8 Wildflower Hikes to Brighten Your Spring and Summer
Rest easy, because sunny days and beautiful blooms have returned! Whether you’re in the White Mountains or the wetlands of the Mid-Atlantic, you’re bound to catch glimmers of red, yellow, pink, blue, and violet peeping through the trees. Pull up those galoshes, dust off that wildflower field guide, and celebrate the season by heading to one of the following to discover what may very well be the best part of April showers: native wildflowers.
1. ORONO BOG BOARDWALK | Bangor, Maine
Opened in 2003, this universally accessible, 4-foot-wide boardwalk loops through a variety of habitats, including a northern peat bog. Stop at seven different interpretive stations along the walk, plus an orientation kiosk, to learn more about the area’s environment, geology, and wildlife. Benches are located every 200 feet and offer a peaceful lookout for wood ducks, osprey, woodpeckers, warblers, and dozens of other native bird species. Find blue-bead lily, earth loofestrife, and tall meadow-rue in the mixed wooded fen (early to late spring) along with wild sarsaparilla, blooming in late May, in the conifer wooded fen and upland island zones. Note: The boardwalk has been under reconstruction and is scheduled to re-open mid-May 2019. Check the official Facebook page for the latest updates.
Distance: 1-mile loop
Info: University of Maine Orono Bog Walk
2. BLACK MOUNTAIN | Dummerston, Vt.
Black Mountain’s unique horseshoe shape creates a terrain similar to that of New England’s coasts, allowing a variety of flowers and forests to thrive. Hike north from the parking lot (space available for about 5 cars), which is marked by a Nature Conservancy sign, and pass through a grassy hillside dotted with wild strawberries and violets. Enter a metal gate, cross several boardwalks (0.3 mile), and hike up a series of switchbacks. Allow 2.5 hours for the entire trip, which brings you through pine, hardwood, pitch pine, and scrub oak woods. In June, a stunning array of white-and-pink mountain laurels will greet you at the summit. Othersweet finds include dwarf ginseng, a white flower known for its healing properties (April through June), and wild blueberries, which nestle into the forest floor during the summer months.
3. ARETHUSA FALLS AND FRANKENSTEIN CLIFFS | Hart’s Location, N.H.
Allow 4 to 5 hours to explore New Hampshire’s tallest waterfall and the Frankenstein Cliffs. As you climb 1,500 feet in elevation, spot painted trillium, pink lady’s slipper, Canada mayflower, and hobblebush (early to mid-June), when alpine wildflowers thrive at higher elevations. Cross the tracks of the scenic railroad from the upper parking lot to join blue-blazed Arethusa Falls Trail, which follows Bemis Brook.
After some steep up-and-down sections, reach the 200-foot Arethusa Falls (1.5 miles), where you will find flowering alpine plants and shrubs, including northern bush honeysuckle and mountain avens (June through August). From here, turn back around and retrace your steps, or, if time and energy levels allow, continue on to Frankenstein Cliffs, which provide an excellent view of Crawford Notch. Note that the trail may close at times due to nesting peregrine falcons in spring and early summer, so be sure to check the Crawford Notch State Park website before you go.
4. SPRUCE MOUNTAIN | Monroe and Florida, Mass.
Look for trout-lily and red trillium (April through June) as you ascend the state’s ninth-highest peak and one of the tallest in the Hoosac Range. From the Monroe State Forest parking area—where there’s a view of Mount Greylock to the southwest and Mount Monadnock to the northeast—cross over Raycroft Road to join Spruce Mountain Trail. As you gain elevation, look for mourning cloak butterflies basking on rocks and tree branches.
At 2,730-feet, you’ll reach Spruce Mountain’s summit; continue onward to join lightly trafficked Raycroft Road (3.1 miles) and complete the loop. Look for splashes of color amidst the babbling brooks and groves of sugar maples and paper birch bordering the downhill slope. Back at the parking lot, follow the 0.3-mile dirt road to the Raycroft Lookout, a stone balcony with a vista of the scenic Deerfield River Valley. Note: The state forest, open year-round, sunrise to sunset, is fairly offers no visitor facilities.
5. MOOSE HILL WILDLIFE SANCTUARY | Sharon, Mass.
As you walk the trails at Mass Audubon’s oldest wildlife sanctuary, keep an eye out for the more than 400 species of wildflowers that call this habitat home. Wild geranium, rue anemone, and wild oats are just a few (mid-May through June). Park at the visitor center and pay a small fee (free to Trustees members and Sharon residents). To reach the Bluffs, a 2.5-mile round-trip hike that takes roughly two hours to complete, follow Moose Hill Parkway and cross Moose Hill Street. Join Billings Loop Trail, marked by stone pillars, and walk until you reach an open area, where tree swallows and bluebirds fly in and out of nesting boxes. At the Billings Loop-Bluffs trail junction, dotted with bloodroot (April through May), bearright into the maple- and pine-filled forest. Make your way up to the 491-foot Bluffs overlook for a view of the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium before heading back to the visitor center.
6. TEATOWN LAKE RESERVATION | Ossining, N.Y.
Explore the boardwalks of the reservation’s 2.3-mile Teatown Hill Loop or opt for a 45-minute stroll around the 41-acre Teatown Lake. Parking ($5 for non-members on weekends and holidays, April through November) is available near the Nature Center, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To reach the popular Lakeside Trail (1.5 miles), take a left from the center and head downhill, following the blue blazes. Near the trailhead is a 90-foot bridge extending to Wildflower Island, a garden sanctuary home to more than 230 species of native and endangered wildflowers, such as toadshade, wild blue phlox, and yellow marsh-marigold (April through late spring). See the website for an updated list of the island’s latest blooms.
Guided tours of the island are offered Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m.; tour reservations must be made in advance, except for Open Gate Days (May 19 and June 9, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.), when visitors may stroll the island unattended. Note: As of April 2019, a section of Twin Lakes Trail was closed due to flooding; check the website for updates.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Distance: 15-mile trail network
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the Catskills & Hudson Valley; Teatown Lake Reservation
7. MOHICAN OUTDOOR CENTER | Blairstown, N.J.
You’ll want waterproof boots to explore AMC’s southernmost destination, located in the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. A 90-minute drive from New York City, the area abounds with wild geraniums, early azalea, azure bluets, and highbush blueberry (May through June). From the parking lot, turn right onto Camp Mohican Road. Veer right over the wooden bridge on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail, where stunning views of Paulinskill Valley appear below. At the Y-intersection (2.4 miles), make a sharp right to join Kaiser Trail, an old mining road marked by blue squares. Take a right on the 0.2-mile spur road and cross a stream to join red-blazed Coppermines Trail (3.4 miles). Just beyond the “T” intersection, head left towards the falls, then retrace your steps to finish the hike back up the Coppermines Trail to the Appalachian Trail, where you’ll make a left to the wooden bridge. Return to the lodge and hop into the crystal-clear Catfish Pond or paddle the glacial pool for a post-hike cool down. If you want an overnight adventure, self-service cabins and guided weekend programs are available year-round.
8. BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK | Canaan Valley, W. Va.
The park’s annual Wildflower Pilgrimage—May 9-12, 2019, marks the 58th—is a celebration of everything spring in the expansive Monongahela National Forest. Attendees can join hikes in the nearby Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Dolly Sods Wilderness—rosy azaleas and mountain laurels thrive here in June—all nestled within the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, or explore Blackwater Falls’ own 20-mile trail network, with views of the iconic 57-foot falls. Walk down 200 steps to reach the main viewing area for the falls on the 0.25-mile Blackwater Falls Boardwalk Trail. For an easier access point, take the paved 0.25-mile Gentle Trail to an observation deck.
Contributors: Jim Bird, Paulita L. Cousin, Wendy L. Greene, Dan Jaffe, Misty Mott, and Michael P. Acciavatti Scutari