Washington in Bloom

Washington in Bloom: 12 Spring Hikes for Wildflowers

~Published by the Washington Trail Association – See their website for more information:  https://www.wta.org/go-outside/seasonal-hikes/spring-destinations/spring-wildflower-hikes

With their bright pops of color tucked into our green forests or scattered across our central scablands, wildflowers herald a warmer, sunnier hiking season. From marshy yellow skunk cabbage to unlikely glacier lilies, you can find early spring wildflowers all over the state this time of year.

In Washington, we have a wildflower season that lasts from March through August. With so many unique ecosystems right in our backyard, many incredible flowers have found their niche.

The rich variety of flora could have you hiking for decades and still finding new wonders on the forest floor. Early spring is the perfect time to stride out on trail to see big, showy balsamroot, delicate calypso orchids or bright salmonberry bushes in bloom.

Tips for wildflower hiking:

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SUGARLOAF

Location: Puget Sound & Islands – Bellingham area
Length:
 2.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 890 ft.

Sugarloaf by hikingwithlittledogs..jpeg

Wildflowers dot the hills of Sugarloaf. Photo by hikingwithlittledogs.

The network of trails on the Anacortes Community Forest Lands is extensive enough that you can spend all day hiking and exploring here. Keep your eyes peeled for camas and delicate avalanche lilies dotting the hillsides. Don’t forget to look up from your wildflower hunt every now and then to take in the views of the sound, too!

>> Read more about Sugarloaf in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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FIDALGO HEAD LOOP TRAIL

Location: Puget Sound & Islands – Bellingham area
Length: 4.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 300 ft.

Fidalgo Head Loop Trail by blueshirtBob.jpeg

Fidalgo Head Loop Trail. Photo by blueshirtBob.

All the benefits of an island hike, without the ferry ride (unless you’re starting on the islands, of course). While this trail is known more for it’s wildlife-watching opportunities, the hillside meadows and trees come into bloom in early spring. On a sunny day, this is a terrific spot for a short hike and a picnic. When it the spring clouds roll in, you’ll still have great views and a little more solitude.

>> Read more about Fidalgo Head in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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FOURTH OF JULY CREEK TO ICICLE RIDGE

Location: Central Cascades – Leavenworth
Length:
 12 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 4370 ft.

Icicle Ridge by TreeLady.jpeg

Flowers line the trail on the climb towards Icicle Ridge. Photo by TreeLady.

While there is often still snow on the upper reaches of this trail in spring, this popular destination outside of Leavenworth offers a riot of wildflower offerings. You’ll have a good chance at balsamroot or lupine, but keep your eyes peeled for the rarer delights as well: flowers like Tweedy’s Lewisa or Chocolate Lilies. Come back in a month or two for less snow and summer flowers.

>> Read more about Icicle Ridge in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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CHELAN LAKESHORE TRAIL

Location: Central Cascades — Entiat Mountains/Lake Chelan
Length:
 17 miles, one-way
Elevation Gain: 4030 ft.

Chelan Lakeshore Trail by jar.berg.jpeg

Chelan Lakeshore trail. Photo by jar.berg.

This early-season trail features craggy, snow-capped peaks, a sapphire-blue lake, wildflowers, as well as regular maintenance by WTA volunteers. The 17-mile thru-hike on the Chelan Lakeshore Trail will take you to the delightful and secluded town of Stehekin where you can take a quick tour of the valley via bus or bike or visit the Stehekin Pastry Company—two miles from the ferry dock.

>> Read more about the Chelan Lakeshore trail in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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KLICKITAT RAIL TRAIL – KLICKITAT RIVER

Location: Southwest – Columbia River Gorge
Length:
 10.5 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 200 ft.

Klickitat Rail Trail by Jarv..jpeg

Fragrant lilac, bouquets of lupine, popcorn flowers, balsamroot,and miner’s lettuce can all be found along a section of trail starting in Lyle. Photo by Jarv.

Hop aboard for an early-season wildflower bloom amid open terrain and open air. At a healthy clip or a slow meander, this rail trail is fun at any speed! The Klickitat Trail runs 31 miles, with multiple access points placed in unique areas, from grass plains and the rugged Swale Canyon along the Wild and Scenic Klickitat River, to oak-filled valleys dropping down to Lyle and the Klickitat’s mouth at the Columbia River.

>> Read more about Kickitat Trail in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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COLUMBIA HILLS STATE PARK

Location: Southwest – Columbia River Gorge
Length:
 12.4 miles (Horsethief Butte)
Elevation Gain: 1870 ft.

Phox and Balsamroot on the Crawfor Oaks trail. Photo by Bob and Barb.jpeg

Phox and balsamroot on the Crawford Oaks trail. Photo by Bob and Barb.

Climb gentle hills exploding with lupine, paintbrush, balsamroot and other wildflowers. Make it multi-day adventure by camping in the state park and hiking Crawford Oaks and The Dalles Mountain. Go prepared for ticks.

>> Read more about Columbia Hills in WTA’s Hiking Guide

>> Get more ideas for Columbia River Gorge spring hikes

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WHISKEY DICK WILDLIFE AREA

Location: Central Washington, near Yakima
Length:
 8.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 1750 ft.

Whiskey Dick Ridge by David Hagen.jpeg

Lupines blooming over the Whiskey Dick Ridge. Photo by David Hagen.

Wander among a wide variety of wildflowers—including a rare species of cactus, Simpson’s hedgehog, with its hot pink blossoms—chunks of petrified wood, and panoramic views of the Columbia Basin, under usually sunny, blue skies. Bring your camera and your field guide. For those hikers who prefer vistas or bird-watching to finding flora, there’s plenty of that to go around, too.

>> Read more about Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH

Location: Central Washington, near Yakima
Length:
 9.2 miles (with shorter options)

Cacti blooming on Selah Butte. Photo by Natasha'n'Boris.jpeg

Cacti blooms at in spring. Photo by Natasha’n’Boris.

Head towards Yakima for some of the best wildflower shows in the state. Spend the day roaming on this former ranch, which in spring is cloaked in wildflowers! Keep your eyes peeled for the delightfully bright hedgehog cacti, bitterroot and more. If you want to make

>> Read more about Snow Mountain Ranch

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FROG LAKE

Location: Central Washington — Potholes Region
Length: 3.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 235 ft.

Frog Lake by David Hagen.jpeg

Flowers line the trail on the approach to Frog Lake. Photo (c) David Hagen

Sitting inside the 30,000 acre Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Frog Lake, and the nearby Crab Creek and Marsh Loop trails provide hours of trail exploration. With basalt views, sagebrush-steppe, rocky cliffs and budding wildflowers you won’t run out of beautiful views to take in—just watch out for ticks!

>> Read more about Frog Lake in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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PUFFER BUTTE

Location: Eastern Washington – Blue Mountains
Distance: 4.4 miles, roundtrip

Puffer Butte by Melanie Harding.jpeg

The spring views from Puffer Butte. Photo by Melanie Harding.

Tucked into the southeast corner of the state, this little trail in Field Spring State Park rewards with big views and solitude. The time to visit for wildflowers is now, when snow melt is feeding the first flush of wildflowers (and before things begin to heat up).

>> Read more about Puffer Butte in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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MIMA MOUNDS

Location: Olympia
Length:
 2.7 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 10 ft.

Mima Mounds by blamecanada.jpeg

Camas in bloom at Mima Mounds. Photo by blamecanada.

While many wildflowers have roots here, but these mysterious hills are best enjoyed when Washington’s native camas blooms blanket the rolling open landscape. This destination is a good one for families looking to just spend the day outside, and has paved trails for strollers or wheelchairs.

>> Read more about Mima Mounds in WTA’s Hiking Guide

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MILLER PENINSULA-THOMPSON SPIT

Location: Olympic Peninsula — Northern Coast
Length:
 5.0 miles, roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 360 ft.

Miller Peninsula-Thompson Spit by LQSeaton.jpg

Spring flowers on the Miller Peninsula-Thompson Trail. Photo by LQSeaton.

This wooded walk enters a lush ravine lined with remnant old-growth and gives way to an isolated beach with views of Protection Island. There are many miles of trails here — whether you do a meandering route around the area or the more direct 4 miles to the water and back. Additionally, it’s possible to create all sorts of loops as well. If you look closely, you may be able to spot a few wildflowers along the edges of the trail.

>> Read more about Miller Peninsula-Thompson Spit in WTA’s Hiking Guide

Posted on February 22, 2019 at 12:34 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Category: Just for Fun

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