YOU NEVER QUITE KNOW what you might learn—or encounter—on a guided hike with a trained professional. Randy Roch, a ranger at the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, recalls one such spring trek with a group of 15 along La Vista Verde Trail, near Taos. “It was early in the season on a beautiful day and the wildflowers were going bonkers,” he says. About one mile in, the tour veered off the trail for a look at a renowned petroglyph panel. While everyone was gawking at it, “we looked up and a huge male bighorn sheep was perched right above the rock art looking down at us,” he says. “It all came together.” Here are five ways you can get out to see the best blooms—and learn a little something too.
Interpretive rangers at both the Wild Rivers Visitor Center, in Cerro, and Río Grande Gorge Visitor Center, in Pilar, lead guided hikes and birding events from April to October (and occasionally in the winter) along the Río Grande Gorge. Springtime delivers an array of wildflowers in the sagebrush flats, with occasional sightings of bald eagles and bighorn sheep.
After eyeing the 750-specimen herbarium in the visitor center, take a guided wildflower-and-plant hike through the 1,116-acre park south of Santa Fe. Starting in April, look for spring flowers such as blooming cacti, moth-pollinated evening primroses, and red paintbrushes among the piñon-juniper foothills. Hikes are led by experienced park rangers and volunteers.
On the second Saturday of each month at 10:30 a.m., families can join an up-to-two-mile guided nature walk of Albuquerque’s Middle Río Grande Bosque ecosystem that includes information about blooming wildflowers and plants used by the area’s birds. (Keep a lookout for the occasional porcupine in the crook of a cottonwood tree.) Hikes are led by the park’s volunteer naturalists.
Join rangers on daily Sunset Strolls to learn about the park’s plants, such as the bushy, brilliantly purple sand verbena, which has uniquely adapted to life in the gypsum sand dunes. Daily tours start one hour before sunset and end atop a dune for panoramic views. March to May is the best time to find blooming plants.
Several chapters in the state give guided wildflower hikes throughout the bloom season, led by local botanical experts and enthusiasts such as botanist Russ Kleinman, an adjunct faculty member at Western New Mexico University, in Silver City, and cocreator of Gila Flora.