from Cedar City, Utah, Cedar Breaks National Monument is a popular spot for wildflowers. Every year the park hosts a wildflower festival and it even offers a wildflower app to highlight what’s blooming. The peak season runs from May through mid-July.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
If you’re in DC for cherry blossoms, be sure to make the hour-long drive to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The rolling green hills support more than 850 different types of flowering plants, which are best enjoyed during the annual Wildflower Weekend. Peak season runs mid-March through the end of summer.
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington
In Washington state, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest includes the Mt. Adams Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail, which are both stunning places to watch wildflowers emerge. According to Recreation.gov, young lava flows, dating back less than a few thousand years, mean the area won’t support the growth trees but is a perfect habitat for wildflowers. The area is also home to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, where the ecosystem is constantly adapting to the varying conditions brought about by the 1980 volcanic eruption. Peak season is mid-July through mid-August.
Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming
In Wyoming, when you finish with Yellowstone National Park be sure to head to the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The season is a short one due to the high elevation near the Teton Pass, but it’s a rewarding one nonetheless. The peak season runs from mid-July through early August.
For more information on these sites and more wildlife viewing tips, visit www.recreation.gov.