Michael Bonocore worked in partnership with Visit Idaho to create this Travel Tip.
Spring wildflowers are both beautiful and challenging by nature. The beauty needs no explanation, but the challenge arises with varied bloom times that are short-lived and fluctuate at the whim of Mother Nature. But with a little planning and some flexibility, it’s easy to enjoy some vibrant blooms within hours of Boise.
Here are six places I visited in search of Idaho’s incredible wildflowers.
Sun Valley is a popular year-round destination for many reasons. World class skiing, mountain biking, and family-friendly adventures await. But for just a brief window each spring, Sun Valley is also home to one of Idaho’s best wildflower displays. And getting there couldn’t be any easier.
The main wildflower blooms are conveniently located on a beautiful hiking and mountain biking trail system right across the street from the Sun Valley Resort. Park your car at the resort and head across the street to the hills where a well-marked trail system awaits. To quickly get to the viewpoint with the best bloom, follow the Valley View Trail until you reach a bench located a short distance off the main trail. You’ll know you are in the right place when you find yourself near tee boxes from the golf course. Walk towards the tee box (but keep an eye out for golfers), turn around and check out the incredible view of Bald Mountain and the valley to your north, all with a dizzying amount of colorful flowers in your foreground.
The best time to photograph the wildflowers here is the “golden hour” before sunset, which is usually between 8pm and sunset during the spring.
And after you have lived out your Sound of Music fantasies, stop at Sawtooth Brewery for a burger and a beverage.
When to see the bloom: Early to mid-June
Stanley is hands down one of my favorite places in Idaho, and that was before I knew that the town of 62 full-time residents also has an outstanding spring bloom of flowers. The best place to find flowers is on Highway 21. Head west on Highway 21 from downtown Stanley and before you get to the Sawtooth Lake dirt access road, you’ll notice that the nearby fields of purple and yellow flowers provide the foreground for the dramatic Sawtooth Mountains. The golden hour before sunset provides a nice soft light for perfect photos.
When to see the bloom: Early to mid-June
Located south of Stanley, Pettit Lake is a stunning alpine lake that usually loses its visitors to its bigger brother down the road, Alturas Lake. But Pettit Lake shouldn’t be missed, especially when the wildflowers are blooming. The best place to view the bloom is from the hiking trail on the hillside behind the campground. You can capture great photos of the colorful flowers with the mountain peak in the background.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve
After the incredibly tall and full flowers in Sun Valley, seeing blooms at Craters of Moon National Monument and Preserve can be a little startling. The flowers here are smaller and harder to photograph because of their miniature frames. But, when you think about it, the small size makes sense. After all, they are growing out of lava rock!
Drive the seven-mile loop road around the monument to catch the flowers in all sorts of terrain. Some of the best blossoms can be found on the back side of the Inferno Cone, which has a smooth black martian looking landscape.
Where to Stay: Lava Flow Campground at Craters of the Moon
When to see the bloom: Mid-June
Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh
Camas Prairie Centennial Marsh Wildlife Management Area is located just outside of Fairfield in the picturesque southwest region of Idaho. The 3,100-acre marshland is home to thousands of waterfowl who descend on the area during the spectacular purple camas lily bloom, which generally occurs from late May through mid-June.
With the snow-capped Soldier Mountains in the background, the Camas Prairie is a must-visit in the spring.
Located on Highway 75, north of Sun Valley and before Galena pass, Cathedral Pines has an incredible view of the Boulder Mountains. If this view alone wasn’t impressive enough, the field turns into a bright white display each Spring. On the east side of the highway, look for the turnout in front of the mountains.
Idaho’s beautiful wildflowers are an adventure that shouldn’t be missed.
Michael Bonocore is a Boise, Idaho-based photographer who has been working in the photography industry for over 10 years. He is the editor in chief of Resource Travel and the Travel Editor for Resource Magazine, a job that often has him jet-setting around the world. Michael also leads international photography workshops for The Giving Lens and teaches photography in private and small groups with his company Idaho Photo Workshops.
Published on May 8, 2018