This East Coast National Park Has Some of the Best Wildflower Fields in the U.S. — With 862 Flower Species and an Extra-long Blooming Season

Virginia's Shenandoah National Park is a wildflower haven.

Pink green flowers mountain laurel wildflowers on overlook in Shenandoah Blue Ridge appalachian mountains

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Just 75 miles west of the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C. is a quiet and calm national park that sits along the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. It may not be as popular as some of the parks across the country, but Shenandoah National Park has it all: stunning drives, exceptional views, and a vast network of trails that take hikers from the wetlands to waterfalls. 

One of its many appeals is its wide array of flora and fauna. Deer, black bears, and songbirds are just some of the wildlife that live in the 200,000-acre park. And, of course, the blooms: The park is home to a whopping 862 wildflower species. In the spring, it comes alive with wildflowers that cover the hillsides. And, thanks to the mild climate, wildflower season lasts from spring to fall.

Here’s what you need to know to catch the gorgeous wildflowers blooming in Shenandoah National Park:

Story of the Forest trail path in Shenandoah lined with wild flowers

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How to See Wildflowers

For great views of Shenandoah National Park’s wildflower-covered fields, hiking is the way to go. The moderate 3.3-mile South River Falls hike, for example, is a must in the spring when wildflowers start to pop up around the stream on the route. And while the flowers alone are easily worth the effort, the trail ends at an observation point overlooking an 83-foot waterfall. Or take the Rose River Falls — it's another four-mile moderate hike that meanders through the spring blooms and ends at a 67-foot waterfall. 

To catch summer and fall wildflowers, consider the Big Meadows area — it is a high-elevation meadow perched on top of a mountain at the center of the park. The banks of the Skyline Drive — a 105-mile route along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains — are optimal for spotting summer wildflowers as well.

What Flowers to Look Out For

Wildflower season in the park typically begins in March and runs through October, but the diversity of blooms is most evident in the late spring.

Some of the first blooms to appear in Shenandoah National Park each spring are the bright purple hepatica and cheery white-and-yellow bloodroot flowers. Violets, wild geraniums, and marsh marigolds aren’t far behind.

As spring turns to summer, you are likely to spot pink azaleas, columbines, and Turk’s-cap lilies. And as summer starts to slip into fall, you’ll find fields of goldenrods, asters, and wild sunflowers.

Guided Experiences

For decades, Shenandoah National Park has hosted an annual Wildflower Weekend. This year, the event is on Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7, offering visitors the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the park’s colorful flora. 

Experienced naturalists will lead hikes through some of the park’s wildflower hotspots, sharing information on various flower species and their role within the park. In tandem with the spring wildflowers, there will be guided birding excursions and talks on Shenandoah National Park’s spring ecosystems.

All programs over Wildflower Weekend are free and open to the public. No reservations are needed. 

Big meadow Shenandoah national park skyline drive flowers view

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Where to Stay and Eat 

If you want to sleep near the wildflowers (and under the park’s starry skies), reserve a spot at one of the park’s five campgrounds, which are open from early spring through late fall. Big Meadow Campground is an easy favorite with 221 sites (limited to 51 tents only) and direct access to the blooms at Big Meadows. The park also has plenty of more remote backcountry campsites. 

If you’re looking for a roof and a real bed, you don’t have to leave the park. For the nicest accommodations, head to Skyland and book one of their premium rooms with mountain views. Other in-park lodging includes Big Meadows Lodge and the Lewis Mountain Cabins.

When it comes to food, you’ll find everything from grab-and-go options to full-service dining within the park. The Pollock Dining Room in Skyland serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while their Mountain Taproom is a go-to spot for lighter fare, drinks, and evening entertainment. The New Market Taproom within Big Meadows Lodge is another great choice. The restaurant has an outdoor terrace and a menu of local beer and wine. 

How to Get There

Shenandoah National Park is situated between Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From Richmond, the south park entrance in Waynesboro, Virginia, is just under an hour-and-a-half by car. The trip from Washington, D.C. takes a similar amount of time but puts you at the northern entrance in Fort Royal, Virginia. There are two other entrances on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains — Luray and Elkton, Virginia.

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