In early spring, California comes alive in a spectacle of color that draws visitors from near and far. All the land's a stage for the company of wildflowers—with appropriately whimsical names like brown-eyed evening primrose, fiddlenecks, and slender keel fruits—that bloom for just a few short weeks each year.
The trouble is the peak of the flowers’ brief appearance can be hard to pin down in advance. Changes in weather patterns—say, a deluge of rain at the start of the year—can greatly impact timing and growth. Thanks to California’s recent wet weather, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, for instance, is enjoying a fleeting peak-week superbloom, potentially the best wildflower showing there in more than a decade. But those same rains came too late for Death Valley National Park, where temperatures are already too warm to expect many flowers.
Nonetheless, the show must go on, and even a mild performance has the power to delight winter-weary eyes. Anza-Borrego’s peak season may be over in a matter of days, but here are five other flower-rich California destinations and their latest wildflower watch information. (Before you go, be sure to call or check online for up-to-date bloom reports.)
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: The poppies are just beginning to bloom here. While a moderate bloom is anticipated thanks to the aforementioned weather, if all goes well, the season should last through mid-April. Click here for the latest updates.
Joshua Tree National Park: Crowds are rushing to see the blooming Joshua trees right now, but other flowers won't be in full regalia for probably another two to three weeks. Make it there before the end of April for the most color. Read the Wildflower Report for information.
South Yuba River State Park: Less than a thirty-minute drive from Nevada City, wildflowers brighten the foothills from March to May, showcasing early Western buttercups and later-blooming fairy lanterns. Barring inclement weather, docent-led hikes along the Buttermilk Bend Trail take place every Saturday and Sunday through May 14. Call (530) 432-2546 for details.
Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve: This protected swath of Sonoma County grassland, lush in spring, is accessible via guided wildflower walks taking place throughout April. Registration is required; click here for dates.
Mono County: The rains have been good to Mono County. The high-altitude Eastern Sierra landscape will likely experience a sensational showing of wildflowers this year, peaking in mid-summer. See lupine and tiger lilies at Rock Creek Canyon, near Mammoth Lake. Or meander the Parker Lake trail, at the north end of June Lake, for mule’s ears and balsamroot sightings.