Here’s the thing about wildflowers: they’re gorgeous. Here’s the thing about crowds: they’re not.
In early April, photographer (and fellow sap) Will Carter and I went on an expedition to capture the pretty poppies and the ethereal desert llilies that were prancing from the once chapped ground transformed into a habitable home for dormant seeds in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Although the park produced one of the most magnificent spectacles in the state earlier this March, more blooms are expected throughout the state park, as well as across California in the coming weeks.
During our Wordsworthian frolic we learned three jocund tips worth passing onto our sprightly Hipcamp family who are tossing and turning with flower FOMO. If you’re considering a trip to the desert to catch the tail end of a surreal season, then consider these tips—
1. Don’t Press Snooze
This year has been dubbed the “super bloom”. As a result, it has received an enormous amount of attention with national and international news outlets like CNN and the BBC covering the sprawling blankets of flowers. The nearby town, Borrego Springs, estimated over 20,000 visitors the first weekend.
As the son of a worry-wort, I was clutching my pearls. So, we made a two part plan—1) Visit on a weekday. 2) Catch the flowers in the early morning. To do so, I recommend camping at the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground as day trips from San Diego and Los Angeles are tiring undertakings.
As some of the first day-visitors to the park, we were able to slide through the dusty one lane road at that led to the toes of Coyote Canyon. On our way we saw the popular pockets off of Henderson Road, like the sun yellow Parish’s Poppy, the tall purple Arizona Lupine, and the soft Dune Evening Primrose. Catching the flowers in the morning also allowed us to see more flowers as many of the species’ flowers close in afternoon swelter.
2. Use Your Honker
Desert Dandelion and Purple Phacelia
Breath in, breath out, boys and girls. We found the most lovely part of the super bloom was washing in the soft perfume emitted from the duvets of life spread across the green basin. Most memorable was the Dune Verbena, a plant made of small clusters of tiny purple flowers. As the desert dew evaporated from them in the first rays of morning sun their scent washed over us like delicate sprays of your grandmother’s best perfume. For a few minutes, we lay in the sand on the side of the road, next to a creek, calmed by the cool ambrosial breeze.
3. Wander Lonely as a Cloud
Upper Glorietta Canyon
Even though we arrived early and on a weekday, the crowds were coming for us by noon. They trickled in in tricked out Jeeps, Priuses, and Subarus. Borrego Springs was popping, much like its surrounding mountain sides of the valley. Yearning for solitude we opted to explore those mountain flanks on the South end in a canyon called Glorietta. The road that delivered us to the canyon was not well marked. I knew it would be lonesome canyon.
Our three mile hike took us through a lush canyon to the top of a peak. On our way up we saw flower species blooming that the busiest parts of the park didn’t seem to hold. We saw bouquets of Brittlebrush, blood red Chuparosa, a delicate Desert Fivespot, and one evasive Stream Lilly. What we didn’t see: another sunburnt, bucket hat-clad human.
Wherever you end up flower chasing in the upcoming weeks, make sure to treat yourself to an isolated part of the park or preserve you visit to find an uncovered beauty, growing in the shade of a neglected canyon.
The Barrel Cactus in bloom
The Best Current Wild Flower Viewpoints in Southern California
The orange poppies are expected to cover the rolling hills of the Reserve until mid-April. The Reserve lies an hour and a half from Los Angeles, on the west side of Lancaster. Find an updated wildflower forecast on the website.
The park three and a half hours from Los Angeles (two from San Diego) is still reporting large amounts of wildflowers as flowers are beginning to bloom at higher elevations above the desert basin. Find an updated wildflower forecast on the website.
There are large assortments of wildflowers being reported on the East side of the famous park, one mile in from the entrance. Find an updated wildflower forecast here.
Best Current Wildflower Viewpoints in Central and Northern California
View nature’s fireworks at The Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County. I plan on visiting this week as the Super Bloom migrates north to the central valley. Stay nearby at the a unique HipCamp site, the Blue Sky Center. Find a detailed wildflower report here.
Just under two hours from Sacramento, this reserve is just beginning to bloom. The reserve features great hiking opportunities and a few small waterfalls. Stay nearby at the Lake Oroville State Recreation Center. Find the wildflower report here.
This park close to San Francisco isn’t experiencing a “desert super bloom” due to its climate and geography but many flowers are beginning to pop up including the exquisite Calypso Orchid. Make a weekend of it and stay the night in a unique cabin by the sea at The Steep Ravine Cabins and Campground.
And apparently you can see the bloom from SPACE. With any trip to the desert, bring plenty of water, your biggest hat, and expect little to no cell phone coverage.