Hiking in spring and early summer is a treasure hunt of color as wildflowers bloom in the meadows and mountains of Oregon, typically at their peak in May and early June. Look for blossoms on these trails and others around the state.
Mt. Hood & the Columbia River Gorge
Head east along the Columbia River Gorge to Mosier Plateau, for 3.5 miles of easy switchbacks, a waterfall, a walk through a pioneer cemetery and cheery wildflower meadows in April and May. There’s not just one viewpoint at the top here, but mind-bogglingly stunning views of the vista throughout. Bring the family, the dogs and a picnic and make sure to wear sunscreen, since it’s not shaded.
Or, Rowena Plateau is an easy, 2-mile round-trip hike across the plateau toward the river. Look for an explosion of Balsamroot, bachelor buttons and white yarrow. For more of a challenge, start at the same parking lot at Tom McCall Nature Preserve and take the steep climb up McCall Point, 3.4 miles round-trip. You’ll see the purple lupine and scarlet Indian paintbrush. Ball Point in the Badger Creek Wilderness is a 7.2-mile journey through the dry eastern foothills up to a sweeping viewpoint at 3,250 feet. Expect the signature Balsamroot, lupine and Indian paintbrush as well as prairie star and Death camus.
Cone Peak Trail, 36 miles east of Sweet Home, leads hikers through shady, forested trails to wildflower meadows with yellow stonecrop, pink penstemon and purple larkspur in June and early July. See plenty of flowers along the 2.4-mile loop trail or continue along the Iron Mountain Trail for 6.6 miles in all, and for be rewarded at the top with panoramic views of the Cascades.
At 4,097 feet, Marys Peak in Corvallis is the most prominent peak on Oregon’s Coast Range, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean to the west and numerous peaks across the Willamette Valley to the East. With four main trails to choose from, wildflowers come into bloom in the meadows and rock gardens throughout late spring and summer. Look for glacier lilies, scalloped onion, harsh Indian paintbrush, Cardwell’s penstemon and spreading phlox.
Green Lakes Trail, 27 miles west of Bend, is a locals’ favorite — a moderate 4.5- to 6-mile trail that climbs alongside Fall Creek in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Go on a weekday, off-season or off peak hours in the summer to avoid crowds. Dogs need to be on leash between July 15 and September 15, and a recreation pass is needed between May 1 and September 30. Remember to be a good steward and pack out what you bring in. Magenta paintbrush, lupine and Lewis’s monkeyflower bloom in late summer.
Located on BLM land just north of Terrebone, Scout Camp Loop is a gorgeous springtime desert hike with views of the Deschutes River canyon. The 2.2-mile loop is steep, but worth the trip for sightings of goldthread, yellow bell and bitterroot. Iron Mountain Trail, close to Sweet Home in the Willamette National Forest, is a scenic 5-mile loop with a 1.4-mile add-on that leads to a beautiful lookout platform. The area is home to more than 300 types of wildflowers, including flax, penstemon, yarrow and saxifrage — all popular with hummingbirds, so look for them, too.
The little-known Eight Dollar Trail is one of the most significant botanical sites in Oregon, known for fen (a type of wetland) of Darlingtonia californica, better known as the cobra lily. The fascinating five-petaled purple flower blooms in the spring and is the only member of the pitcher family in Oregon. It’s also carnivorous. A boardwalk trail leads you to this protected site; remember, it’s illegal to pick this and any other wildflower in Oregon.
Wildflower enthusiasts will have a field day spotting the multitude of flowers and wildlife (such as deer and black bear) at Mt. Ashland Meadows, one of the more accessible sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. Between mid-June and mid-November, wander along the grand fir trees lining parts of the 6.8-mile loop to the summit, or shuttle in halfway by car or bike to Grouse Gap, where a picnic shelters awaits. It’s a quick jaunt back to civilization, two miles from the Mt. Ashland Ski Area parking lot.
Hundreds of wildflower species grow on the Table Rocks near Central Point, including the extremely rare dwarf-wooly meadowfoam — which grows on top of the Table Rocks and nowhere else in the world.
The rugged Kings Mountain Trail on the Coast range is a challenging, 5.4-mile roundtrip hike. Find beargrass, penstemon, phlox and the rare phantom orchid. The Nature Conservancy’s Cascade Head Preserve offers a 3.4-mile trail to see rare wildflowers, including hairy checkermallow and the Cascade Head catchfly (99 percent of the catchfly’s world population found only here).
The John Day Fossil Beds are worth a visit year-round, but especially in spring and early summer when wildflowers add to the landscape’s rich color palette. Take an easy stroll along the Clarno Unit trails to see Mariposa lilies, orange globe mallow, purple sage, prairie clovers and more. Look for golden bee plant, hedgehog cactus and bitterroot along the five Painted Hills trails through May.