Top Ten Parks for High-Summer Wildflowers

The West: Canyon Country Secrets (Zion National Park, Utah)

The deserts that sprawl across the Colorado Plateau are famous for the evanescent beauty of their spring wildflowers, and the color you'll see during a summer visit can be just as remarkable—if in a very different way. At Zion, the sun's power in July and August is a palpable oppression; when you see a stubborn patch of columbine, penstemon (wild snapdragon), Indian paintbrush, sacred datura, or any of various sunflowers abloom in Zion Canyon, it's a welcome surprise. The real surprises are hidden in the cool, shadowed recesses of the canyons—the porous sandstone that is the foundation of the Colorado Plateau allows water to percolate through it, and some water seeps out along fractures in the rock walls. At places like Zion's Weeping Rock, these seeps create vibrant hanging gardens and luxurious growths of moss, maidenhair ferns, watercress, blue columbine, orchids, sedges, and scarlet monkeyflower.

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In Utah, Canyonlands National Park has the shady canyons and Cedar Breaks NM has the elevation to give wildflowers a chance to fend color to the hot season. And anyone rafting the depths of the Grand Canyon see plenty of hanging gardens.

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