Where the Wildflowers Are

Apr 19, 2021
Wildflower season starts now and will last through the summer. Here are our tips for finding wildflowers in Central Oregon.


By Rebekah Ratcliff

Warmer days have arrived and many of us are putting away our puffy jackets (or at least transitioning to smaller amounts of puff) and heading outside to soak in the sun, listen for migratory birds, and watch for wildflowers. Central Oregon’s wildflower season starts now and will last through summer. To help you in your wildflower hunting, we've pulled together a list of places to hep get you started.

Sagebrush buttercups at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Gary Miller.
Sagebrush buttercups at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Photo: Gary Miller.
In the early spring, the first blooms to dot the high desert are small and easy to miss. Watch for bright yellow, tiny goldfields, white sand lilies, yellow bells, and buttercups! Our favorite place for the first wildflowers of spring is Whychus Canyon Preserve. There is so much to explore at Whychus Canyon Preserve! With scenic viewpoints, the rushing waters of Whychus Creek, and the historic Santiam Wagon Road, you will have to make several trips to see everything. You can find all kinds of wildflowers at Whychus Canyon Preserve, but the first ones to arrive in the spring always seem to be worth a bit of extra celebration. Suggested Route: Mid Canyon Trails at Whychus Canyon Preserve.


Western blue flax in bloom at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
Western blue flax in bloom at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
Another short walk with big rewards can be found at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Throughout the year this unique meadow habitat is home to a variety of wildlife and wildflowers. Walk the loop and see the progress of our native plant restoration near the historic Hindman barn. Keep an eye out for blue flax flowers, purple asters, buckwheat, yarrow, and volunteers who are helping to care for these young plantsSuggested Route: Hindman Springs Loop at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve.



Scarlet gilia. Photo: Alan St. John.
Scarlet gilia. Photo: Alan St. John.
Later in the spring, start to look for larkspur and lupine! You can find purple larkspur and desert lupine as you continue exploring Whychus Canyon Preserve. Or, take a trip out to the Metolius Preserve in early to mid-summer and you’ll be rewarded with some brilliant blooms! If you walk or bike through the Preserve you’ll have the chance to cross the lush banks of Lake Creek, see the rare Peck’s penstemon, search for scarlet gilia and keep an eye out for red columbines blooming on the forest floor. Suggested Route: Larch Trail Loop at the Metolius Preserve.


A sagebrush mariposa lily. Photo: Alan St. John.
A sagebrush mariposa lily. Photo: Alan St. John.
Once summer is in full swing it’s time to start looking for lilies! Summer is a great time to look for mariposa lilies along the wagon road trails at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Or for folks hoping to spend a whole day outside, hike along the Summit Loop trail at Smith Rock State Park and keep an eye out for these tall desert lilies. Looking for something a bit more lush? Take a hike along the Metolius River, crossing through the Land Trust protected, Metolius River Preserve to look for Washington lilies and even special sights like the Brown’s peonies or Spotted mountain bells. 

Wherever your adventures take you this season be sure to keep an eye out for what’s blooming and let us know! Not sure what flower you found? Share a photo and tag us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to figure it out together!


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