Yosemite is most famous for its waterfalls, but the park’s wildflowers are an equally huge draw for visitors. Those in the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada foothills start blossoming as early as March. Especially keep an eye out for native California poppies, which may cover the hillsides in orange and gold blossoms, as well as purple lupines, yellow fiddlenecks and redbuds.
In early Spring, Snow Plants pop their bright scarlet heads up through the snow. “It looks like a neon red psychedelic asparagus.” They are amazing plant parasites that feed on the fungi of the soil.
By the time waterfalls peak in May, wildflowers have already started blooming in the Yosemite Valley. Look for shooting stars, yellow monkeyflowers, lacy white cow parsnip, yellow evening primrose, and pinkish-white western azalea. Prime spots for wildflower spotting in Yosemite Valley are the lush meadows alongside the Merced River. Also try looking for them at Wawona Meadow, in the southern area of the park.
In late spring and early summer, take a drive up Glacier Point Road for even more wildflower displays. A ramble through McGurk Meadow might show you leopard lily, red paintbrush, lupines, bell-shaped columbine, wild strawberry, brilliant blue forget-me-nots, and marsh marigold. The oddest looking flora you’ll see is the snow plant, its red-flowering stalk popping above the forest floor at the edges of melting snow.
Yosemite’s biggest and best wildflower show is saved for summer, when high-elevation Tuolumne Meadows bursts into bloom between late June and late August. Alpine goldenrod, purple pussy toes and larkspur, red heather, dog violets, and asters of various hues are among the wildflowers you can’t help but be wowed by in the meadows, especially around Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge. Hikers won’t want to miss the wildflowers growing alongside the trails to Elizabeth Lake or through Lyell Canyon along the Tuolumne River either.