A Super Bloom, such as the one that exploded “gold” over the slopes and in the canyons of Death Valley might be rare, however, the recent heavy rains in the west are bringing a wildflower bounty early this year. In fact, with a little careful sleuthing, you can eye the dazzling displays of magenta, orange and bright yellow right now!
Super bloom or not, the West and the entire country roll out a bounty of festivals, runs, bicycle rides and hikes that pay homage to those delicate and sometimes elusive blossoms. When those dazzling flowers do begin to pop, it is time to head to one of these splash-filled destinations to enjoy one of the most precious rites of spring.
Death Valley ‘alive’
Officials are not predicting a super bloom in Death Valley National Park this spring, but even so, the hottest and driest place in North America is already rolling out wildflower brilliance to be discovered. It is certain that visitors from all over the globe will still show up to witness the brilliant display of life that inhabits the dry, parched earth each spring.
Death Valley is worth a spring visit to hunt for the blooms and enjoy the magic of the unique slice of nature. When you make your ascent to Dante’s View here, the overwhelming uniqueness of the region is revealed as you gaze upon the highest place in the contiguous forty-eight states—Mount Whitney, at 14,496 feet—as well as the lowest—Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level. With such a variance in landscape, wildflowers bloom at different times in different locales throughout the park, so take a peek at the selection that may be available during your visit by visiting the website here. Search for colorful displays found in alluvial fans, on mountain slopes and hidden in canyons now through mid-July. You’ll be rewarded with the desert’s finest from purple sage and lupine to desert dandelions and paintbrush and the vivid Mojave aster. But, remember, you aren’t allowed to pick a bouquet!
Borrego Springs bounty
The tiny town of Borrego Springs provides some of nature’s finest desert beauty, but it is also full of some great surprises, including brilliant blankets of spring wildflowers. The good news is that wildflowers have already appeared in parts of the Anza-Borrego desert following unusually heavy rains, and experts are predicting another “super bloom” similar to the one in 2017.
Borrego Springs is home to 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest state park in California, which attracts visitors with an abundance of historical, ecological and natural beauty astonishments year-round. Make a stop at the visitor’s center to get you on your way to exploring these desert lands with both guided and self-guided tours. In the spring, you may discover a spectacular display of wildflowers bejeweling your hikes and excursions. Before you visit, you would be advised to call the park’s 24-hour “Wildflower Hotline” at (760) 767-4684 or visit http://theabf.org/wildflowers for updates and get the lowdown on just where to find the blooms.
The authorized tour company of the state park is California Overland Desert Excursions, offering day tours and overnight adventures into the parkland—and your chance to be a part of the vastness. The tour company conducts its excursions in open-air vehicles that take you directly to the wildflowers blooming among the hidden palm oases and canyons.
Julian, nestled high in the mountains above San Diego, survived through the rough and tumble gold mining days when other communities turned to ghost towns. But, in the spring, when the wintry ground gives way, Julian turns to “gold” again—with daffodils. The present-day bounty brings dazzling displays of daffodils on roadsides, in the ancient cemetery and myriad places in between. In 1990, local resident Sally Snipes planted some daffodil bulbs along the rural Julian roadside to honor her late father, Jack. No one could have guessed this gesture of love would eventually transform the historic town into a spring-time wonderland for nature-lovers. More bulb plantings have caught on in grassroots efforts each year, and, today, millions of daffodils grace the area.
Julian’s annual Daffodil Show takes place March 23 & 24—although nature is in charge of the actual bloom schedule of the daffodils. However, if you miss them, don’t despair. Julian provides a spring feast of blossoms with the daffodil merely the “appetizer.” Following the daffodils are the fragrant lilacs painting the hills and orchards with lavender hues. Next to bloom are the lily-of-the-valley, peonies and a multitude of other spring varieties. Late spring and summer promises apple and pear tree blossoms in the mountain town.
Fly over Catalina’s blooms
Catalina Island, right off the southern California coast from Long Beach, ignites with wildflowers in early spring.March is generally a good time to catch many of Santa Catalina Island’s 400 native plants in bloom, as well as its 180 or so non-native species. The color palette includes giant coreopsis, shooting star, Catalina wild apple blossom and island snapdragon. To see the color, you’ll want to book an inland bus or jeep trip through the Santa Catalina Island Company, your personal guide to the preserved areas of the island. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, take the Zip Line Eco Tour for an over-the-top view of the blooms.
High Desert Poppies
The spectacular Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve is a sight worth the drive if you time the trip right, and the current report is that poppies and other wildflowers have already begun to sprout, and with more rain predicted there’s a chance we’ll have another good year. The State Natural Reserve is situated on California’s most consistent poppy-bearing land, but it is not all about the fields of gold. You’ll discover a mosaic of color—from purple lupine to delicate cream cups. Since it is totally up to nature (the state does not water the grasslands), the annual display fluctuates, but you can usually find eyefuls of brilliant color and fragrance through mid-May, with the peak viewing period in mid-April. The preserve is located fifteen miles west of Lancaster in the western Mojave Desert at an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet. Before you make the trip, you can check with the Poppy Preserve Wildflower Hotline at (661) 724-1180.
Super blooms or not, enjoy eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, making the park a perfect country escape for hiking or picnicking. You may even spot a coyote or bobcat. The Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center, open only during the spring wildflower season, offers wildflower and wildlife exhibits, an orientation video, a gallery of Jane’s botanical watercolor paintings and a gift shop.
Blooms overlooking the Pacific
If you miss a glimpse of spring color, take heart—this one is guaranteed. You can always make a trip to nearby Carlsbad, mostly known for its ocean vistas and LEGOLAND. However, Carlsbad is also recognized for its vibrant sea of giant ranunculus flowers that stretch over 50 acres of hills in rows of brilliant color. This year, the recent rains are promising to make the annual Flower Fields in Carlsbad especially spectacular when they open on March 1. The Flower Fields of Carlsbad put on their show through May 14, enticing guests to stroll past oceans of planted flowers and beautiful gardens, including a miniature rose garden, a fragrant sweet pea maze and even a red, white and blue display of flowers that depict a giant American flag. Guests tour on foot or on tractor wagon rides; fresh cut flowers and bulbs are for sale if you want to bring the “fields” home with you.