March 20th marked the official First Day of Spring, and in all the neighborhoods of Nashville, we hear the songbirds singing as they fly from blossoming tree to blossoming tree. Our magnolias, Bradford pears, and buttercups are in full bloom, with the dogwoods, redbuds, and forsythia just beginning to show their whites, purples, and yellows. It's springtime in North America, which means wildflowers and blossoming trees!
If you enjoy spring flowers as much as we do, read on for information on the best National Parks to visit during this time of year.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
National Parks offer a unique beauty, the incredible natural wonder of immense spring color in the form of millions of wildflowers. There is something particularly magical about gazing upon a valley of endless color, marked by thousands if not millions of individual flowers. To see such a panoply before your eyes and to know the flowers were put there by Nature and not mankind is both humbling and thrilling, and few places put on such a display as Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The home of the Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage (this April will be the 72nd annual Pilgrimage!) Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a world-renowned preserve of wildflower diversity, with over 1,500 species of flowering plants found in the park. That figure represents more species of flowering plant than can be found in any other North American National Park.
To get the best wildflower experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we recommend folks visit the park in April and May. With that being said, the Park has such a rich diversity of plant species that flowering plants can be found blooming in the park during any season of the year. And if you need inspiration or a souvenir, we have 50 original illustrations and vintage posters of the park!
Pinnacles National Park
Shifting westward, Pinnacles National Park features stunning biodiversity and its fair share of flowering plants. Approximately 80% of the foliage in this park blooms from late March until late May, giving visitors a two-month window to view a landscape that looks as though it's been caressed by an artist's paintbrush.
The spring months are an excellent time to visit Pinnacles National Park, as afternoon temps hover between 65F and 78F, perfect for hiking and flower-gazing. Visitors can easily spot orange bush poppies, monkeyflowers, and larkspur. The Balconies Cliffs-Cave Loop and the High Peaks-Balconies Loop hiking trails are ideal for viewing flowering plants.
To remind you of a cherished spring hike through Pinnacles National Park, we have three original illustrations of the park, available as vintage travel posters, metal signs, canvases, notecards, postcards, or mini canvases.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The Gem of Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, is also known to put on quite a show during wildflower season. In this park one can easily find fields upon fields of black-eyed Susans, wood sorrel, forget-me-nots, Indian paintbrush, and mountain iris. Because of the high elevation, these flowers don't usually peak until June, but some lucky visitors might spot the buds beginning to flower in late spring in elevations below 9,000 feet.
Visitors can take the easy 4.6-mile hike to Cub Lake, known for its pond lilies. The Tundra Communities Trail is also known for its blankets of wildflowers. And just like with other parks located at a wide range of elevations, visitors can find wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
To take a bit of color home from Rocky Mountain National Park (while still practicing Leave No Trace!) Anderson Design Group's poster artists rendered over a dozen original illustrations and vintage National Park art of the park, several of which feature the park in full bloom.
Mount Rainier National Park
Moving to the Pacific Northwest, Mount Rainier National Park takes first place in this region of the U.S. for its stunning display of wildflowers. A veritable alpine garden with enough rainfall to put forth millions upon millions of blooms, this park is known for its fields of lupine, bistorts, and asters, many of which bloom with brilliance during spring.
Visitors can hike along easy to moderate trails like Alta Vista Trail and Skyline Trail. Then, to add to the incredible visual experience of the park, visitors should check out the craggy Tatoosh Range and Mount Rainier itself, both of which are often coated with beds of lush green grass speckled with wildflower blooms.
Though nothing but seeing it for yourself can truly capture the majesty of Mount Rainier and the parklands surrounding it, our poster artists did their best with their seven original illustrations and travel posters of Mount Rainier National Park. Scoop up one of these designs as a souvenir, available as a vintage poster, retro metal sign, classic canvas, or as a notecard, postcard, or space-convenient mini canvas.
Shenandoah National Park
Shifting back eastward, we arrive at Shenandoah National Park, known for its 860 species of wildflowers. This park is instantly recognizable for its lilies, mint, aster, wild geranium, mountain laurel, thistles, and goldenrod. The best time of year to view these flowers is from late March into October, as Shenandoah has a similarly amicable ecosystem of an almost-year-round display of wildflowers as Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Several trails wind and winnow through Shenandoah National Park, any of which offer great wildflower viewing opportunities. Popular trails include the Upper Hawksbill Trail, Bearfence Mountain Trail, the Rose River Loop Trail, and Lewis Falls Trail.
In our own tipping-of-the-hat to Shenandoah National Park, our artists rendered seven original illustrations and travel posters of Shenandoah, several of which feature the park in peak wildflower season.
Springtime in the Parks
The days are getting longer, the air is warming up, and the plants are coming alive again. What better time to get out and enjoy the beauty of our natural world? And if you need a little travel inspiration or a unique souvenir from a trip to the parks, check out our 63 Illustrated American National Parks Collection, an assortment of 300 illustrations, original National Park art, and vintage art.
Until next time, happy wildflower travels!
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer