After several years of drought, California’s famous desert blooms are surging back in style. The heavy rains throughout the last few months indicate that desert wildflowers will have another “super bloom,” the term that was coined to describe the phenomenal and simultaneous surge of colorful flowers that showed up this time last year.
The right combination of rain, sun, temperature and wind are needed to create the perfect conditions in which these desert wildflowers thrive. In some locations, mid-March is the ideal time to visit the desert, although the wildflower season often can extend through April in some years. This year’s and last year’s blooming season are all the more special because warm temperatures and drought conditions all but killed off many of the plants back in 2015.
The blaze of colors that pop against the dry, stark landscape is truly a sight to see. Spring is one of the best times to visit the deserts of California, before the summer heat sets in and the blooms disappear.
- Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: Located in the western Mojave Desert, this poppy reserve lives up to it’s name and showcases the California state flower in all of it’s glory. The reserve also features a high desert grassland habitat that is home to other wildflowers like owl’s clover, lupine, goldfield, cream cups and coreopsis. The spring bloom typically runs mid-February through May, but this year rangers are expecting the bloom to last from mid-March through April and maybe into May. There is a trail system that takes you over rolling hills and also along an ADA-accessible path.
- Death Valley National Park: Last year, Death Valley’s 3.4 million acres of desert were lit up by a sea of pink, purple, gold, cerulean, white and magenta flowers. This year the national park’s wildflowers are expected to be a little more toned down, but it still will likely be an intense crop of color for spectators who make their way here this spring. The ideal time to visit here is mid-February to mid-March, although in elevations above 3,000 feet you will see some wildflowers later in the season. Common blooms here include golden evening primrose, Bigelow monkeyflower or desert five-spot.
- Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark: This unique but remote 250-foot high volcanic cinder cone crater was formed about 6,000 years ago, and the rugged, sparse landscape is transformed each spring by the desert-sand verbena and desert sunflowers that grow here. There are a couple of options for hiking trails that range from beginner to more advanced, and you can also view the scenery from an overlook of the park.
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: One of the best and most popular sights to take in desert wildflowers, this state park sees thousands of visitors each spring. The park advises visitors to come take in the desert lillies, notch-leaved phacelia, and other desert blooms earlier in the day or on weekdays if possible to avoid the significant crowds. Unlike Death Valley and other areas that are predicting this year’s showing won’t be as spectacular as last year’s, Park Rangers and Anza-Borrego think their area might produce even more blooms this year thanks to recent rains. Other spectacular flowers in this area include Sand Verbena, Lupine and Dune Evening Primrose.
- Joshua Tree National Park: If you can’t get out to see the blooms for a few weeks, Joshua Tree might be the best option for you. This national park sees plants blooming in desert regions above 5,000 feet as late as June. The season begins in February, however, when wildflowers begin blooming in the lower elevations of the Pinto Basin and along the park's south boundary in February and at higher elevations in March and April. Keep your eyes peeled for lupines, cholla, yucca, and of course, blooms on the Joshua trees.