By Dan Sanchez
Spring is usually one of the best times to visit many National Parks to see the real beauty of the foliage and waterfalls and lakes are typically at full capacity. But some National Parks that are well known for hot temperatures in the summer, are also synonymous with oceans of wildflowers. So springtime makes for a great way to see colors and flows you don’t normally see in the summer and fall months. Here are some favorites that are best to visit in the spring.
Death Valley NP, CA
Death Valley is famous for three things; extremely hot temperatures, its below sea level valleys and spectacular spring wildflowers. Death Valley in spring is when it is most beautiful and safe from extreme temperatures. The area fills with seas of gold, purple, pink or white flowers, depending on the conditions.
Shenandoah NP, Virginia
Before the humidity and people that fill this park during the summer, the months of April and May are best to see the wildlowers that cover the forest floors. The park is known for its wild trilliums and pink azaleas that bloom in May, then mountain laurel in June.
Joshua Tree NP, California
Another California desert area where the heat is almost unbearable in the summer months, has relatively cooler temperatures in the spring. But the area also comes alive with blooming Joshua trees with large off-white flowers. According to park rangers, the best times are in April and May when the cacti are also bursting with bright flowers and the park becomes a desert in bloom with colorful wildflowers in both high and low elevations in the park.
Great Smokey Mountains NP, Tennessee/North Carolina
Probably the best park to see wildflowers is the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. In spring, the trails are surrounded by blooming wildflowers. Park officials say there are more than 1,660 varieties, more than any other national park in North America. The park also has flowers that are only seen in the spring months, such as the spring ephemerals that appear in early spring, flower, fruit, and die within two months. Some of the wild flowers you can see in this park include trilliums, orchids, violets, iris, and will bloom during February-April. This park also holds the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a week-long festival of programs and guided hikes that explore the life in the park.
Saguaro NP Arizona
Another hot spot that has milder temperatures in the spring, Saguaro is also filled with beauty as the desert bursts into colors not seen at any other time of the year. The Saguaros bloom and wildflowers like the gold Mexican poppy, red penstemons, and desert marigolds bring vibrant colors to this rocky terrain. Even trees, shrubs, and other cactuses are in bloom, like creosote bushes, chollas, and hedgehogs.
Zion NP Utah
Although Zion can have frosty temperatures in the spring, the park does get hot during the popular summer months. But because the park has an abundance of flora mixed with red sandstone, the wildflowers that bloom here provide some of the most beautiful scenery on the west. Canyon walls feature hanging gardens of flowers can’t be seen anywhere else.
For more information on any of the national parts mentioned here, visit www.NPS.gov.