The snow has thawed, the highway is open. It's time to dust off those La Sportiva boots and get your day bag packed; summer hiking season has arrived. Welcome! We've been waiting for you. And with all the additional precipitation we grumbled about this spring, the reward to now reap is wildflowers – lots of them, blooming and ready for viewing.
Here are four spots within an hour of Bend that offer a mix of both perennials and annuals in their full glory; bluebells, lupines, California poppy, prickly phlox and a myriad of other indigenous varieties for your visual pleasure from mid-June through July.
1: Iron Mountain is arguably one of the best spots to see early summer blooms. With sweeping views of the Cascades and a moderate hike that leads to an open meadow, you can't go wrong with this one. Often coined a "wildflower cornucopia," this hike is about 5 miles round trip to the Cone Peak meadow and offers an array of 300 species of wildflowers. Iron Mountain used to be a best kept secret of #IYKYK status, but it has gained popularity recently (thanks, Instagram!) and is considered to be one of the primo wildflower spots. Plan accordingly for a full day — sunblock, picnic, lots of water!
2: An easy-to-access spot to catch those early wildflower blooms is Whychus Canyon Preserve. Here, the towering ponderosa pines meet the high desert landscape. Hike the upper canyon and meadow trails that run under the soaring rimrocks and be on the lookout for an array of goldfields, yellow bells and sagebrush buttercups. This hike is a perfect low-key choice for families, clocking in at just over 2 miles. If the snacks are flowing and the meltdown meter is low, opt to make it longer by joining the creek trail for a 5-mile loop.
3: Gray Butte is just outside Terrebonne, but it can prove to be a bit tricky to find. Your vague directions may say it's next to the "old McCoin homestead and orchard" (hmmmm), but a better option is head to the end of the Skull Hollow Campground. The trail is shared by trail runners, bikers and hikers, and offers some big rewards. Enjoy views of Mt. Jefferson almost the entire way, with wildflowers on either side of the hills. From the summit there's a birds-eye view peering down into the dramatic expanse of Smith Rock Canyon, where the lazy Crooked River hits the horizon and seems to go on for eternity.
4: Canyon Creek Meadows packs a good distance punch at 7.5 miles round trip, and takes hikers to the visually stunning, flower-filled meadows under the summit of Three Fingered Jack. This hike has all the ingredients of a dream Central Oregon day trip: glacier streams, snow-covered peaks, and if you're lucky – a glimpse of mountain goats roaming the rugged slopes. Mid-July is best for this experience to let the residual snow cover melt. Be sure to grab a day use permit to access this trail after June 15.
—Roseann Dennery is a writer and creative consultant. When she isn't helping nonprofits tell the story of their work, she can be found sparking joy on all kinds of adventures with her family of five. A transplant from the Sonoran Desert, she enjoys curating and inspiring outdoor experiences for families. Follow her for more tips and ideas @exploreitallfamily.