Where to See Wildflowers on the US East Coast: The Best Park to Visit in Spring
Virginia's Shenandoah National Park has some of the best wildflower fields in the US, with 862 types of flowers and a very long flowering season. Travel Leisure.
Shenandoah National Park is a real paradise for wild flowers.
Just 120 km west of the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC, is a peaceful and quiet national park nestled along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. It may not be as popular as some parks across the country, but Shenandoah National Park has it all: stunning roads, exceptional views, and an extensive network of trails that take hikers from wetlands to waterfalls.
One of the many pluses of Shenandoah National Park is its wide range of flora and fauna. Deer, black bears, and songbirds are just some of the wildlife found in the park. And, of course, flowers: there are 862 species of wild flowers in the park. In spring it comes alive with wildflowers that cover the hillsides. And thanks to the mild climate, the wildflower season lasts from spring to autumn.
How to see wildflowers in Shenandoah National Park
Hiking is the best way to enjoy the magnificent view of the park's wild flower-covered fields. For example, a moderate 5 km hike to South River Falls is a must in spring, when wildflowers begin to appear around the stream on the route. While the flowers alone are worth the effort, the trail ends at a lookout overlooking the 25th waterfall. Or take rose river waterfall is another 5 km moderate hike that passes through fields of spring flowers and ends at the 20th waterfall.
For summer and fall wildflowers, consider Big Meadows, a highland meadow perched atop a mountain in the center of the park.
What flowers to pay attention to
The wildflower season in the park usually starts in March and lasts until October, but the variety of flowers is most noticeable in late spring.
Some of the first flowers to appear in the national park each spring are the bright purple liverworts and the cheerful white and yellow Potentilla flowers. Violets, wild geraniums and marsh marigolds are not far behind.
As spring turns into summer, you're likely to notice pink azaleas, watersheds, and lily pads. And when summer begins to turn into autumn, you will see fields of goldenrods, asters and wild sunflowers.
For decades, Shenandoah National Park has hosted an annual Wildflower Weekend. This year the event takes place on Saturday, May 6th and Sunday, May 7th, offering visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the park's colorful flora.
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Experienced experts will lead tours of some of the wild flower locations in the park and share information about the different types of flowers and their role in the park. In tandem with the spring wildflowers, bird watching tours and talks about the national park's spring ecosystems will be organized.
All Wildflower Weekend programs are free and open to the public.
Where to stay and eat
If you want to sleep next to the wildflowers (and under the park's starry sky), reserve a spot in one of the five park campsites, which are open from early spring to late autumn. Big Meadow Campground is a favorite with 221 pitches (only 51 tents) and direct flower access at Big Meadows. The park also has many more remote campsites.
If you're looking for a rooftop and a real bed, you don't have to leave the park. If you're looking for the best accommodations, head to Skyland and book one of our premium mountain view rooms. Other accommodation options in the park include Big Meadows Lodge и Lewis Mountain Cabins.
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When it comes to food, you'll find everything from takeaways to lunches with complete range of services in the park. In the dining room Pollock in Skyland serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in the tavern Mountain Taproom light snacks, drinks and evening entertainment are available. New Market Taproom Big Meadows Lodge is another great choice. The restaurant has an outdoor terrace and a menu of local beers and wines.
How to get there
Shenandoah National Park is located between Richmond, Virginia and Washington, DC in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From Richmond to South Park Entrance in Waynesboro, Virginia, it's just under an hour and a half by car. The drive from Washington, DC takes the same amount of time, but takes you to the north entrance of Fort Royal, Virginia. There are two others entry on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains are Luray and Elkton, Virginia.
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