Beautiful Spring Wildflowers and Wildflower Hikes in Northern Virginia

Updated on March 26, 2024 by Julie McCool

Spring wildflowers in Northern Virginia carpet the ground beginning in March and extending into April. My guide includes Virginia wildflowers to look for and where to find spring wildflowers on local trails. Easy spring hikes are a wonderful way to see ephemeral flowers. They emerge in local parks over several weeks, so there is always something new to see.

Below are photos and descriptions of some of the beautiful spring wildflowers in Virginia I have seen on local trails. I also highlight some of the best places to see wildflowers from Virginia nature trails and parks. Many of the best wildflower hikes are on short, easy trails that are very kid-friendly but good for all ages.

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My Virginia wildflower list also includes flowers that bloom later in the summer. Again, I suggest a few summer hikes where you can enjoy and photograph these beautiful blossoms.

A mix of Virginia wildflowers bloom in early spring
A mix of Virginia wildflowers bloom in early spring

I have lived in Northern Virginia for 25 years, but I'm still learning about Virginia wildflowers. Friends at Green Thumb Gardening provided expertise in identifying many of these flowers. I also recommend the site and the iNaturalitst app for anyone who wants to learn more about our native flora.

Spring Wildflowers in Northern Virginia

These beautiful spring wildflowers are called ephemerals because they are so short-lived. As the tree canopy fills in with leaves, it crowds out the sun, and ephemerals are gone until next year.

Virginia Bluebells

Virginia bluebells in pink and blue colors are among the most beautiful spring wildflowers in Northern Virginia
Virginia Bluebells at Riverbend Park

One of the most beautiful spring wildflowers is the Virginia Bluebell. This beauty takes over sandy portions of the Potomac Heritage Trail and other stream valley trails every April. They generally start growing and spreading in mid-to-late March, and peak in April.

Bluebell Trail loop hike
Bluebell Trail, Centreville VA

Most of the blossoms are blue, but you'll see pink, white, and mixed colors if you look closely. Two of the best places to see Virginia bluebells in Northern VA are the River Trail at Riverbend Park and the Bluebell Trail Loop Hike at Bull Run Regional Park.

Virginia Bluebells line the nature trails at Riverbend Park in 2022
Virginia Bluebells at Riverbend 2022


Creepily named, but lovely and delicate, these white flowers really stand out in a leaf-covered forest. Bloodroot is among the earliest spring ephemerals to bloom.

A cluster of Bloodroot at Riverbend Park
Bloodroot at Riverbend Park
A solitary Bloodroot at Riverbend Park
Solitary Bloodroot at Riverbend Park

Dutchman's Breeches

Adorably shaped and named, Dutchman's Breeches generally last several weeks. The white and yellow flowers hang in a row, looking like pants hung on a clothesline.

Dutchmans Breeches at Riverbend Park
Dutchmans Breeches at Riverbend Park

Great Blue Lobelia

These late-bloomers like wet soil so look for Great Blue Lobelia near muddy trails. I saw these lovely blue-purple blooms on a Conway Robinson State Forest hike in Manassas.

Lobelia in Conway Robinson Forest
Lobelia in Conway Robinson Forest

Mountain Laurel

In early June, Mountain Laurel crowds trails at higher elevations with beautiful white and pink blooms. The shape of the flower is lovely even before the petals emerge.

Mountain Laurel on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland
Mountain Laurel, Sugarloaf Mountain MD

You'll find large patches of mountain laurel on many of my favorite Northern Virginia hikes. There are thick patches of laurel by the road and trails on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. I've also seen a lot of laurel on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail in Clifton and by the pond on the Wolf Trap Trail.

Mountain Laurel is common on many trails in Shenandoah National Park's Central District including the wheelchair-accessible Limberlost Trail, the trails on Stony Man Mountain, and near a stunning view from Big Devils Stairs in Shenandoah National Park

Mountain Laurel on the Limberlost Trail in June, Shenandoah NP
Mountain Laurel, Limberlost Trail, Shenandoah NP

Spring Beauty

These delicate pink and white flowers grow in profusion on the forest floor. They are easy to see along northern portions of the Potomac Heritage Trail at Riverbend and Seneca Regional Park.

Spring Beauty wildflowers in Northern Virginia
Spring Beauty in Northern Virginia

Squirrel Corn

These cute white flowers look very similar to Dutchman's Breeches. In fact, I listed them incorrectly until a helpful reader pointed out my error. They are named for their bulbs, which look like little corn kernels.

Squirrel corn flowers at Riverbend Park
Squirrel corn at Riverbend Park


There are red, white, and yellow Trilliums in Virginia and they are all beautiful. Three leaves, three inner leaves, three petals; they're like a beautiful math formula.

Many colors on the Trillium Trail
Spring on the Trillium Trail

To see an absolutely stunning display of large-flowered trillium, take a short, easy Trillium Trail hike. Here, a 2-acre stand of trillium covers the forest floor, along with May Apple, wild geranium, Yellow Lady Slipper, and more beautiful wildflowers.

Large-flowered Trilliums are more common at higher elevations. On one hike in Shenandoah, I saw the pink Trillium below.

A pink Trillium in Shenandoah National Park
Pink Trillium, Shenandoah National Park

At lower elevations, dark red Toadstool Trillium is more common. Look for them beside the River Trail at Riverbend Park

Two red Trillium at Riverbend Park in Northern VA
Toadstool Trillium at Riverbend Park

Trout Lily and Toothwort

The yellow Trout Lily bloom is a stunner but it's gone in a flash.

Trout Lily at Bull Run
Trout Lily at Bull Run

Here is a mix of Trout Lily and Toothwort, which stays around for a while. Look for them near streams and rivers.

Trout Lily and Cutleaf Toothwort beside the trail
Trout Lily and Cutleaf Toothwort

Wild Blue Phlox

Growing in masses along the Potomac Heritage Trail in Spring, phlox looks beautiful when mixed in with the bluebells.

Wild blue phlox and bluebells
Wild blue phlox and bluebells

There are lots of phlox near the Potomac River in Seneca Park.

Wild Blue Phlox in Seneca Regional Park Northern Virginia
Wild Blue Phlox

Wood Poppy

These hardy wildflowers are some of the earliest to emerge in spring. By early April I see patches of bright yellow Wood Poppy beside the trails throughout Northern VA. The photo below was taken from the Cross County Trail in Reston.

Wood Poppy by the CCT in Reston
Wood Poppy

Yellow Lady's Slipper

A native Virginia orchid, Yellow Lady's Slipper is difficult to find but beautiful to see. The slipper-shaped yellow blossom is surrounded by two striped petals that curl into delicate spirals. In May, you can find Lady's Slippers on the Trillium Trail loop hike and in Shenandoah National Park.

Yellow Lady's Slipper, Trillium Trail

More Wildflowers and Growing Things in Northern VA

Spring wildflowers are not the only interesting things growing along Virginia trails. Keep an eye out for these other plants throughout the Virginia growing season.

Common Milkweed

Butterfly lovers know that milkweed leaves are the essential diet for monarch butterfly larvae. Happily, this summer flower is also beautiful to look at, and the buds are almost as interesting as the blooms.

Common Milkweed buds along the W&OD bridle trail in Vienna
Common Milkweed buds along the W&OD bridle trail

Milkweed likes swampy areas, and I see it along the Washington and Old Dominion Bridle Trail in Vienna every year.

Common Milkweed blooms in Virginia
Common Milkweed in Virginia

Joe Pye Weed

Here's a late summer bloom that likes damp places. Joe Pye Weed is also a magnet for butterflies which makes it extra photogenic. There is a nice cluster of Joe Pye near the boat ramp at Lake Audubon in Reston.

Joe Pye Weed blooms in summer at Lake Audubon, Reston
Joe Pye Weed at Lake Audubon

Polypore Mushrooms

I know they aren't wildflowers, but these polypore mushrooms are also beautiful. Turkey Tail mushrooms fan out along fallen logs and display a mix of colors.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms along a trail in Northern Virginia
Turkey Tail Mushrooms
Polypore mushroom
Polypore Mushroom

Fiddlehead Ferns

Also not a wildflower, but fiddleheads are so cool they are worth looking for. They almost look like little seashells.

Fiddlehead Ferns at Riverbend Park Virginia
Fiddlehead Ferns at Riverbend Park

Flying Things

With so many beautiful birds around, be sure to take a break from looking at plants to look up in the trees. Here's a big Pileated Woodpecker that was hammering away above the trail at Scott's Run. A hiking family walked right under it but, sadly, never looked up to see this beauty.

Pileated woodpecker Scotts Run; Photo credit: Katherine McCool
Pileated woodpecker Scotts Run; Photo credit: Katherine McCool

More Spring Wildflower Hikes in Northern Virginia

A look at bluebells and other Spring wildflowers in bloom throughout Northern Virginia and favorite walks for enjoying these short-lived Spring beauties.

Here are a few more of my favorite hikes for spring wildflowers in Northern Virginia. They are abundant along the sandier banks of the Potomac River and other stream valleys. Click the link for hike info and location details.

You'll find even more wildflower and wildlife hikes in my guide to the best nature trail in Northern Virginia.

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