Ah yes, it’s that time of year again: Wildflower season! From marshy yellow skunk cabbage to rarer glacier lilies, you can find spring and summer wildflowers all over the state of Washington. Snowmelt is the greatest factor in determining wildflower timing. The higher the altitude, the later in the year you’ll find beautiful wildflowers.
In general, for optimal viewing, flowers in the Columbia River Gorge area are best earlier in the season, in April and May. The Olympic Mountains? Late June through the third week of July. Mount Rainier? Mid-July through mid-August. Mount Baker and the North Cascades? August to early September.
No matter which blooms you catch, hiking among wildflowers is a special experience. Here are a few of the best trails for seeing them!
Location: Southwest Washington - Columbia River GorgeLength: 4.8 miles
Peak wildflower season: May
In May, the Columbia River Gorge comes alive with wildflowers. Some of the best displays are in the Tom McCall Preserve. The trail starts level, and then slowly gains elevation as you head toward the overlook. You’ll wander through meadows, and have a great view of Mt. Hood. If you're headed this way, consider our Columbia River Gorge & Mt. Hood Getaway!
Location: Northeast Washington - Goat Rock Wilderness
Length: 19.4 miles (backpacking)
Peak wildflower season: August
The best wildflower display our Lead Trip Designer Morgan has ever seen was while she was backpacking Snowgrass Flats along the Nannie Ridge Trail in August. You’ll pass through open meadowlands with the Goat Rocks looming overhead and Mount Adams to the south.
Location: Southwest Washington - Mount Rainier National Park
Length: 8.0 miles
Peak wildflower season: Late July & early August
Grand Park is one of the largest meadows inside Rainier National Park. The classic approach (via Sunrise) to this sea of wildflowers at the base of Mount Rainier is long and tough, putting it out of reach for most day hikers. Instead, try this "backdoor" approach via Lake Eleanor. Or, you can reach the wildflower area at spray park in about 6 miles roundtrip.
Want something less strenuous in the Rainier area? Try the Naches Peak Loop (3.2 miles round trip, 600-foot elevation gain). It’s a classic walk when the flowers are out!
Location: Southwest Washington - Mt. Saint Helens
Length: 0.5 miles
Peak wildflower season: July
The collections of wildflowers on Johnston Ridge that can be found are Indian paintbrush, penstemon, and lupine just to name a few. This spot, right near the Johnston Ridge visitor center, has the best view of wildflowers with the volcano. If you want to turn this stop into more of an activity, there’s a flat, 8 mile hike that leaves from the visitor center.
Location: Olympic Peninsula - Northern Coast
Length: 5.0 miles
Peak wildflower season: Mid June - Mid July
In summer, meadows full of colorful wildflowers—Indian paintbrush, lupine, phlox, glacier lilies and more—line the trail along Klahhane Ridge. There are four different directions the ridge can be accessed from. The shortest and most direct is via the Switchback Trail.
Another great wildflower trail in Olympic National Park is the Hurricane Ridge Trail (3.4 miles)!
Location: Northeast Washington - North Cascades
Length: 4.2 miles
Peak wildflower season: August
Sauk Mountain is always reliable when it comes to wildflowers! The flowers will change as you gain elevation. You’ll leave the oxeye daisy and thistles behind as you climb through fireweed, cow parsnip and valerian. Soon, purple penstemon, paintbrush and pearly everlasting will line the trail. Later in the season look for purple asters, Scottish bluebell and yarrow. You’ll also have views of the Sauk and Skagit River valleys, Cascade mountain peaks, and on a really clear day, the Olympics and San Juan Islands.
Happy wildflower hunting! Make sure to stay on the trail, so as not to trample them, and don’t pick! We want to leave the area for others to enjoy as well. Be sure to tag us in your adventures with #adventuresforeveryone.
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