2017 Texas bluebonnet forecast and locations to see them
Current signs are pointing to an above average bluebonnet season for the Texas Hill Country. As we transitioned from El Nino to La Nina, winter temperatures returned to a more seasonably cooler normal, with a few weeks of very cold temperatures. We have also seen some precipitation over the last few weeks with many areas receiving three to four inches.
Last season was an average one, mainly due to the bluebonnets blooming at different rates. Many areas had mature flowers along with ones that were just beginning to bloom, and once those late bloomers got going, the early ones were gone. This was caused by unseasonably warm temperatures. In January 2016/December 2015 the coldest temperature reached was 31°F. This Winter we have seen temperatures dip down into the teens. A good cold snap is crucial for an above average bluebonnet season, and this year we got it. Barring any late extended hard freezes, I think this season will be better than last.
Disclaimer : Bluebonnet locations vary from year to year. If something happens to the flowers (hard freeze, mowing, hail storm) before they go into their seeding stage, they won't return the next year. The following is my best guess for good locations for 2017. I will update this post and grade my forecast after the season ends. I spend countless hours driving the Hill Country and scouting locations, so make sure to subscribe to my email list (at the bottom of the page) for bluebonnet alerts. I also offer Texas bluebonnet tours and photography workshops for those that really want to see the best bluebonnets in the state.
#10 Big Bend National Park
Big Bend bluebonnets are a different species than what grows here in the Texas Hill Country. They tend to grow taller but are more spread out than the thick blue blankets that cover the ground here. They also peak earlier than their eastern counterparts by about a month, so if you're in West Texas in late February and early March, you will get to see them earlier than everyone else.
There are often patches throughout the park, including Santa Elena Canyon, but from my experience the best displays are along Highway 118, which runs from Alpine to Terlingua.
Another great thing about visiting Big Bend this time of year is that the cactus are also in bloom, along with plethora of different types of wildflowers. The ocotillo have very large red flowers on them and are plentiful around Terlingua.
#9 Wildseed Farms - Fredericksburg
Wildseed Farms' specialty is growing wildflowers to harvest their seeds. During the peak of bluebonnet season they have several fields full of bluebonnets and red poppies. Admission is free.
The only caveat is that the fields are fenced off, so you can't get too close to them (maybe fifteen feet from the edge of the field). There is an area in the middle of the farm where they grow a mixture of wildflowers and allow visitors to take photos up close.
#8 Williams Drive - Georgetown
This stretch of road on the northwest side of Georgetown is a hidden gem in the Hill Country. Bluebonnets here bloom in extremely thick patches and there are always a handful of fields with horses among the flowers. Bring some apples or carrots and you can get them to come up to you for some close ups.
Most of the area is privately owned land, but I have never experienced an issue taking photos along the fence lines here.
Located between Austin and Houston, this is your best bet if you can't make it out to the Texas Hill Country. There are often several high quality fields in this area and I don't see any reason that will change this Spring.
Highway 290 and Farm to Market 390 are always hot spots in this area. For a good foreground opportunity, be sure to check out Old Baylor Park in nearby Independence.
#6 Turkey Bend Recreation Area
Turkey Bend Recreation Area in Marble Falls is 400 acres of land on Lake Travis. It's not only great for fishing and camping but also has some terrific bluebonnet displays during Spring. Nearby Muleshoe Bend had some of the best displays in 2015 and 2014, but due to recent drought relief those fields are currently under water. Still, for the areas that remain above the lake, there are some fantastic wildflower displays.
#5 Highway 79 Round Rock To Rockdale
Palm Valley Lutheran church is a picturesque historical church off Highway 79 in Round Rock. It is the location of my most well known Texas bluebonnet image. There are always large patches of bluebonnets here and they don't mind you going right up to them.
Keep your eyes peeled as you drive east towards Rockdale as there are always several great fields on this route.
#4 Highway 29 Bertram to Mason
This scenic drive through the Texas Hill Country consistently has some of the best displays in the state each year. Here there is often a mixture of many different wildflowers with entire fields of blue, red, yellow and white flowers.
Be sure to stop off at Lake Buchanan to see bluebonnets growing all around the lake. There is even a lighthouse that is often surrounded by flowers, but bring your telephoto lens as it sits on inaccessible private property.
#3 Highway 281 Marble Falls to Lampasas
This stretch runs through a lot of rolling hills and country land. Be sure to check out the Bluebonnet House north of Marble Falls. While the field to the south of this abandoned structure has been bulldozed and turned into a parking lot, the field in front of the house is fenced in and in tact. It looked to be making a comeback last year, so there could be a very good photo opportunity this year.
There are also several well performing fields south of Lampasas on Highway 281 with acres of pastures covered in bluebonnets.
#2 Highway 16 Fredericksburg to Llano
This stretch had many excellent bluebonnet displays in 2015. In this part of the Hill Country the terrain changes from rolling hills to a dramatic landscape of mountains and canyons.
One of the best locations for bluebonnets last year was the Willow City Loop scenic drive. The only issue with this location is it's not a very well kept secret. On the weekends you will experience large crowds and traffic, making it challenging to pull over for a picture. Also the land along this drive is privately owned, so stick to the roadside.
Continue north through Llano and see great roadside displays of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush near Baby Head Cemetery.
Kingsland was the king of bluebonnets in 2016, with plenty of terrific flower filled photo opportunities including decommissioned railroad tracks complete with angled iron bridge, wildlife, rusted out farm equipment and rolling hills.
The bridge sits off of Farm to Market 1431 on the north side of the town. You have to walk about a mile down the tracks to get close to it. You can park your vehicle on the side roads off FM 1431, which are dirt. This spot is a favorite of bluebonnet photographers and I haven't heard of anyone experiencing any issues along these decommissioned railroad tracks. This location is home to donkeys and cattle, so again if you bring some snacks they will likely pose for you.
Beyond the railroad tracks, much of the area is privately owned land. I spent a lot of time shooting there last year and the land owners were all very accommodating to those wanting to take pictures. However one had to rope off his field because people were driving through it. Don't be that guy.
While you're in Kingsland, be sure to go to the Lake LBJ Scenic Overlook for a spectacular view to the South and West.
Got a great bluebonnet spot that I missed? Share it in the comments below.