California Poppy Reserve
"If we've got poppies, there can be millions," says Kathy Bouldin, a senior park aide at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, 15 miles west of Lancaster. From mid-March to mid-May, blossoms can carpet this 1,760-acre sliver of land on the Mojave Desert's west edge. But gold isn't guaranteed. "If the rain doesn't come just right, we have brown hills," Bouldin says. In good years, poppies, lupines, owl's clover, goldfields, and creamcups spread color along seven miles of easy trails. For updates, call (661) 724-1180. Park info: (661) 942-0662, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=627 .
Chimney Rock Trail
Wildflower fanatics flock to Chimney Rock Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, where baby blue eyes, Indian paintbrush, and goldfields shine by the Pacific March to May. (415) 464-5100, www.nps.gov/pore .
Grass widows, blue camas, and poet’s shooting stars cover hillsides at Catherine Creek near Bingen, Wash., from March through May. (541) 308-1700, www.fs.fed.us/r6/columbia/trails/trail_catherine.htm .
Photography by Larry Angier 
This article was first published in March 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.