10 Places to See Wildflower Blooms in the Western U.S.

by Christina Garofalo

10 Places to See Wildflower Blooms in the Western U.S.

by Christina Garofalo

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Antelope Valley poppy fields—or at least, you’ve seen photos of the infamous super bloom that took place there in 2020 that broke the Internet. However, colorful wildflower displays spring up across the West each year—from California to Washington to Utah. And while not every year produces a super bloom (intensity and volume depend on rainfall and other conditions), these 10 destinations promise a glimpse at rare photo-worthy flora. Here’s what to see and when to go.

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Antelope Valley, CA / istock / rcview cinematography
Death Valley, CA
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Death Valley, CA

Death Valley is known for its extreme heat and dry weather. But rare rainstorms in winter cultivate epic wildflower blooms that, about once a decade, transform the desert floor into a sea of gold, purple, pink, and white. On a typical year, you’ll still find colorful pockets of color. Species include Desert Marigolds, Evening Primrose, Paintbrush, and Lupine.
 
When to go: February-July, depending on elevation

Death Valley is known for its extreme heat and dry weather. But rare rainstorms in winter cultivate epic wildflower blooms that, about once a decade, transform the desert floor into a sea of gold, purple, pink, and white. On a typical year, you’ll still find colorful pockets of color. Species include Desert Marigolds, Evening Primrose, Paintbrush, and Lupine.
 
When to go: February-July, depending on elevation

Anza-Borrego State Park, CA
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Anza-Borrego State Park, CA

Roughly 85 miles northeast of San Diego in the Colorado Desert, California’s Anza-Borrego State Park is home to a vibrant array of blooms: desert dandelion, wild Canterbury bells, the desert sunflower, desert lily, sand verbena, flowering cacti, and many more.
  
When to go: Late February-April, the flowers peak in mid-March

Roughly 85 miles northeast of San Diego in the Colorado Desert, California’s Anza-Borrego State Park is home to a vibrant array of blooms: desert dandelion, wild Canterbury bells, the desert sunflower, desert lily, sand verbena, flowering cacti, and many more.
  
When to go: Late February-April, the flowers peak in mid-March

Mount Rainer, WA
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Mount Rainer, WA

Mount Rainer's wildflower bloom is so sought-after, the park created a tracker to help visitors maximize their stay. The Spray Park and Naches Peak Loop hiking trails offer some of the most brilliant displays. Expect to find Scarlet Paintbrush, Menzie's Penstemon, Pacific Bleeding Heart, and Calypso Orchids to name a few. The park is about an hour southeast of Seattle.
 
When to go: July-September

Mount Rainer's wildflower bloom is so sought-after, the park created a tracker to help visitors maximize their stay. The Spray Park and Naches Peak Loop hiking trails offer some of the most brilliant displays. Expect to find Scarlet Paintbrush, Menzie's Penstemon, Pacific Bleeding Heart, and Calypso Orchids to name a few. The park is about an hour southeast of Seattle.
 
When to go: July-September

Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA
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Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA

Carrizo Plain comprises the largest single native grassland remaining in California. Located in San Luis Obispo County, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles along the San Andreas Fault, it is a prime location for wildflower blooms. Goldfields, Fiddlenecks, and Phacelia create a display of yellow and purple that line the shores of Soda Lake.
 
When to go: March-May

Carrizo Plain comprises the largest single native grassland remaining in California. Located in San Luis Obispo County, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles along the San Andreas Fault, it is a prime location for wildflower blooms. Goldfields, Fiddlenecks, and Phacelia create a display of yellow and purple that line the shores of Soda Lake.
 
When to go: March-May

Tom McCall Preserve, OR
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Tom McCall Preserve, OR

Where the damp forests of the Cascade Mountains meet dry grass prairie land, Tom McCall Preserve offers a unique display: A plateau of wildflowers—including White-Stem Frasera, Sticky-Stem Penstemon, Large-Flowered Collomia, and Lupine—overlooking the Columbia River bloom in spring.
 
When to go: May-June
 

Where the damp forests of the Cascade Mountains meet dry grass prairie land, Tom McCall Preserve offers a unique display: A plateau of wildflowers—including White-Stem Frasera, Sticky-Stem Penstemon, Large-Flowered Collomia, and Lupine—overlooking the Columbia River bloom in spring.
 
When to go: May-June
 

Walker Canyon, CA
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Walker Canyon Reserve, CA

Walker Canyon, near Lake Elsinore (approx. halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego), is known for its poppy fields that—in 2019—painted some 1,600 acres of hillside brilliant shades of orange. A spectacle this grand is the exception, not the rule. Still, the Walker Canyon trail is a safe bet to spot blooms in spring—the intensity depends on conditions.
 
When to go: February-April
 

Walker Canyon, near Lake Elsinore (approx. halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego), is known for its poppy fields that—in 2019—painted some 1,600 acres of hillside brilliant shades of orange. A spectacle this grand is the exception, not the rule. Still, the Walker Canyon trail is a safe bet to spot blooms in spring—the intensity depends on conditions.
 
When to go: February-April
 

Crested Butte, CO
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Crested Butte, CO

Crested Butte in Gunnison County is known as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado. Bright displays of large Mules Ears Sunflowers, Alpine Sunflowers, Glacier Lilies, and Elephant Heads are just a some of the colorful palette you’ll find along the length of the mountains here. It is home to an annual, week-long Wildflower Festival in July, where visitors can tour the fields and learn to identify the species.
 
When to go: May-July

Crested Butte in Gunnison County is known as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado. Bright displays of large Mules Ears Sunflowers, Alpine Sunflowers, Glacier Lilies, and Elephant Heads are just a some of the colorful palette you’ll find along the length of the mountains here. It is home to an annual, week-long Wildflower Festival in July, where visitors can tour the fields and learn to identify the species.
 
When to go: May-July

Antelope Valley, California
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Antelope Valley, CA

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve—located in the Mojave Desert at an elevation from 2600--3000 feet—is California's most consistent poppy-bearing land. Each spring, the rolling hills burst with flaming orange poppies, which visitors can view over eight miles of wheelchair-accessible trails.
 
When to go: February-May

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve—located in the Mojave Desert at an elevation from 2600--3000 feet—is California's most consistent poppy-bearing land. Each spring, the rolling hills burst with flaming orange poppies, which visitors can view over eight miles of wheelchair-accessible trails.
 
When to go: February-May

Albion Basin, UT
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Albion Basin, Wasatch Mountains, UT

One of Utah’s best wildflower displays can be found at more than 9,500 feet elevation—at the top of glacial Little Cottonwood Canyon in Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The family-friendly 3.6-mile Albion Basin trail circles Cecret Lake and produces bright pink Splitleaf Indian Paintbrush and small yellow sunflowers.
 
When to go: June-July 

One of Utah’s best wildflower displays can be found at more than 9,500 feet elevation—at the top of glacial Little Cottonwood Canyon in Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The family-friendly 3.6-mile Albion Basin trail circles Cecret Lake and produces bright pink Splitleaf Indian Paintbrush and small yellow sunflowers.
  
When to go: June-July 

Mount Dickerman, WA
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Mount Dickerman, WA

Located in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington state, this mountain hike isn’t for the faint of heart: Prepare for steep switchbacks through timber forest in order to reach the alpine meadow, replanted in 1915 after a major fire, that bursts with purple Creeping Phlox and Red Heather in summer. The views from the top are among the best in the region.
 
When to go: July-August

Located in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington state, this mountain hike isn’t for the faint of heart: Prepare for steep switchbacks through timber forest in order to reach the alpine meadow, replanted in 1915 after a major fire, that bursts with purple Creeping Phlox and Red Heather in summer. The views from the top are among the best in the region.
 
When to go: July-August

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