Beautiful Spring Wildflowers and Wildflower Hikes in Northern Virginia

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.

Guide to Spring wildflower hikes near Washington DC for nature lovers and family fun.
A mix of Virginia wildflowers bloom in early spring
A mix of Virginia wildflowers bloom in early spring

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.

Virginia Bluebells

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:

Scroll down for more great spring wildflower hikes in Northern Virginia.

Bluebell Trail loop hike
Bluebell Trail loop hike
Keep an eye out for bluebell color variations like white and pink blooms
Keep an eye out for bluebell color variations like white and pink blooms.
Bluebells in full bloom at Riverbend Park, Great Falls Virginia
Bluebells in full bloom at Riverbend Park, Great Falls Virginia

Bloodroot

Creepily named, but lovely and delicate, these white flowers really stand out in a leaf-covered forest.

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 them near muddy trails. We 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. You’ll find large patches of mountain laurel on two of our favorite Northern Virginia hikes:

Mountain laurel is common on many trails in Shenandoah National Park’s Central District including the wheelchair-accessible Limberlost Trail and the trails on Stony Man Mountain.

Smaller patches of mountain laurel bloom throughout Northern VA, and are common on the Fairfax Cross County Trail and the Bull Run Occoquan Trail.

Mountain Laurel on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland
Mountain Laurel beginning to bloom on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland
Mountain Laurel on the Limberlost Trail in June, Shenandoah NP
Mountain Laurel on the 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 wildflowers in Northern Virginia

Squirrel Corn

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.

Squirrel corn flowers at Riverbend Park
Squirrel corn at Riverbend Park

Trillium

There are red, white, and yellow Trilliums in Virginia, but we have mostly seen the red variety on local walks. Three leaves, three inner leaves, three petals; they’re like a beautiful math formula. On one hike in Shenandoah, we saw the pink Trillium below.

A helpful reader shared this tip on our Facebook page: “By far the most popular springtime activity on the Thompson Wildlife Management Area is viewing wildflowers where, at the higher elevations, a remarkable display of large-flowered trillium occurs.”

Two red Trillium at Riverbend Park in Northern VA
Two red Trillium at Riverbend Park in Northern VA
A cluster of red trillium in Northern Virginia
A cluster of red trillium in Northern Virginia
A pink Trillium in Shenandoah National Park
A pink Trillium in Shenandoah National Park

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.

Trout Lily and Cutleaf Toothwort beside the trail
Trout Lily and Cutleaf Toothwort
Trout Lily at Bull Run
Trout Lily at Bull Run

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.

Wild blue phlox and bluebells
Wild blue phlox and bluebells
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 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.

Wood Poppy by the CCT in Reston
Wood Poppy

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

Common Milkweed buds along the W&OD bridle trail in Vienna
Common Milkweed buds along the W&OD bridle trail
Common Milkweed blooms in Virginia
Common Milkweed blooms 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 blooms in summer at Lake Audubon, Reston

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 along a trail in Northern Virginia
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 Virginia

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 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.

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Spring Wildflowers and where to find them in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC area.

Published 2018 last updated 2021.

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