Trails in Bloom: 6 Wildflower Nature Walks

March 13, 2014
Trails in Bloom
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower PreserveVirginia bluebells reach full bloom in April at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, an ideal spot for a nature walk.

When spring arrives after a Northeast winter, seeing colorful wildflowers poking out of the newly thawed earth can be a joyful experience. So put away your heavy boots, hang up your winter coat, and try any of these spring nature walks. Wildflowers appear earlier in some locations than in others. These hikes are listed chronologically, in the approximate order in which wildflowers will bloom along these trails.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve  |  New Hope, Pa.
This 134-acre preserve serves as a sanctuary for nearly 800 plant species native to Pennsylvania, 60 of which are threatened or endangered. Bowman’s Hill contains 2.5 miles of crisscrossing trails that pass through wooded areas and a meadow, around a small pond, and along a creek. Spring wildflowers bloom as early as March, with nearly all species in bloom from mid-April through early June. The gravel trails are mostly flat, making the preserve a great place to bring kids. A favorite of many visitors is the sea of Virginia bluebells in the wildflower vale on the Parry Trail. Also popular is the Marsh Marigold Trail, which is lined with a multitude of wildflowers, including fragrant woodland phlox, several varieties of trillium, and the bright, papery yellow flower for which the trail is named.
Distance: 2.5 miles
Best Visited: March to June
Info: Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Niquette Bay State Park  |  Colchester, Vt.
This Vermont state park is a great place to see ephemerals—flowers that bloom in forests after the soil has warmed but before tree leaves block the sun. Enter the park on the Allen Trail and bear left onto the Ledges Trail. At this intersection, look for a colony of the rare species spring beauty, a tiny, low-to-the-ground pink and white flower. Follow the Ledges Trail as it rises along limestone ledges amidst numerous flowers, including the bright-purple sharp-lobed hepatica, and then descends gradually to Lake Champlain. After about a mile, turn right onto the Allen Trail. In early May, you can’t miss an impressive display of white trillium covering ledges on your right. Follow the rolling Allen Trail, past Jack in the pulpit scattered on hillsides, back to the parking lot.
Distance: 1.4 miles
Best Visited: mid-April to mid-May
Info: Niquette Bay State Park

Smarts Mountain  | Lyme, N.H.
Hike this route in early May to see fields of delicate, bright yellow trout lilies, another spring ephemeral. You may also see red trillium, yellow violets, hobblebush, and wild columbine. Begin this hike from the parking lot on Lyme-Dorchester Road, at the intersection of the Ranger and Lambert Ridge trails. Bear right onto the Ranger Trail. The trail ascends quite steeply up then along the Lambert Ridge, past a series of views. It then descends into a swampy col and rises toward the intersection with the Lambert Ridge Trail. At this intersection, continue along the Ranger Trail up a sharp ascent to the summit at 3,240 feet. Return to the intersection of the two trails and take the Lambert Ridge Trail back to the parking lot.
Distance: 7.5 miles
Best Visited: May
Info: White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online

Middlesex Fells Reservation  |  Melrose, Ma.
A pleasant wildflower hike that can be reached by public transportation from Boston is the Cross Fells Trail, which connects the eastern and western halves of the 2,575-acre Middlesex Fells Reservation. Flowers bloom in the reservation April through September, but the best time to see wildflowers along this trail is in May. The trail passes through wooded areas where you may see bright yellow trout lilies and carpets of wood anemone, and over sunny hilltops where the bell-shaped flowers of lowbush blueberries bloom. Violets and the elegant pink lady slippers can be seen scattered throughout the reservation. Begin at the trailhead near the MBTA’s Oak Grove Orange Line station in Melrose and follow the at times steep and rocky trail to its end. There you can catch the 134 bus back to the Orange Line at Wellington Station.
Distance: 4.3 miles
Best Visited: May
Info: AMC Massachusetts Trail Guide, 9th ed. (AMC Books); Middlesex Fells Reservation; Found in the Fells

Bear Mountain  |  Salisbury, Ct.
This strenuous hike provides magnificent views and a profusion of wildflowers. You may see wild azalea, aster, lilac, and isolated specimens of rose twisted stalk, a tall plant with pink flowers appearing along a zigzagging stem. From the parking area, follow the increasingly steep Undermountain Trail to its intersection with the Appalachian Trail (AT). Bear right onto the AT. The terrain here is quite steep. Follow it to the 2,316-foot summit, where you can look out over the surrounding mountains and lakes. The trail then descends past Sage’s Ravine to the intersection of the AT with the Paradise Lane Trail. Turn right onto Paradise Lane Trail and into a wooded area. Descend the rolling Paradise Lane Trail back to Undermountain Trail and the parking area.
Distance: 6 miles
Best Visited: May to June
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Connecticut, 2nd ed. (AMC Books)

Appalachian Trail  |  East Fishkill, N.Y.
This hike begins where the Appalachian Trail crosses NY Route 52. It then climbs the slopes of both the 1,053-foot Stormville Mountain and 1,202-foot Hosner Mountain before ending at the Taconic State Parkway. The main attraction of this hike is spectacular displays of wild mountain laurel. If you go in June, you can see dense clusters of the pink, white, and purple blossoms lining the trails and off in the woods. Begin in the parking lot at the junction with NY 52. The trail zigzags up the slope of Stormville Mountain and then down to the intersection with Hosner Mountain Road. Here, it begins a major ascent up the slope of Hosner Mountain, bypassing the summit, and then descends more gradually past some nice views. After reaching the crossing of the Taconic State Parkway, retrace your steps to the parking lot.
Distance: 9.5 miles out and back
Best Visited: June
Info: Central New York Hiking

HIKE WITH AMC

Mohican Outdoor Center
Rattlesnake Swamp Trail
Blairstown, N.J.
Hike through rhododendron groves along the Rattlesnake Swamp Trail, which passes through a forest and climbs Kittatinny Ridge.

Ponkapoag Camp
Blue Hills Reservation
Randolph, Mass.
Plenty of wildflowers, including dogwood, lady slippers, and toad flax can be spotted while climbing scenic hills just outside of Boston.

Cardigan Lodge
Nature Trail
Alexandria, N.H.
Blue-bead lily and spring beauty are among the wildflowers that can be seen along this gentle family-friendly trail near the base of Mount Cardigan.

Highland Center
Ammonoosuc Lake Loop Trail
Crawford Notch, N.H.
Enjoy wildflowers such as maiden pinks and garden lupines, along with great views of Mount Washington and the southern Presidential Range right outside the Highland Center lodge.

Lake of the Clouds Hut
Alpine Meadow
Mount Washington, N.H.
Exquisite alpine flowers, including alpine azalea, diapensia, and lapland rosebay bloom on Mount Washington’s eastern slope.

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Susan Kieffer

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.