Springtime can be missed in a blink, however those with open eyes won’t miss the orchestra of colors that carpet California hillsides, meadows and landscapes with wildflowers. With thousands of varieties and numerous habitats, climates and terrain, the blooms are as varied and unique as California itself.
With most of the state experiencing an unusually wet winter, these “uncultivated flowering plants” should be bountiful in coming months. Early spring (February–April) is the opportune time to view desert blooms. Red Rock Canyon State Park is a juxtaposition of rock formations with vivid blossoms amidst beaver tail cactus and white blooming Joshua trees and yuccas. Early spring trekkers will be treated to desert candles, lilies and asters, wooly sunflowers and Indian paintbrush. The Coachella Valley Nature Preserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Death Valley National Park also showcase their share of seasonal color and are already flourishing.
Wildflowers generally peak March through early June, however an abundant snow pack will extend the Sierra Nevada wildflower season into the summer months. San Mateo’s Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve in the San Francisco Bay Area flourishes with blue larkspurs and lupines, pink shooting stars, white fairy lanterns and red paintbrush. Marin’s Chimney Rock at Point Reyes National Seashore showcases yellow goldfields, blue irises, poppies and Point Reyes chocolate lilies. Other popular locations in the Bay Area include the Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve near Novato and Napa’s Missimer Snell Valley Wildflower Preserve, where onlookers can appreciate the vibrant hues from the road. To be immersed true California color, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve near Lancaster in Los Angeles County consists of seven miles of trails through 1,745 acres of golden petals.
For late spring through summer viewing, head to higher elevations. Fish Slough and Lake Sabrina in Bishop are popular viewing areas in the Eastern Sierra. North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County transforms into an endless sea of color and is one of the region’s premier viewing areas. The paths that lead you there (Highway 70, Cherokee Road), are equally spectacular.
Discover more great wildflower adventures at California State Parks
and Jepson Prairie Preserve in Solano County.