Washington’s fickle weather may not always tell us when spring is in the air.
But we can’t miss when it’s afoot!
Right now our hills—and dales—are alive with colorful wildflowers. Last week was Native Plant Appreciation Week, and this week (May 2-8) is National Wildflower Week! Plus, warmer-than-usual temperatures have stepped up the bloom time for a variety of flowers. Time to get out for an eye and nose full of the season’s floral bounty.
Love flowers? Got new macro photography equipment you are itching to try out? Simply craving a walk through an amazing meadow of wildflowers? Washington State Parks are blooming with opportunities that span the flowering seasons.
In coastal regions, low meadows, rocky shrub-steppe, grasslands and river banks you’ll see early blooms of dainty purple grass widows or bold bitterroot. Ethereal blossoms such as lady slipper, bleeding heart and trillium seem to appear from nowhere on the cool forest floors. Marshlands are home to intriguing oddities: the graceful– if stinky– skunk cabbage comes to mind.
As the days lengthen, the alpine prairies start showing off with lupine, aster, heather and columbine. Prairies and meadows explode with displays of yellow arrowleaf balsamroot and blue camas. Cruise the Columbia River subalpine areas for tiny, exotic tiger lilies blooming on a sunny slope. With each day, a new crop of flowers and adventures await!
Smells like spring spirit! Reeky but rather lovely in its own right, skunk cabbage is a harbinger of spring in the marshlands. Photo by Don Whitaker.
Calypso orchids, also known as fairy slippers, are found along the forest floor. Photo by USFS Northern Region.
The blooms are booming! Ready to go find them? Here’s just a few ideas to get you on the petal path!
Pearrygin Lake State Park —Tucked into the folds of the spectacular Methow Valley in the Northern Cascades, this park offers some unique wildflower-viewing opportunities. Hardy but pretty bitteroot, taper tip onion and mariposa lily, among a host of others, bloom here in late spring and summer. Stay overnight in one of the cozy cabins or vacation houses for an affordable wildflower weekend.
— State parks along the great river’s banks provide amazing opportunities to observe wildflowers starting as early as February. Explore the trails at Beacon Rock! While the trail to the top of Beacon Rock is closed due to storm damage from last fall, it’s far from the only great view in the park! Wander up the Hamilton Mountain Trail (fair warning, this can be steep, but there are waterfalls to see) or Hardy Ridge Trail for eye-popping displays of native rhododendron shrubs, lupine, paintbrush and much, much more. Or head to Columbia Hills and Maryhill where the river banks practically glow with showy yellow balsamroot and purple lupine.
Deception Pass State Park – Talk about diversity! Open bluffs, dunes, woodlands, freshwater marshes and great views make this park one of the best places to view wildflowers in lowland western Washington. Throughout the park, the native rhododendrons are a not-to-be-missed show this week. Hike up Goose Rock, and you’ll find an opulent display, including common camas, chocolate lilies, harsh paintbrush, Oregon sunshine and sea blush. You’ll also run into some tiny but unique plants growing on the rocky ground. On the cliffs, tangled, ruddy madrone trees are bursting with sprays of white, bell-shaped flowers among their waxy green leaves.
Harsh paintbrush peeks up from the ground at Deception Pass State Park’s Goose Rock. Photo by brewbook
— The rewards of a hike up to the subalpine meadow at the top of Puffer Butte are twofold: HUGE views and tiny flowers. As you approach the top of the butte, the tree line thins, and you cannot help but be captivated by the expansive, 360-degree vistas of the Blue Mountains and three states—Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
You’re a shooting star, that’s what you are! These little jewels rocket from the subalpine meadow grasses! Photo by Jerry Kirkhart
These are just a sampling of great wildflower viewing at your state parks. Now through summer you’ll find lots of colorful blooms to delight your senses. Try a visit to one or two of these parks, or discover your own! Washington Trails Association has some handy tools to help you on your way!
Remember, flowers don’t bloom by a clock but by the weather. This year’s warmer-than-average temperatures may have some blooms coming early, some late or others not at all. That only means you have more opportunities to discover something new!
Want to see just how much fun going on a wildflower adventure at your state parks can be?
Check out this wonderful NWCN video on the scene at Columbia Hills State Park.
Have a great wildflower shot from your state parks hike?
Tell us about it and upload your photo here.
Feature photo of balsamroot and lupine was taken at Columbia Hills State Park.