Featured

7 Prime Spots for Wildflowers

written by Jean Chen Smith

No matter where you live in the state, you are likely within a short driving distance to hikes that reveal the most scenic wildflowers of your region. Whether you are seeking an easy meander or a more challenging hike with elevation, we have a spot for you. So, pack up your hiking bag and lace up those shoes for your next adventure. While all the following locations are currently in bloom, you might try to hit all the prime spots on our list before the end of fall.

Willamette Valley

In Eugene-Springfield

Mount Pisgah Arboretum

Trail Type: Includes loops and out and back | Elevation Gain: 1,050 ft. | Difficulty: Easy to moderate | Wildflower Viewing: Pink fawn lilies, trilliums, giant white wakerobins and great camas | Tip: A small daily parking fee applies. Dogs must be leashed to protect the arboretum and wildlife. Public restrooms available as well as picnic tables. | For More information: www.mountpisgaharboretum.org and www.eugenecascadescoast.org

Mount Pisgah Aboretum, southeast of Eugene, couples a good hike with a flower show.
Photo by Melanie Griffin/EugeneCascadesCoast.org

Hiking trails abound on the 209-acre park preserve from the banks of the Willamette River to the top of the mountain. It is a 4.5-mile hike to the top of Mount Pisgah and back with an elevation gain of 1,050 feet. There is also a system of easy loops ranging from 0.5 miles to 1.5 miles which snake along the river and include plant labels to educate nature enthusiasts. While strolling the lush property you can expect to spot pink fawn lilies, trilliums, giant white wakerobins along with great camas. The Mount Pisgah Arboretum is a nonprofit arboretum and botanical garden that typically hosts an annual Wildflower & Music Festival in May as well as monthly educational talks and programs.

West of Corvallis

Marys Peak

Trail Type: Includes loops and out and back | Elevation Gain: 4,100 ft. | Difficulty: Moderate to difficult | Wildflower Viewing: Cardwell’s penstemon, glacier lilies, harsh Indian paintbrush and scalloped onion | Tip: Dogs must be leashed. Bring your own water. | For More Information: www.fs.usda.gov

Marys Peak involves elevation gain and glacier lilies among other wildflowers.
Photo by Willamette Valley Visitors Association

For optimal views and some effort to summit, the top of Marys Peak is nearly 4,100 feet, the highest point in Oregon’s Coast Range. Designated as a Scenic Botanical Area due to its rich and diverse botanical offerings, on a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean to the west and Cascade peaks to the east across the valley. A variety of wide open meadows, encircled by towering noble firs, are home to wildflowers throughout the summer months. You can find Cardwell’s penstemon, glacier lilies, harsh Indian paintbrush and scalloped onion. All hikes are moderate to difficult, but there are options. They include the Summit Loop, East Ridge, Meadowedge and Tie trails. The hardest is the North Ridge, which is 6.4 miles, and has the most elevation gain climbing many switchbacks.

Southern Oregon

Near Klamath Falls

Moore Mountain Trail System

Trail Type: Easy to difficult | Elevation Gain: Approximately 1,309 ft. to the top | Difficulty: Easy to hard | Wildflower Viewing: Bull thistle, Queen Anne’s lace, Oregon sunshine, filaree, Indian paintbrush, purple-eyed grass, sagebrush buttercup and bilobed larkspur | Tip: Dogs must be leashed. | For More Information: www.klamathtrails.org/moore-mountain-area-trails

Wildlife and wildflowers crop up along Eulalona trail near Klamath Falls.
Photo by Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau

The Moore Mountain Trail System, which includes the Lower Klamath Basin Trail, is home to a variety of trails ranging from easy to hard. You won’t need to do a long, strenuous hike to reap the rewards of the beautiful scenery. The Lower Klamath Basin Trail, which is approximately 2.1 miles, is an easy hike for all ages. Link River and Eulalona paths are also easy trails that will afford you with wildlife and wildflowers such as bull thistle, Queen Anne’s lace, Oregon sunshine, filaree, Indian paintbrush, purple-eyed grass, sagebrush buttercup and bilobed larkspur. Wildflowers start appearing as early as March and can be seen as late as October.

Blooms along Eulalona Trail.
Photo by Kamrin Nielsen/Discover Klamath

The Moore Mountain Trail System, which includes the Lower Klamath Basin Trail, is home to a variety of trails ranging from easy to hard. You won’t need to do a long, strenuous hike to reap the rewards of the beautiful scenery.

The Moore Mountain Trail System in Klamath Falls offers good singletrack for mountain bikers who can ride through bursts of spring color.
Photo by Discover Klamath Visitor and Convention Bureau
Near Medford/Central Point

The Table Rocks

Trail Type: Out and back | Elevation Gain: Upper Table Rock 720 ft., Lower Table Rock 780 ft. | Difficulty: Easy to moderate | Wildflower Viewing: Gold stars, bicolored lupine, popcorn flower, phacelia, and buckwheat | Tip: Dogs are not allowed on the Table Rocks trails. There is no water available on either hike, so make sure you bring water and stay hydrated. | For More Information: www.travelmedford.org/table-rocks

Wildflowers dot Upper Table Rock.
Photo by Lanessa Pierce/What To Do in Southern Oregon

Upper and Lower Table Rocks are two volcanic plateaus which formed almost 7.5 million years ago with the eruption of a volcano near Lost Creek Lake. Shaped by erosion, they stand 800 feet above the Rogue Valley and are home to many wildflowers including gold stars, bicolored lupine, popcorn flower, phacelia and buckwheat. The wildflowers emerge as early as March and stay for most of spring and summer. Hikers will witness another peak in September and through October! The hike to Upper Table Rock is an easy 2.8-mile trip, gaining 720 feet. The hike up Lower Table Rock is a moderate 5.4-mile trip, gaining 780 feet. Both hikes offer stunning views of the Rogue Valley as well as Mount McLoughlin, Mount Ashland, Roxy Ann Peak and Pilot Rock.

Oregon Coast

In Curry County

Port Orford Heads State Park

Trail Type: Loops and out and back | Elevation Gain: 190 ft. | Difficulty: Easy | Wildflower Viewing: Wild iris, cat’s ear and hot-pink salmonberry flowers along the route | Tip: Dogs must be leashed. | For More Information: www.enjoyportorford.com/portorfordheads.html

Port Orford State Park offers and easy out and back for families seeking an accessible path to wildflowers.
Photo by Oregon Parks and Recreation

Port Orford Heads State Park, a coastal state park, has three main trails—the Cove, Tower and Headland, which all begin at the museum. On the Cove trail, you can see remnants of Nellie’s Cove, a boathouse that burned down in the ’70s. The Tower Trail takes you to the historical location of the observation tower, which was used as a lookout point to spot incoming enemy aircraft and ships during World War II. A short walk from the parking lot connects you to the Headland Trail, which leads you to magnificent views of the Cape Blanco Lighthouse to the north and Port Orford and Humbug Mountain to the south. Along each trail, expect to find wild iris, cat’s ear and hot-pink salmonberry flowers. At the Headland Trail viewpoint, look down to the ocean shoreline and you might spot some seals, a popular area for them to lay out.

Central Oregon

Near Bend

Green Lakes Trail

Trail Type: Out and back | Elevation Gain: Varies | Difficulty: Moderate | Wildflower Viewing: Magenta paintbrush, lupine and Lewis’ monkeyflower | Tip: Dogs must be leashed between July 15 and September 15. There are no trash removal services. Carry your trash out with you. Wilderness permits are required for both day use and overnight stays from this trailhead ($5). | For More Information: www.fs.usda.gov

Central Oregon’s Green Lakes Trail is a rite of passage for spring hikers but an arduous outing, too.
Photo by Visit Central Oregon

The Green Lakes Trail is a popular hike and there are several access points, but the official entry point is the Green Lakes/Soda Creek trailhead from the Cascade Lakes Highway. A Wilderness Permit of $5 is required for daily parking and can be purchased on-site. The trail is 4.5 to 6 miles and increases in elevation parallel to Fall Creek within the Three Sisters Wilderness, where you might sight magenta paintbrush, lupine and Lewis’ monkeyflower late into summer and early autumn. Between July 15 and September 15 dogs must be leashed. Should you choose to extend the hike, there is a split marker at 2 miles, where you can hike to Moraine Lake.

From the top of Green Lakes Trail, the Cascade Range opens up with views of South Sister.
Photo by U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Oregon

Near Kimberly

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Trail Type: Variety | Elevation Gain: Up to 890 ft. | Difficulty: Easy to difficult | Wildflower Viewing: Rabbitbrush, western goldenrod, hoary aster, snakeweed, gumweed, orange globe mallow, buckwheat, purple sage, yarrow, prairie clover, larkspur, blazing star | Tip: The park is free! Dogs are allowed on trails (and roads) so long as they are on a leash up to 6 feet long and under the control of the owner. Bring water to both the Painted Hills and Clarno Units. | For More Information: www.nps.gov/joda/index.htm

Put Painted Hills first on your spring bucket list before summer temps roll in.
Photo by Ian Stout

If you have never been to the John Day Fossil Beds, you will want to plan a drive early in the summer when the area is ripe with vibrant hues of purples, yellows and reds. Located in Eastern Oregon, the national monument contains three units known as Sheep Rock, Painted Hills and Clarno. Spread across Wheeler and Grant counties, the units are as much as two hours apart, so be sure to allow for drive time if you intend to see them all. The fossils at John Day offer some of the richest evolutionary records of the Cenozoic Era across 40 million years.

Purple sage plants bloom at the Sheep Rock Unit at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.
Photo by National Park Service

The Sheep Rock Unit is the most popular because that is where the visitors center is located along with the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. This venue offers seven hiking trails ranging from 0.25 miles to 3.25 miles. Although the window of time for blooming does vary year to year, you can expect to see rabbitbrush, western goldenrod, hoary aster, snakeweed along with gumweed as late as October. The Painted Hills Unit is a striation of reds, tans and oranges, with five trails as well as a picnic area, but there is no water available, so remember to bring your own. Wildflowers are present despite the rugged terrain. The Clarno Unit offers an easy jaunt which will reward you with sights of mariposa lilies, orange globe mallow and purple sage.

If you have never been to the John Day Fossil Beds, you will want to plan a drive early in the summer when the area is ripe with vibrant hues of purples, yellows and reds.

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