UPDATED : July 19, 2016
Seeing as this post is still getting quite a few views, I have decided to grade each location based on its showing in 2016. The scores will be under what I wrote for each location in February.
During Spring, fields of bluebonnets can be spotted throughout Texas. Many of the state's major highways are lined with bluebonnets and other wildflowers during this time of year, making for some incredibly scenic drives.
Over the years, the wild population has been supplemented with planted parcels of bluebonnets. So, if you're looking to see blooming bluebonnets in Texas, where are the best spots to look?
If your sole purpose is to see sprawling fields of blooming bluebonnets, the Texas Hill Country is the place to be.
There is a fly in the ointment, however. Just because bluebonnets bloom in an area one year, doesn't necessarily mean they will be plentiful there the following year. Coverage varies drastically from year to year. If something happens before the plants go to their seeding stage (a hard freeze, hail storm, or somebody mowing the plants down) they won't drop seeds for the following year.
Disclaimer. This list is simply a best guess as we are still a few weeks away from the first bluebonnets sprouting in the Hill Country.
#10 Big Bend National Park - As if you need a reason to visit Big Bend, there are bluebonnets in full bloom there, right now. They aren't exactly the same bluebonnets we see in Central Texas. They tend to grow more sparse and much taller, but if you can't wait until Spring to see bluebonnets, make the drive out west.
GRADE : C+. (I didn't make it to Big Bend in time for bluebonnets, but from the images I saw from there it was an average year.)
#9 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin - With wildflowers kind of being their thing, bluebonnets have been in bloom since February there! If you're looking to see bluebonnets in a safe, family friendly environment, this is the place for you.
GRADE B. (A great place to see some flowers and take the kids for a day of learning. Not exactly a typical place to go photograph landscapes, but worth the trip.)
#8 Muleshoe Bend in Spicewood - This area was bluebonnet central last spring, but the recent drought relief has left about half of last year's fields under the water of the Colorado River. There should still be bluebonnets there in 2016, but it probably won't be quite like it was last year.
GRADE D : (Love this place and it was awesome shooting there in 2015, but it is now very much a lake. There were still some bluebonnets there, but nothing like previous years. Go for the water, not the flowers.)
#7 Highway 281 in Marble Falls - Located on the northern side of Marble Falls is the Bluebonnet House, which in recent years hasn't been what it once was. I'm thinking this location is going to see a comeback this year and have added it to the list for 2016.
There is a large field surrounding the Bluebonnet House, which has been getting more bluebonnets over the last couple years. Highway 281 also has lots of bluebonnets growing along it, just be cautious of the traffic.
If you make the trip to Marble Falls, be sure to grab lunch at the Bluebonnet Cafe.
GRADE : A. (The field around the Bluebonnet House looked like it was making a comeback in a big way in 2016. Hopefully nature continues to do its thing and this location returns to previous glory in 2017.)
#6 Williams Drive from Georgetown to Andice. - This stretch of road is really an underrated area for bluebonnet hunting, and should probably be higher on the list. There are always several large fields of bluebonnets along the drive. There are also plenty of farm animals in the fields along the rural parts of the road, so there's a good chance you can catch a horse or longhorn in a field full of the state flower of Texas.
GRADE : D. (Lost a couple fields along this road and general area in 2016. The big field with longhorns off Ronald Reagan is no more. Sold for development. Still several good fields, but likely will not make the list in 2017.)
#5 FM 1431 in Kingsland - "Where the rivers flow and bluebonnets grow" is the official town slogan. The abandoned train tracks that run through the town have been a magnet for bluebonnets over the last few years.
GRADE : A+. (Kingsland arguably had the best bluebonnets of 2016, and was definitely my favorite location. The abandoned railroad tracks that run through town were loaded with bluebonnets. There were also several fields along 71.)
#4 Pontotoc - This unincorporated community sits northwest of Llano and contains ruins of settler's homes and the remnants of a large limestone building that was once the San Fernando Academy. A fire destroyed much of the town in 1947. I've never been there for bluebonnets (only night sky photography), but have seen images of these buildings surrounded by them. This part of the Hill Country had some incredible fields of wildflowers last year, so I think this will be a prime spot in 2016.
GRADE : D-. (Upon scouting for my workshops, we found that the San Fernando Academy Ruins, which are usually surrounded by bluebonnets had suffered a total collapse during a tornado warning. You can read all about that here. There is still a settler's home standing which was surrounded by bluebonnets, so it was worth the trip.)
#3 Jarrell - Last Spring there were several rolling fields covered in bluebonnets along the access roads off of I-35. I'm sure a quick drive around this small town would yield some fantastic finds as there are many abandoned houses and old cars on the county roads around town and it is definitely on my list of must see's for 2016.
GRADE : F. (After seeing several good fields in 2015, I thought Jarrell was prime for a big 2016. However the grass seemed to outgrow the bluebonnets in this area, so there wasn't much to speak of here.)
#2 Highway 29 from Burnet to Mason - We drove this stretch of road on our way home from last year's Big Bend Astrophotography Workshop, and if not for being so tired, we would have definitely made a day out of it. There were countless fields full of mixtures of all types of wildflowers including bluebonnets, buttercups, and Indian paintbrushes.
GRADE : A+. (This stretch was right up there with Kingsland as far as good coverage. It is also a larger area, so there were a ton of flowers both roadside and fields. Highway 71 north off 29 in Llano had good roadside blooms as did the Willow City loop. Look for a more detailed analysis of this area in my 2017 prediction.)
#1 Ennis - Ennis took a back seat to Spicewood last year, but with the recent floods in Spicewood, and the fact that I can't imagine Ennis won't do some beefing up of their fields, I anticipate this spot will be the prime destination once again for bluebonnet fields in 2016. North FM 660 and FM 1181 had some great fields in 2015. The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails run from April 1-30th.
GRADE : F-. (If Ennis wants to hold on to their reputation, they need to do some seeding. Bluebonnets were nonexistent here in 2016. Go to Ennis for its small town charm, not for bluebonnets because they didn't have anything to speak of.)
Know some good spots that I missed? Please share in the comments below!