These are some of the best places in California to check out the wildflowers, in rough order of their blooming season:
Anza-Borrego Desert: Located south of Palm Springs, Anza-Borrego State Park often puts on the best desert wildflower show in California. Find out how to get there. Bloom season is January through March, so check this year's bloom status before you go.
Death Valley: It takes a perfect combination of conditions, for wildflowers to bloom in the desert, and it doesn't happen every year. When it does it's usually between mid-February and mid-April. Death Valley's wildflower displays are eye-popping, especially since they occur in a landscape so devoid of color the rest of the year. This guide includes all the details.
Valley of the Oaks: With the land around it protected from over-cultivation and never overcrowded, the area near Mission San Antonio west of King City is a great place for spring wildflowers and we've got the photos to prove it. Bloom time is generally March to April.
Antelope Valley: In a good year, the carpets of orange-hued California Poppies… well… (to use a well-worn phrase) you'd have to be there. Our photos might give you an idea, though. General bloom time is mid-February and lasts through mid-May. Get all the details.
Hite Cove Trail: Wildflowers bloom a little later in the in the Sierras, following the wave of blossoms in the desert. Hite Cove Trail near Yosemite is one of the most spectacular places in the Sierras in late spring and some say it's the best wildflower hike in California. Take a look at these photos and we think you'll agree. Best time to go is March through May and you can find out everything you need here.
North Table Mountain: An ecological reserve near Oroville (north of Sacramento), North Table Mountain is decked out in more than 100 kinds of wildflowers in a good season. Bloom starts in February and peaks in March and April. Guided tours are offered then. More details at their website, where can also sign up for a guided tour.
- Eastern Sierras: Wild iris flowers come out between late May and July, depending on elevation (earlier in Bishop, later for Mammoth). Where cattle are grazing, you'll sometimes find them nibbling the petals.
Spring Flowers in California's Gardens
They aren't wild, but they bloom in the spring, and they're pretty spectacular:
Huntington Gardens: Head to Pasadena for camellias in early spring. This guide will help you plan your visit, January to March.
Fresno Blossom Trail: They aren't wild, but fruit orchards put on an annual display of spring blossoms that are just as much of a treat for the eyes as their fruits are to the palate,. In most years, it happens in early March. If you can't go, get a peek with this photo tour. If you can, here's the guide
Carlsbad Flower Fields: Flower-growers open their field to the public when they're in full bloom at the Carlsbad Flower Fields, early March through early May.
- Mendocino: The Coast Botanical Garden is tops for rhododendrons, April through May.
How to Find Out When (and If) the California Wildflowers Are Blooming
Trying to predict the California wildflower season seems to be an almost futile task, with the final result depending on rainfall, temperature, wind and a host of other factors. To keep up with the latest status in the hottest spots, try these resources:
- Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline - a good resource that reports on lots of locations and our favorite all-in-one resource. Status info is current, but submitted by volunteers who can occasionally overstate the extent of blooms.
- For Death Valley National Park go to their website or join their Facebook group by searching for "Death Valley Flowers."
- The most popular state parks post current status information on their websites: Anza-Borrego Desert Park, Antelope Valley