One of the best things about April in Texas is enjoying the roadside wildflowers as they blossom. Anyone driving up and down Texas highways knows it’s the best time to be on the lookout for bluebonnets, the state flower. But to get an up close and personal look at these beauties on a leisurely drive, there’s no better place to be than Ennis. Well known for its abundant bluebonnets, along with Indian paintbrushes and primroses, Ennis is a must-see in spring.
Bluebonnets peak at different times in April in any given year. Also, where the blooms are abundant varies from year to year. To take the guesswork out of the equation, I follow the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails and Festival website, www.bluebonnettrail.org. It contains the peak predicted times, the best locations to enjoy the blooms, trail maps, the best spots for photos, etc. The Ennis Garden Club members visit the trails to check on the flowers and constantly update the information.
Ennis is located about 30 miles south of Dallas, a straight shot along I45 south to Houston, making it easily accessible within an hour’s drive. In addition to the trails, Ennis also hosts the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival over one weekend in April. Spread over three days, from Friday to Sunday, the Festival is held downtown and includes kids’ activities, foods of all kinds, arts and crafts, and wine-tasting experiences. It also includes live music performances on the main stage and at the Wine Wander tent.
This year, in 2023, the predicted peak for the bluebonnets was between April 8th to 18th. And the Festival was held from April 14th to 16th. Since the weather was perfect on Sunday (yesterday), we decided to make a quick trip. Our friends, the K family, joined us. It was their first visit to the Ennis area.
Last year, we used the Ennis Y’all app, but this time, we decided to be low-tech and get a trail map. Our first stop was at the Ennis Welcome Center, where the friendly staff gave us a trail map, and another staffer showed us all the locations where the blooms were the best seen. Although the center was crowded, the line moved quickly, The Center is one of the few places with restroom facilities, and they were well-maintained and clean.
Ennis has three main trails: North, South, and West. The area around the West Trail has the Ennis Veterans Memorial Park, Bluebonnet Park, and the Meadow View Nature Area. These are the best places to leisurely take photos among the bluebonnets and enjoy a nice picnic. Besides the Welcome Center, these parks have restroom facilities (we saw portable toilets at Meadow View).
It was nearly noon when we left the Welcome Center and went to the Meadow View Nature Center. The collections of blooms were different in different parts of the area. Some were purely bluebonnets, while in other regions, orange-red Indian paintbrushes vied for attention. A few pale pink primroses grabbed our attention. It was a beautiful afternoon, and we spent several minutes admiring the beauty of the flowers and clicking photos.
Eventually, our hunger caught up with us, and we enjoyed a sumptuous meal prepared by my friend. We topped off the excellent meal with cold sparkling cider and ice cream. Bellies full, we were ready to hit the other trails. One of the nice things about Meadow View is the lake that borders it. The lakeside was the perfect tapestry of colored blooms in the foreground and the blue water in the background.
After a quick stop at the Welcome Center, we went to the Festival next door. After paying the $5 per adult entrance fee, we walked around the festival grounds, enjoying the warm sun. People thronged the area, enjoying various vendor stalls. Artwork, quilts, small jewelry, and clothing boutiques competed with food stalls of all kinds. Mr. JJ bought sasparilla root beer, and we snacked on cinnamon-roasted nuts. We walked past stalls offering brick-oven pizza, boiled crawfish, burgers, and fries. The funnel cake stand also sold nachos, corn dogs, fries, and Snickers and was immensely popular with the longest line. There were many games for kids of all ages while performers crooned on the main stage. Shortly, we left the Festival to get back on the trail.
We first took the South trail and were rewarded with at least three flower fields. The first had only bluebonnets and afforded the perfect opportunity to take photos seated among the blooms. We saw many families, some multigenerational, happily creating new memories in that field. The next area was so abundant with blossoms we could only see a sea of orange-red interspersed with blue. The vista was breathtaking! No amount of photos or words can do justice to the natural beauty of that field!
Further down, we came across a tidal wave of yellow! We had to stop and explore this bright and gay field of yellow daisies! Oh, what a joy it was to walk among them and let their happy colors soothe the eye and the soul!
Next, we took the connecting Hwy 660 to the North Trail. We drove past Bristol to the Sugar Ridge Winery area. It was nearing 330 pm by the time we got there. A stop at the winery is highly recommended by those who have visited, but we chose to skip it. I loved the overarching trees and the canopies they provided in this area. There was something exceptional about the narrow lanes and greenery and the changing topography of this area. Well past the winery, we came across a small pond with a couple of swans. The bluebonnets in the meadow fronting this area appeared larger and more densely packed.
Further along the route, we came across Sugar Ridge Ranch, where we saw four horses. Fenced in, they still stood several hands high and nudged visitors for food, Two large bags of grains sat in front of the gate, and we joined others in feeding the horses! We saw some longhorns grazing a short distance away but didn’t stop to see them up close.
The fields along the North and South Trails are private property, so we followed posted directions like not trespassing, etc. Since the roads are narrow and traffic on weekends is high, we had to keep our eyes peeled for people and animals. Especially, when we reached a flower field, with many cars parked along the sides of the road, There are no shoulders in these areas. On most streets, the traffic was free-flowing except in one where we had to wait patiently for a large RV to pass almost 20 to 30 other vehicles!
The paintbrushes overtook the bluebonnets in most locations this year compared to other years. I’m not complaining as their fiery color only added to the beauty of the viewing. This time, we saw more blooms on the South Trail than on the North, which is usually the case. I could have sworn, eight years ago when we first visited, there were far more blooms than this time.
Ennis Bluebonnets are a ritual of sorts for us. I hope to be back for more spellbinding colors next year!