Weekend Trip: Best Places to See California Wildflowers

If the seemingly nonstop rain this winter had you down, you’ll at least appreciate the payoff: Thanks to one of the wettest winters on record, California deserts are experiencing lush “super blooms” of wildflowers. That means right now is a perfect time to take a day trip to one of the many places where large numbers of flowers are in bloom. We have a few recommendations for some of the best spots to take in the sights, as well as tips for your visit!


Some of the best spots to see California wildflowers:

  • The hills and valleys of Anza-Borrego make up California’s largest state park and are just south of Palm Springs. Here you can find desert lilies, sunflowers, Parish’s poppies, flowering ocotillo and cacti, and dune evening primrose, among other lovely California wildflowers—all within a two-hour drive of San Diego.
  • The Walker Canyon poppy fields in Lake Elsinore are in full bloom covering the canyons in vibrant orange with California’s state flower. While just an hour and a half from San Diego, consider starting your weekend early to beat traffic to this popular wildflower destination.
  • A couple hundred miles south of Death Valley is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, whose poppy blooms will come later and last through April. There are a number of other desert wildflowers you can spot in Antelope Valley, which can vary in scent and color from one year to the next.
  • As desert flowers lose their bloom, the show peaks north at the Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County. Flowers here include some of the common blooms of owl’s clover and California poppies as well as some rare and endangered species such as San Joaquin woolly-threads, kern mallow, and California jewelflower.
  • Hite Cove Trail, just west of Yosemite National Park, is one of the area’s best places for spotting wildflowers. It’s a moderate two- to four-mile hike if you just want to see the flowers—though you can go hardcore if you’re prepared for the challenge of a nine-mile hike! Otherwise, there’s plenty to see in the first couple of miles. Catch sights of gorgeous fiery red and orange live forever blooms and bright yellow blazing star flowers. You can catch these wildflowers through early May, before busy season at Yosemite really kicks into high gear.


Tips for visiting California wildflowers:

  • Plan Your Trip. Check your destination’s website for traffic and parking information as well as services provided onsite. Many parks don’t have food and gas available nearby, so plan accordingly.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring along a bottle of water wherever you visit and be sure to drink plenty of it if you plan on hiking!
  • Wear sunscreen. Especially in desert areas, the sun can be intense. No matter where you are, any length of time spent outdoors (even if it’s cloudy) merits at minimum an SPF of 30. Lather up!
  • Wear appropriate shoes. If you’re hiking, make sure you wear closed-toed shoes with good tread. Hiking in the California desert can get rocky, and you’ll need proper support.
  • Stay on designated trails and don’t pick the flowers. Remember these amazing superblooms are wild and the flowers don’t get replanted if they are destroyed.
  • Bring your camera! The desert wildflowers are a breathtaking sight. While you can’t take the flowers with you, you’ll want to get plenty of shots of the wildflowers in bloom.
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