Lost in the valley of aahs near Joshua Tree's south entrance.
Like Halley's comet or a Red Sox World Series sweep, a wildflower spectacle like last year's in California's Joshua Tree National Park might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience: Golden fields of brittlebush waved to motorists, gangly Joshua trees sprouted early blooms, and even Parish's daisies, not seen here since the 1930s, raised their dainty purple heads. If you missed the show don't despair. Mother Nature rolls out a magic carpet every spring with some 868 flowering species. Bring a camera: Some sights you may never see again. The park lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles; peak wildflower season is March to May. (760) 367-5500, www.nps.gov/jotr.
Every spring in Rowena, Ore., cheerful wildflowers spread across the swales, mounds, and meadows of Tom McCall Preserve, a glorious plateau overlooking the Columbia River. March through May. (503) 802-8100, www.nature.org.
Chinese houses, lupines, and poppies bloom on the slopes of Mount Diablo State Park, 15 miles east of Oakland, March through May. Try one of the trails from the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center. (925) 837-2525, www.parks.ca.gov.
Photography by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel
This article was first published in March 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.