Top Ten Parks for High-Summer Wildflowers

East & Central: Alpine Islands in the Sky (Adirondack Park, New York)
Adirondack daisies
Adirondack daisies

Wander the loftiest summits of the Adirondack High Peaks and you'll encounter a stubborn breed of flora, clinging to a mountain home in a latitude long since abandoned by others of its kind. These "islands" of alpine-arctic plants are remnants of the last ice age; their adaptations to a colder, harsher planet make the mountaintops their only home south of the Arctic. For a while they can survive low temperatures and high winds, they're intolerant, it seems, of other disturbances—especially the footsteps of careless hikers. Atop Mount Marcy, Algonquin, and the other tundra-covered High Peaks, be especially careful to rock-hop your way around.

The plants themselves are fascinating miniatures. They hunker in fissures in the rock, minimizing their exposure to wind; their blooms are often tiny flecks of bright color amid the grasses and lichens. Early in the season, look for the small white flowers of diapensia and the magenta of Lapland rosebay, a dwarf rhododendron; from late June through July you can find lavender-colored alpine marsh violet and white alpine bistort, along with saxifrage, bluebells, and mountain sandwort. The rarest of the rare, here in the East, is dwarf cinquefoil, a five-petaled yellow blossom.

More Northeast Hot Spots

Alpine environments are few and far between in the Northeast, but there are several places in Vermont's Green Mountains that qualify, including Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield State Forests. Over in New Hampshire, the Presidential Range —including Mount Washington, highest peak in the region—and other stretches of White Mountain NF are excellent for summer blooms. And in Maine, Katahdin and Baxter State Park are as high as it gets.

More GORP Adirondacks


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