Petal Powered

The Best Wildflower Hikes Close to Seattle

We like big blooms and we cannot lie.

By Allison Williams

The slopes of Dog Mountain pop with color every spring.

While our mountains and waterways are eternal, the wildflowers of Washington are a special treat, appearing seasonally but never quite predictably. Follow these trails to some of the most popular displays—but remember that other  famous flowers are accessible by car, like the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and University of Washington's cherry trees.

As with any hiking outing, we recommend first checking out the excellent resources from the nonprofit Washington Trails Association, which catalogues directions and recent condition reports. And since wildflowers are as delicate as they are photogenic, always stay on trail.

Mount Dickerman

Mountain Loop Highway

At one time this corner of the forest east of Granite Falls was busy with mining activity, but now it's a treasure trove of trailheads and river access points. A strenuous climb up almost 4,000 feet over four miles leads to a scenic mountaintop; in mid-July the open ridge lines burst into bloom. Even when the petals drop, it's worth a visit: By fall these slopes are dotted with wild blueberries.

Dalles Mountain Ranch

Columbia River Gorge

This property deeded to the Washington State Park system in 2003 also happens to be a hot spot for lupine and balsamroot in early June. Several trails within the Columbia Hills Historical State Park reach these rolling hills of flowers, the river and the blocky Horsethief Butte visible downhill. Oh, and don't pronounce this like the city in Texas—like the Oregon city below, it's named for the once turbulent waterway and rhymes with "pals."

Yellow balsamroot coats the rolling hills of Dalles Mountain Ranch.

Spray Park

Mount Rainier

Accessed out of one of Mount Rainier National Park's quieter entrances, the one at Mowich Lake, the broad wildflower meadows are an eight-mile trek but only with a medium amount of elevation gain. Bears are a common sight in the rolling green acres at the foot of the Flett Glacier, as are the white puffy bulbs of bear grass, plus the bright magenta of paintbrush flowers.

Paintbrush, glacier lilies, and a Rainier view in Spray Park.

Hurricane Ridge

Olympic National Park

Despite its name, this part of the Olympics gets positively placid in summer when its meadows finally shake their winter coat and go into bloom. Look for glacier lilies on the five-mile Klahane Ridge Switchback Trail route; the drooping white flowers are the first to show up after the snows melt. Trails that depart Hurricane Ridge proper, a few miles ahead and where the visitor center is located, are shorter and flatter. Some are even paved for more accessible hiking.

Yellow Aster Butte

Mount Baker

There's truth in advertising: In fall it gets plenty yellow on this alpine route near the Mount Baker Ski Area. But the palate is so much richer, with deep auburns, browns, oranges, and purples painting the hillside, with plants like heather and fireweed taking center stage from the lupine and paintbrush you'd find further south. The area is incredibly popular in fall, with non-trivial elevation gain—but some of the prettiest colors come at the very start of the 7.5-mile trail.

Yellow Aster Butte: the pumpkin spice latte of Northwest hikes.

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