Spring blooms are gone in many areas of the National Park System, but they're really showing their true colors at Mount Rainier National Park, where the locals are rallying around "Wildflower Watch 2012."
According to the folks at Visit Rainier, the Mount Rainier area was just voted "Best Wildflower Spot in The United States."
"It is an exciting honor to have the No. 1 wildflower site in America right here in our own backyard," said Mary Kay Nelson, executive director of Visit Rainier. "Now that the webcams at Sunrise (in the park) are operating, there is yet another way to enjoy the beauty of wildflower season."
The designation was awarded by Bob Gibbons, author of "Wildflower Wonders: The 50 Best Wildflower Sites in the World." (Princeton University Press, $27.95)
The Wildflower and Wildlife section on Visit Rainier's website provides links to wildflower status reports, telling folks what is blooming and where; it provides a list of the Top 10 wildflower hikes around the mountain; it offers an online wildflower identification guide, and it links to 12 webcams around the mountain.
In addition, Visit Rainier Tweets and posts wildflower viewing information to Facebook regularly, so visitors know where to go to take great pictures.
"Wildflower season is so exciting because different flowers bloom at different elevations around the mountain at different times," said Ms. Nelson. "A person could make several trips throughout the season, from July till snow falls again in October, and see something new every time. The wildflower growing period is a speedy process at the high elevations. Flowers emerge, grow, bloom and go to seed in rapid succession, all in an effort to perpetuate their existence."
While many think of mesmerizing images on trails such as the Skyline Trail at Paradise or Summerland on the route to Sunrise, there are also several spots folks can experience acres of wildflowers without even having to leave the car.
The meadows around Tipsoo Lake at the top of Chinook Pass are easy to view from the road, as are the meadows surrounding the Sunrise and Paradise areas on Mount Rainier. Crystal Mountain Resort's Mount Rainier gondola can whisk visitors up to 6,872 feet and put them in the heart of wildflower meadows. Any of these sites are a good option for folks of all ages, and physical abilities.
For more information on all there is to see and do at Mt. Rainier and its surrounding communities, visit www.visitrainier.com.