Where to see Southern California wildflowers
Every spring, a fresh bloom of Southern California wildflowers appears (assuming we’ve had some rain). Here are the best places to see the blossoms.
Spring is finally here, which means Southern California wildflowers are making their appearance all over town—especially after the remarkably rainy (but cold) winter we had.
Whether you’re looking to go on one of the best hikes in L.A. to catch the colorful blooms or even take a day trip to see the desert flora, there are many options when it comes to trying to see Southern California wildflowers. So when we’ve been lucky enough to actually have a winter with some rain in Los Angeles, take advantage of it and head to one of our favorite spots below. (And if not, at least when have some cherry blossoms to fall back on.)
After L.A.’s unforgettably wet (and snowy) winter storms, you’re sure to see colorful flowers all over—but as of early April, we wouldn’t quite call it a super bloom. Expect to see (actually yellow) black mustard carpeting just about every green hill in SoCal right now, with patches of orange and purple here and there. When it comes to poppies in particular, the region needs to see a bit more warm weather—though not too warm, lest all of the blooms shrivel up.
We’ve checked in on some of our favorite spots to see SoCal wildflowers and their current bloom status. We’ll update each location as soon as there’s some bloom activity. We’ll also shout out the Theodore Payne Foundation’s wildflower hotline (available online, too), which releases weekly status updates.
Please be responsible when visiting the sites below; remain on marked trails and don’t trample the flowers.
Where to see Southern California wildflowers (and the latest bloom status)
1. Diamond Valley Lake
With Walker Canyon closed this year, Diamond Valley Lake’s 1.3-mile seasonal wildflower trail has emerged as a fair substitute. It’s not nearly as dramatic as that onetime sensation, but the crowds over in Hemet are still pretty thick—so arrive early (with cash for the entrance fee) and prepare to wait in a line of cars. The very exposed hillside trail pops with patches of orange poppies and purple lupines, plus thick expanses of goldfields—all with some pretty perfect views of the well-saturated reservoir.
You’ll find parking at the marina (2615 Angler Ave); from there follow the Lakeview Trail for about a half mile and you—and the crowd in front of you—will reach the wildflower loop.
2. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Poppies are beautiful when they cover the desert hillsides in orange flowers. But poppies are also fickle: If there’s too much rain, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve can only expect a moderate poppy season. Too dry? Not a great bloom either (but you could still see some other wildflowers).
Which leads us to this year’s peculiar season: There simply aren’t many poppies to see yet at the Poppy Reserve itself. The surrounding desert looks pretty colorful—largely yellow with thick patches of poppies on some pieces of private property. But at the actual Reserve, brome grasses and fiddlenecks have outcompeted poppies due to all of the rain. So, yes, you’ll see poppies in patches, but it’s not really extraordinary—at least not quite yet.
In a typical year, peak poppy season is usually from March to mid-April—a short window if you want to catch the blooms at their height. Check the park’s website for the latest bloom status (or tune in to the livestream), as well as our full guide to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
3. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
A particularly wet winter in 2016–17 brought a superbloom to the Anza-Borrego Desert, but this year we saw something even more out-of-the-ordinary: a mid-winter bloom. As of early April, the park says you can find patches of flowers in the northern part of the park at Henderson Canyon Road, the entrance to Coyote Canyon and the Cactus Loop Trail at Tamarisk Grove; and in the southern section at June Wash and Vallecito Wash.
In a typical year, you can expect to see desert gold poppies, phacelia and a variety of tiny “belly flowers.” Of all the locations, Henderson Canyon tends to be the easiest to reach, though each canyon—like Borrego Palm Canyon and Coyote Canyon—offers different varieties (check the website for variety and trail information as the season progresses).
4. Carrizo Plain
This sprawling grassland in southeastern San Luis Obispo County may stretch past what we’d typically consider Southern California, but the three-hour trip is often well worth it after a wet winter. Make no mistake: On most days you’ll find an arid, dry lake bed at the center of this national monument. But if the conditions are just right—as they memorably were in 2017—you may spot a couple of weeks where the hillsides turn into rolling carpets of daisies, goldfields and other yellow, orange and purple flora. As of early April, with flowers just about at their peak, the display isn’t quite as dramatic as you see in the old photo above—but you’ll still find carpets of yellow with complementing patches of purple. Just a heads up: The roads around here are pretty uneven, with the final stretch of the drive on dirt roads.
5. Chino Hills State Park
Chino Hills may not achieve full-blown superbloom status, but the state park pretty much looks like the Shire after a wet winter (it was so wet this year that the trails were closed for weeks). A few very small patches of poppies line some of the dirt trails over rolling green hills, with little pops of yellow and purple, plus snow-capped mountains visible in the distance. Follow the lone park road, and just before it turns toward its terminus, you’ll find a dirt parking lot where Bane Canyon Road turns into Telegraph Canyon Road. Follow the signs for the Bane Ridge Trail and you’ll encounter poppies within 10 minutes. You’ll need to pay to park ($10 for the day of $3 per hour), though it’s free in the residential area near the entrance—but you’ll be tacking two to three hilly, shadeless miles onto your trek.