As warmer months inch closer, mushroom hunters and chefs alike get antsy in anticipation for the start of morel season. We wait through the early winter for the fruiting bodies of these edible mushrooms to peek out from the brush.
Why are morels such a coveted shroom? Imagine playing a fun yet challenging game of hide and seek that ends in being rewarded with a rare, precious gem. The prize? The great morel mushroom. An exotic, delicious, and hard-to-find wild mushroom species.
The first morel of the season in late March sets off a chain reaction stateside, from Illinois to Indiana to Missouri to Idaho. Lucky for us, just as mushrooms and plants communicate with each other, we foragers are here to support each other to make the mushroom hunting season more abundant for us all.
If you’re prepping for another glorious foraging season to seek out one of the most sought-after wild mushrooms in the world, look no further. Here you’ll find the best morel progression maps to lead you to success in your 2023 morel hunting season. Mother Earth willing, of course.
The mysterious wild mushroom’s appearance is like an oddly-shaped honeycomb. While no two morels are the same, their taste is nutty, earthy, and meaty and can be added to most dishes where you’d add mushrooms.
The challenge? Finding them.
Coming from the Morchella genus, morels have fascinated mycologists for hundreds of years.
They are elusive due to the many unpredictable variables to their growth, like precipitation and air and soil temperature. That’s why morels, for the most part, are not farmed.
Fortunately, we know the best conditions for morels to thrive in the springtime and in areas where soil disturbance events have occurred, such as forest fires. Specifically, morel mushroom season begins in April (on the West Coast) or May (in the prairie). Additionally, if you travel north or higher in elevation, you could find morels into the summertime.
While a forest fire doesn’t guarantee morels, one of the most helpful places seasoned and new foragers begin searching for their prized possession is last year’s burn maps.
Morels prefer to grow around oak, aspen, ash, and elm trees, though you may find them growing in the woodchips in your garden if you’re lucky enough. There are eighteen different species of morels across the United States, though the most common are black morels and yellow morels.
While there isn’t any single “best state” to find morels, mushrooms are abundant from middle Tennessee northward into Michigan and Wisconsin, Vermont, and as far west as Oklahoma, per The Great Morel. They are also found west of the Rockies in California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada.
Since Michigan is full of morel sightings, the Department of Natural Resources has created a website with an interactive map of forest fires. The state’s Mi-Morels map will help you find burn morels much easier than on your own (last updated in 2021). You can also find useful hunting, identification, and cooking tips on their website.
They say May is the best month for morel hunting in Michigan, but the mushrooms can be found from late April until mid-June, depending on where you live.
If you’re in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or California, Salish Sea Mushrooms has a helpful burn map for the upcoming 2023 season, along with last year’s map from 2022.
Additionally, the site has a map that provides additional information from the state parks or national forests in case a permit is needed to go morel mushroom hunting.
After the many wildfires in 2021, The Modern Forager created a map guided by algorithms based on terrain. The locations receive a score based on the size and intensity of the fire. Although they say morel mushrooms are best found the year after a wildfire, we aren’t sure if they will update their maps or how the 2021 fire season will impact the 2023 morel season. Trent Blizzard also updates burnmorels on Instagram regularly.
The states that are included in this algorithmic approach are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and British Columbia.
The Great Morel, a website dedicated to everything morel related, has an interactive sighting map that covers the entire United States and southern Canada. When you go hunting for this shroom and find some, you can submit your sighting to add it to their map.
Make sure you bookmark their sighting map for continuing seasons.
While there are fire maps that the state and federal governments publish, they are primarily maps of active fires, not past fires. Fortunately, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a past wildfire and prescribed fire map for you to use.
The states included in the map cover Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Remember when you’re foraging to harvest sustainably and to abide by all public land laws.
Though morel sighting and burn maps are incredibly helpful, sometimes you can get even more resources through online communities. Though many morel hunters may be reluctant to give the exact location of their findings, you may find some valuable information about when and approximately where morels are growing in your area. Since the growing windows of these mushrooms can go quickly, the information you can get from these communities can give you a head start once morels start popping up nearby. Reddit threads, Facebook groups, and Morels.com still prove to be the most reliable day-of hunting guides. Morel mushroom hunters swear that the proof is in the photo without giving up their secret spot, of course. Many of these groups can help you narrow down the findings by specific states so that you can constantly stay updated on the peak morel seasons near you.
Here are some of the best forums by state:
If your state wasn’t listed here, fear not. There are field guides and local hunting tips available in most outdoor stores in your area, whether it’s a mom-and-pop bait shop or a big retailer in your hometown.
There are many reasons to eat mushrooms, but there are even more reasons to get into mushroom hunting. You get to go into nature, sharpen your foraging skills, and celebrate with other passionate foragers when you find the elusive fungi.
Not only are they a trophy catch, but they’re a tasty one as well.
Don’t forget to bookmark these burn and sighting maps for your next trip into the woods. Also, if you are tech-savvy enough, you could create your own sighting or burn map for other mushroom hunters in the future.