Bluebells and other spring wildflowers carpet the ground throughout Northern Virginia, beginning in March and extending into April. This is a wonderful time to take frequent walks and hikes in local parks. Spring ephemerals emerge over several weeks, so there is always something new to see.
Below are photos and descriptions of some of the spring wildflowers that grow in Virginia. We also highlight the best places to see the blooms from local trails and parks. Many of the best wildflower hikes are on short, easy trails that are very kid-friendly but good for all ages.
Our Virginia wildflower list also includes flowers that bloom later in the summer. Again, we suggest trails where you can enjoy and photograph these beautiful blossoms.
We have lived in Northern Virginia for 25 years, but we’re still learning about Virginia wildflowers. Our friends at Green Thumb Gardening provided expertise in identifying many of these flowers. We also used the beautiful VirginiaWildflowers.org site and the iNaturalitst app and highly recommend them 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.
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 mid-to-late April.
Most of the blossoms are blue, but you’ll see pink, white, and mixed colors if you look closely. Here are two of the best places to see Virginia bluebells in Northern VA:
- The River Trail at Riverbend Park in Great Falls Virginia.
- On a Bluebell Trail Loop Hike in Centreville Virginia.
Scroll down for more great spring wildflower hikes in Northern Virginia.
Creepily named, but lovely and delicate, these white flowers really stand out in a leaf-covered forest.
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.
Great Blue Lobelia
These late-bloomers like wet soil so look for them near muddy trails. We saw these lovely blue-purple blooms on a Conway Robinson State Forest hike in Manassas.
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. You’ll find large patches of mountain laurel on two of our favorite Northern Virginia hikes:
- Sugarloaf Mountain Hike to Maryland Views
- Big Devils Stairs Hike to a View in Shenandoah National Park Virginia.
These cute white flowers look very similar to Dutchman’s Breeches. In fact, we listed them incorrectly until a helpful reader pointed out our error. They are named for their bulbs, which look like little corn kernels.
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. There are lots of dark red Toadstool Trillium at Riverbend Park, while Large-flowered Trilliums are more common in the mountains. On one hike in Shenandoah, we saw the pink Trillium below.
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.
Trout Lily and Toothwort
The yellow Trout Lily bloom and are gone in a flash, but Toothwort stays around for a while. Look for them near streams and rivers.
Wild Blue Phlox
Growing in masses along the Potomac Heritage Trail in Spring, phlox looks beautiful when mixed in with the bluebells. There are masses of phlox near the river in Seneca Park.
These hardy wildflowers are some of the earliest to emerge in spring. By early April we 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.
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 slipper on the Trillium Trail loop hike and in Shenandoah National Park.
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.
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. Milkweed likes swampy areas, and we see it along the Washington and Old Dominion Bridle Trail in Vienna every year.
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.
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.
Also not a wildflower, but fiddleheads are so cool they are worth looking for. They almost look like little seashells.
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.
More Spring Wildflower Hikes in Northern Virginia
Here are some of our favorite hikes for enjoying 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.
- Potomac Heritage Trail at Riverbend Park, Great Falls
- Bluebell Trail at Bull Run Park, Centreville
- Trillium Trail at GR Thompson WMA, Linden
- Potomac Heritage Trail at Seneca Regional Park, Great Falls
- Turkey Run Park, Great Falls
- Scott’s Run Nature Preserve, Great Falls
- Theodore Roosevelt Island, Access from Arlington
- Red Rock Overlook Regional Park, Leesburg
- Bull Run at Manassas National Battlefield, Manassas
Published 2018 last updated 2021.