Hot Spots for Viewing Wildflowers in California

Photo by Alyx Schwarz at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

We all know the old adage, “April showers bring May flowers” but with the current effects of global warming, the May flowers aren’t always a guarantee. Luckily, this year there are plenty of places in the beautiful state of California, where wildflowers are blooming. From massive fields, to hillsides, and coastal cliffs, flowers of all varieties and colors are out in full effect and making hikes more beautiful!

Photo by Triptographer Shani Leead in Oxnard

Wherever you live, I can almost guarantee there’s a trail somewhere that is spotted with wildflowers! If you’re in California, I’ve made finding them easier for you by putting together a list of some of the hot spots to view them this spring! California’s wildflower season usually lasts from March through July but it’s always variable (and this year we haven’t had much rain) so plan to hit the trails sooner than later!

Northern California

  1. Pinnacles National Park, Pinnacles – Famous for its rock formations, canyons, and caves, you might be surprised to learn that the park actually has quite a beautiful spread of wildflowers! At the wildflower peak, 80% of the park’s flowers are in bloom. California poppies, Mariposa lilies, and shooting stars are just a few of the many varieties of flowers blooming throughout the park.
  2. Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County – With up to 90 identified and at least 20 commonly seen wildflower varieties, some say this is the number 1 spot in California for wildflower viewing! Violets, sky lupines, baby blue eyes, poppies, and seaside daisies are just a few that can be spotted from the trail.
  3. Mount Diablo State Park, Clayton – The Briones-to-Mount Diablo trail is popping with wild mustard and occasional explosions of California poppies.
  4. Rancho del Oso, Santa Cruz County – The coastal outpost for Big Basin Redwoods along Highway 1. There are about 50 wildflowers near the nature center, including shooting stars and western wake robin!
Photo by Triptographer Shani Leead in Oxnard

Southern California

  1. Stunt High Trail at Stunt Ranch/Cold Creek Preserve, Santa Monica Mountains – Check out the stream orchids, canyon sunflowers, and fairy lanterns or globe lilies to name a few! Watch where you step though since the poison oak is out in full force too. From Mulholland, turn onto Stunt R. and travel about one mile to the dirt parking lot. There isn’t a sign but the trail begins at the uphill end of the parking lot.
  2. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, Lancaster – This poppy reserve includes eight miles of trails with rolling hills filled with poppies! The colors and intensity change every year. Put down your phone or step away from your computer and jump in the car and head to Antelope Valley now! The clock is ticking and the poppies may not be around for much longer.
  3. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs – Although there aren’t as many wildflowers there this year as in the past, you can still catch some ocotillos in bloom around the Visitor’s Center. There are also some desert willows with purple and pink orchid-like blossoms. You might also be able to spot some blooming cacti!
  4. Point Mugu State Park, Malibu – Part of the Santa Monica mountains, the Point Mugu State Park has about 70 miles of hiking trails. At PCH, take the Chumash trail and head up the steep trail and you’ll find chocolate lily and globe gilia along the ridgeline. In the La Jolla Valley you’ll find California poppies, popcorn flowers, and Mariposa lilies.
Photo by Alyx Schwarz in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

These are just a few of the hot spots to check out this Spring! Disclaimer: I haven’t personally checked out each of the locations I’ve listed above so the flowers may or may not still be in bloom. Head out NOW before you miss them!

Resources 

Check out the resources below to help you find the best spots near you and to aid you in learning about the wildflowers that make this time of year so gorgeous!

  • Alltrails – Did you know that on the Alltrails hiking app you can use a “wild flower” filter and you’ll end up with a list of prime wildflower viewing hikes near you?!
  • Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline – Offers free weekly online and recorded updates on the best locations for viewing spring wildflowers in Southern and Central California.
  • PlantSnap Plant Identification – If you want to learn about the flowers you’re seeing, download this app and then snap a photo of a flower and you’ll learn more about it instantly!


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