Pennsylvania’s Wildflower Trails: 6 Must-See Destinations for Springtime Hikers

(Photo: Chris M. Morris/Creative Commons)

By Kalena Thomhave

April 6, 2023

Across Pennsylvania, wildflowers create carpets of color as they bloom in spring. Now is the time to get out and hike trails lined with these colorful wildflowers.

While cultivated gardens are beautiful, there’s nothing quite like seeing trails lined with colorful wildflowers growing all on their own.

Each spring, wildflowers create carpets of color as they bloom all across Pennsylvania. You can find Pennsylvania wildflowers aside hiking trails, rural roads, rocks, bodies of water — almost anywhere in nature. Some wildflowers are ephemeral, blooming for just a short period before going dormant as the warm weather truly takes hold, while others will bloom into the summer and fall. Note that the peak season for spring wildflowers is usually in April and May.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best places to take a hike in order to see Pennsylvania wildflowers in all their springtime glory. Don’t forget your camera!

Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve, Conestoga

Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve in Lancaster County is an extremely popular spot to view wildflowers — especially since it’s just over an hour and a half from Philly. Shenks Ferry is particularly known for its springtime ephemerals, the wildflowers that bloom for only a short period in early spring (usually March through early May) before the trees fully leaf out. You can hike the Gamber Wildflower Trail, the main trail within the preserve, to see wildflowers like yellow trout lilies, blue cohash, Susquehanna trillium, Virginia bluebells, golden ragwort, Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, mayapples, and more. The Lancaster Conservancy publishes a helpful brochure to help you identify common wildflowers found at Shenks Ferry.

(Photo: Philip Bouchard/Creative Commons)

Raccoon Creek State Park Wildflower Reserve, Clinton

Raccoon Creek State Park is just 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, making the park’s wildflower reserve a perfect retreat for city dwellers. Comprised of more than 300 acres, Raccoon Creek’s wildflower reserve is one of the most diverse in Pennsylvania. You can scope out the hundreds of plant species that grow here while hiking the more than four miles of trails that cut through the reserve.

Peak blooms in the reserve occur in late April and early May, and again during the fall wildflower season in the late summer of August and early September. Visit the Wildflower Reserve Interpretive Center to learn more about the species that bloom in the park, like trillium, bluets, and the aptly named harbinger of spring before setting out on one of the many trails where you can see these flowers for yourself.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, New Hope

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in Bucks County has 134 acres of wooded trails, educational activities, and plenty of wildflowers. Explore the forest floor for delightfully named wildflowers like squirrel corns, spring beauties, and toadshades. You can enjoy a self-guided hike or join a naturalist-led walk so you can learn as much as you’d like about the ecology of the preserve. Bowman’s Hill is a perfect wildflower destination for Philadelphians, as the preserve is located just 45 minutes north of Philly.

Admission at Bowman’s Hill is $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 5 through 14; other discounts are also available.

(Photo: Nicholas Tonelli/Creative Commons)

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Dingmans Ferry

Springtime wildflowers thrive in areas with damp soil, so it’s no surprise that the trail along Hornbecks Creek within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area surges with springtime floral color as it winds its way to a waterfall. You can access the Hornbecks Creek Trail at a small parking area between mile markers 10 and 11 off the rural highway Route 209 that cuts through NEPA. Hike for approximately one mile until you reach the lower Hornbecks Falls, a picturesque slide waterfall. Along the way, you’re likely to see wildflowers such as bloodroot, violets, and wild ginger.

The trail once continued on toward another waterfall, but this portion of trail is currently closed due to erosion. You can, however, explore many other beautiful trails within the Delaware Water Gap; this includes the upper portion of the Hornbecks Creek Trail, now accessed near the Pocono Environmental Education Center.

Bear Run Nature Reserve, Mill Run

If you’ve seen the architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, you’ve already visited Bear Run Nature Reserve, the wooded area home to the famous modern house. As Fallingwater was intended to be a retreat hidden away in the remote foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, it follows that Bear Run Nature Reserve is a glorious natural setting ideal for spring wildflowers.

The Bear Run Yellow Loop, a 1.8-mile trail, is a good, easy hike that will likely serve you a wildflower feast for the eyes. On the other hand, the 4.3-mile Bear Run Orange Loop might give your legs more of a challenge as you seek out wildflowers. In late spring, see if you can spot the deep purple dwarf larkspur or the Pennsylvania state flower, mountain laurel.

While Fallingwater charges an entrance fee, Bear Run Nature Reserve outside of the Fallingwater property does not. You can find the reserve in the Laurel Highlands, about an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh.

McConnell’s Mill State Park, Portersville

One of the best things about living in Pennsylvania is the state park system, a network of 124 parks across the commonwealth that are completely free to visit and enjoy. These natural areas are perfect places to search for spring wildflowers.

Within Hell’s Hollow in western Pa.’s McConnell’s Mill State Park, Hell’s Run Creek flows to Hell’s Hollow Falls. Along the creek in the springtime, ephemeral flowers like trillium, hepatica, and wild phlox are known to make appearances. You can follow the Hell’s Hollow Trail or other McConnell’s Mill trails yourself, or you can join state park staff on guided wildflower walks. In spring 2023, McConnell’s Mill will host a wildflower walk in Hell’s Hollow on April 12. Park staff will also host a wildflower walk on May 5, this one along 1.5 miles of the North Country Scenic Trail. The park is just 40 minutes from Pittsburgh and just under 90 minutes from Erie.

You can check the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources calendar to find more wildflower events at state parks near you.

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