Five spring wildflower hikes

In the last two weeks, the forest floor has, finally, come alive with splashes of color: carpets of delicate white spring beauties, patches of starburst white chickweed, bursts of purple periwinkle, flashes of yellow green-and-gold.
The spring show is in its prime, but it won’t last forever. Here are five spots where you’re likely to find the season in full flower for at least the next couple of weeks (longer in the high country).

Common aster (photo courtesy North Carolina State Parks)
Common aster (photo courtesy North Carolina State Parks)

1. Raven Rock State Park
We’ll defer to the park’s website on this one: “One of the best reasons to visit Raven Rock is the exceptional beauty of its wildflowers. A variety of species reveal magnificent blossoms in early spring. Look over patches of Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, saxifrage and trailing arbutus. Gaze down paths lined with Solomon’s seal, bellwort and spring beauty, or let your eyes wander through a haze of greens and yellows as leaves break their winter dormancy and begin to color the forest.”
Best bets: Campbell Creek and Little Creek trails.
More info here.

Dutchman's breeches
Dutchman’s breeches

2. Eno River
Durham and Orange counties
So prolific are the wildflowers along the Eno River that the Eno River Association annually devotes a weekly series of hikes to them, each hike targeted to the area where blooms are most likely to be occurring. (This week’s destination: the Riverwalk area of downtown Hillsborough.) The hepatica and trout lily have passed, but you can still catch Dutchman’s breeches and yellow lady slippers this month, and rhododendron and mountain laurel in May, among others.
Best Bets: Consult the Eno River Association Spring Hike Series (below) for current blooms.
More info here.

Turk's cap
Turk’s cap

3. Grandfather Mountain State Park
It’s no surprise that one of the most diverse biopspheres in the world would have a wide array of wildflowers. Massive Grandfather Mountain is conducting multiple spring wildflower hikes each week, at different locations on the mountain. A good opportunity to see wildflowers common to higher elevations and lower in one spot. Check the site listed below for an idea of where you’ll find the most flowering action.
Best Bets: Profile Trail on the mountain’s northwest flank.
More info here.

Wood anemone
Wood anemone

4. South Mountains State Park
Connelly Springs
South Mountains is both surprisingly close to the Triad and Charlotte and, of equal surprise, a quiet place to visit. Considering the park has more than 18,400 acres (making it North Carolina’s biggest state park), that’s lots of room to roam unobstructed. Not that you need to hike into the park’s interior for spring color: the wood anemone pictured were within a mile of the main parking area. But it’s great to know you have that option.
Best Bet: Jacobs Fork Trail
More info here.

Fire-wheel blanket-flower (photo courtesy of North Carolina State Parks)
Fire-wheel blanket-flower (photo courtesy of North Carolina State Parks)

5. Jockey’s Ridge State Park
Nags Head
Think of Jockey’s Ridge and you think of sand dunes — big sand dunes, the biggest along the East Coast! But still, big mounds of sand — not festive flowers. But Jockey’s Ridge isn’t entirely about sand; in fact, the barrier island preserve is ideal for spotting a range of coastal wildflowers, from the yellows of dune camphorweed and smooth bur-marigold to the fire-wheel blanket-flower and trumpet honeysuckle.
Best Bet: Soundside Nature Trail
More info here.

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