The 2022 California Super Bloom wildflower season is fast approaching, and if there is anything I’ve learned the past few years, it’s that there is no better time than the present to stop and smell the flowers. This guide will help you find the best super bloom spots and wildflower locations around California.
I’ve put together a list of areas throughout the golden state where you are most likely to find wildflower hotspots or even a rare California Super Bloom. While you are out searching for wildflowers, be sure to take in the natural beauty that already exists by taking a closer look at trees, shrubs, wildlife, and the geology of the land.
Read on to discover what kind of wildflower season we are in for this year!
Table of Contents
2022 Wildflower Outlook
In previous years that have received sufficient rainfall, one could stumble upon vast California landscapes painted with giant swaths of orange, purple, and yellow wildflowers. Due to the dry winter last year, super blooms did not occur throughout the state. With a decent amount of rain and snow already accumulated this winter, this year is currently looking more promising for wildflower displays.
Right now, however, it is too early to tell whether major wildflower blooms are likely to occur. Even if we don’t see a super bloom in 2022, it would be a shame to miss out on the beautiful wildflowers that do grace us with their presence.
Super blooms are rare, and only occur when all the right conditions coincide. For example, the last spectacular spring wildflower displays have only been recorded in Death Valley in 2016, 2005, and 1998. With climate change significantly affecting our earth, these rare displays are likely to become even more scarce.
According to the National Park Service, a good wildflower year depends largely on these three things:
- Well-spaced rainfall throughout the winter and spring
- Sufficient warmth from the sun
- Lack of drying winds (Especially true in desert environments)
Wildflower Blooms by Month
Depending on which part of the state you’re in, wildflowers will come and go at different parts of the year. Wildflowers will bloom and die much sooner in the desert than in the mountain landscapes, so be sure to plan accordingly. No matter when or how you do it, the most important thing is to simply get out and (responsibly) enjoy nature!
This information can be found on the NPS site.
Mid February to Mid April
Where: Lower elevations, deserts and foothills.
Wildflowers: Desert Gold (Geraea canescens), Notch-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata), Caltha-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia), Golden Evening Primrose (Camissonia brevipes), Gravel Ghost (Atrichoseris platyphylla), Bigelow Monkeyflower (Mimulus bigelovii), Desert Five-spot (Eremalche rotundifolia)
Early April to Early May
Where: 3000 to 5000 feet elevations, upper desert slopes, canyons, higher valleys
Wildflowers: Desert Dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa), Princesplume (Stanleya pinnata), Desert Paintbrush (Castilleja chromosa), Fremont Phacelia (Phacelia fremontii), Mojave Aster (Xyloriza tortifolia), Bigelow’s Coreopsis (Coreopsis bigelovii), Indigo Bush (Psorothamnus arborescens), Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Early May to Mid July
Where: 5000 to 11,000 feet elevation on mountain slopes, pinyon pine/juniper woodlands
Wildflowers: Desert Mariposa (Calochortus kennedyi), Purple Sage (Salvia dorrii), Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla), Panamint Penstemon (Penstemon floridus austinii), Magnificent Lupine (Lupinus magnificus), Inyo Lupine (Lupinus excubitus)
Wildflower Hunting Tips
- Bring a California Wildflower Field Guide. There are many different versions that can be found online or at a local bookstore. Taking the time to identify and study the natural flora in detail will make your experience that much more memorable.
- Snap pics. You don’t have to be a professional photographer, but getting that perfect Instagram pic is crucial.
- Get the timing right. Wildflowers are likely to bloom earlier in years when there is little rainfall. Check in with the agencies managing the natural areas you are hoping to visit before you head out!
- Look, but don’t touch. You may be tempted to bring back a couple flowers as souvenirs, but if everyone did that there would be nothing left to see! Leave the flowers undisturbed for the bumblebees, butterflies and future sight-seers.
- Stay on the paths, and as with any nature outing, be sure to leave no trace!
Northern California Super Blooms
In most of these areas, blooming occurs from late May to July. Among many others, you may see orange tiger lilies, yellow mule’s ears, golden mustard, scarlet gilia, blue lupine, purple wild iris, and rosy desert peach.
McGee Creek by Crowley Lake
Take the McGee Creek exit off of Highway 395, approximately six miles north of Tom’s Place or eight miles south of the Highway 203 exit. This road is narrow and winding and will lead you to a parking lot at the end of the road. Among the colorful rocky canyon, you will see sagebrush-bitterbrush scrub, sagebrush scrub, riparian, aspen, and talus.
Little Antelope Valley Pack Station
Take Golden Gate Road to the station. You can find fields blooming with wild mustard, mule ears, lupine, and wild iris.
Bridgeport Valley/Bodie Hills
From Highway 395, 7 miles south of Bridgeport, take the Bodie Road (Highway 270) east for 13 miles toward Bodie State Historic Park. There is a multitude of beautiful flora that can be found here, including Townsend daisy and limestone aster. Blooms of white and blue lupine, Anderson’s larkspur, yellow hawksbeard, and Coville’s phlox come later in Bodie Hills.
For more flower hotspots in Bodie Hills, try meandering down Geiger Grade Road, heading north out of Bodie State Historic Park. In Bridgeport Valley, you can discover fields of wild iris and lupine in mid-to-late June.
Tioga Pass Road
Just before the entrance to Yosemite National Park, the short Nunatak Nature Trail and Bennettville Trail offers displays of subalpine flowers that have adapted to survive in somewhat harsh conditions. Some of these plants include rockcress, whitlow grass, and shield leaf. Other wildflower species you may see are red and white heather, penstemon, crowded lupine, ground-level carpets of dwarf bilberry, and Labrador tea shrub.
For more wildflower hotspots in this region, check out this free PDF: Wildflower Hot Spots of the Eastern Sierra.
Folsom Lake – Beeks Bight
Folsom Lake is home to huge swaths of Blue Lupines. From mid-April to early May, you can find fields upon fields of these gorgeous flowers. Get there by going to the Beeks Bight parking lot and taking a stroll. You can’t miss them!
March 25 Update: Lupines are beginning to emerge along the trail.
Blooming in the higher altitudes occurs from late April to July, but in years with little rain, flowers may bloom earlier in the season. In Lake Tahoe, you may find white phlox, Mariposa lily, yellow plantain buttercup, blue lupine, bright-red snow plant, orange paintbrush, and lacy pussypaws.
Big Meadow Trailhead
About 1.5 miles into the Big Meadow trail, you will find a large meadow that is usually abundant with alpine wildflowers. For a full day hike, continue on the trail to Dardanelles Lake (an 8-mile journey).
As you start your hike to the falls, you should begin to see wildflowers within the first mile. For a longer hike, loop back on the maintenance road (5 miles) or make your way up to the summit of Mount Rose (10 miles).
Winnemucca Lake + Meiss Lake
Winnemucca Lake, near Kirkwood, is a well-known spot for wildflower sight-seeing because of the rich volcanic soil that supports spectacular alpine blooms. It is a moderate 5-mile hike to reach the lake, and you will pass by Frog Lake in the first mile.
Make your way along the Meiss Lake trailhead, located close to the summit of Highway 88 at Carson Pass, and walk about 2 miles to the Meiss family cabin, where you will find a colorful wildflower display.
Lake Forest Beach
Lake Forest Beach on the north shore is one of the best places to snap a photo of Lake Tahoe with fields of buttercups, lupines covering the ground. The shore of this public beach will become blanketed in brilliant purple wildflowers, attracting photographers and wildflower seekers alike.
In years with little rain, the flowers may start blooming earlier in the season (late May or June). To get there, follow N. Lake Boulevard north towards Lake Forest, and turn right on Lake Forest Road. Turn right again onto Bristlecone Street, and parking along the road is free.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Depending on snow-melt and rain levels, wildflowers will tend to bloom from late May through August throughout Lassen. Early in the blooming season, look for mountain mule’s ear, pussypaws, snow plant, and western wallflower, followed by corn lily and lupine. California corn lily and silverleaf lupine tend to bloom later. The National Park Service has put together a general schedule of when wildflowers bloom in various areas within Lassen.
Mount Diablo State Park
Blooming occurs from early March to May. Throughout the park, you may see blue skullcap, Fendler’s meadow-rue, Sanicula, Johnny-jump-ups, bush lupine, monkey flowers, globe lilies, California poppies, bird’s eyes, and wallflowers. Check out this wildflower identification guide from the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association and this awesome What’s Blooming Now on Mount Diablo spreadsheet, which is updated regularly.
Donner Creek Loop Trail
This beautiful 5-mile loop is the number one pick for viewing wildflowers on AllTrails, and features mountain views and waterfalls galore, especially after a rain. Parking at the trailhead is for residents only, but paid parking is available at the nearby Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center for $6.
Mount Diablo Grand Loop Trail
Mount Diablo Grand Loop Trail is a difficult 6.8-mile loop trail that features beautiful wildflowers and sweeping views of the Bay Area (and beyond on clear days). Hikers have reported wildflowers currently in bloom, so check it out fast!
Secret Valley Loop
Secret Valley Loop trail is a moderate 6-mile loop near Walnut Creek that features beautiful wildflowers and views of Mt. Diablo, the East Bay, and Napa Valley. The flowers are already in bloom, so get out and catch them before they are gone.
For more trails in Mount Diablo State Park that feature wildflower hotspots, check out this list of trails on AllTrails.
The rolling hills throughout Napa county offer ample opportunity to view wildflowers. Renowned for endless fields of yellow mustard, you can drive for miles and miles to view wildflowers among vineyards. This is a must-do and easy to find for anyone living near San Francisco.
More Creek Trail
This 7.1-mile hike in More Park, St. Helena takes you through a loop into a canyon absolutely rife with wildflowers. You’ll make about five creek crossings to find some unmatched beauty of Napa’s wine region beyond the grape.
North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve
This expansive mesa formed by ancient lava flow located near Oroville attracts wildflower enthusiasts during the blooming season, from early March to mid-May. Among many others, you may see lupine, foothill tritileia, Sierra primroses, blue dicks, and poppies. By early April, bright yellow Douglas’ violets will start to pop up in the grasslands, along with pale yellow daisies, white meadowfoam, and magenta shooting stars and buttercups. Other flower species present in the area include blue dicks, blue-and-white bird’s eye gilia, magenta Kellog’s monkeyflower, and purple owl’s clover.
The showy wildflowers are likely to come and go fast this year, so plan a trip soon! You will need to purchase a land pass for the day online before visiting. Official access is through a small parking lot on the west side of Cherokee Road. North Table Mountain is also renowned for its Phantom Falls hike, which is well worth trekking to view as well.
March 2022 Update: The reserve is in full bloom, although there are fewer flowers than in previous years. On the Phantom Falls Loop, you can find birds-eye gilia, frying pans, poppies, sky lupine, goldfields, white nemophila, yellow monkeyflowers, blue dicks, and redmaids. There are groups of California poppies on the northwest side of the loop by the ravine.
Pinnacles National Park
About 80 miles south of San Jose, this small but incredibly unique national park features geological wonders and an amazing display of wildflowers.
Depending on rainfall, blooming occurs from March to mid-May. Early-bloomers include milkmaids, shooting stars, and Indian warriors. These are followed by California poppies, bush poppies, fiesta flowers, monkey flowers, baby blue eyes, bush lupine, heat-loving clarkias, orchids, penstemon, and roses. In April, species such as Johnny-jump-ups, virgin’s bower, gilia, suncups, chia, black sage, pitcher sage, larkspur, and bush lupine join the spectacular display of flowers that bloomed in March.
Southern California Super Blooms
Check out the latest report on the Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline, which provides an in-depth look at which wildflowers are in bloom in Southern California as of March 2022.
Antelope Valley State Park
Located 75 miles north of Los Angeles, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve has become famous for its rolling hills of poppies, painting the landscape with orange and yellow. One of my favorite things about visiting this park, is for miles in either direction you travel to get here, you can spot countless poppies along the drive.
The park itself has several loops you can walk along that span up to around 7 miles if you do them all. I like to do the side right of the visitors center, starting at the North trail which climbs up, then take the South trail back which is a descent and fairly flat. This path takes you onwards to the left side of the visitors center, where you can cross a wooden bridge with some picturesque scenery and continue onto the remaining smaller loop.
Blooming starts around the middle to end of February and can last through May, with the peak bloom occurring from mid-March to mid-April. Poppies are the most predominant flower here, but they are accompanied by desert pincushion, blue dicks, California aster, blue lupin, yellow fiddlenecks, and pink filaree. There are currently sparsely populated blooms, with the potential for more with a significant amount of late-season rain.
For an up-to-date flower watch, this Live Poppy Feed shows you what’s currently in bloom.
March Update: Poppies are currently in bloom in the reserve. There are swaths of hilltops covered in bright orange poppies and a few areas with lupines blooming. Visit now to catch them before they’re gone!
Anza-Borrego State Park / Anza Borrego Super Bloom
Located in the Colorado Desert, this large state park comes alive with an amazing display of wildflowers from mid-February to mid-May. The wildflowers you may see include desert marigold, desert lily, sand verbena, desert sunflower, apricot mallow, desert five-spot, Orcutt’s woody aster, and blooming cacti. While you will not see an abundant bloom this year, the park’s canyon trails feature a variety of natural blooms.
On March 3rd, 2021, it was reported that Hornblade Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park was blooming wonderfully. Despite the last rain the park saw in December 2021, the upcoming 2022 spring wildflower outlook is still questionable. There hasn’t been enough rain for a super bloom, and unless we see much more fall before spring, it is likely visitors will only see a few flowers emerge. For more current updates on wildflowers in the park, visit DesertUSA and the Anza-Borrego State Park Facebook Page.
Channel Islands National Park
Over 800 plants species begin to bloom on the five Channel Islands from mid-February to mid-May. Due to microclimates and the distance each island is from the shore, each island supports a unique array of flora. The vibrant yellow coreopsis begins blooming on Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel Islands in January and usually lasts through March. San Miguel is also home to lupine and poppies, while Anacapa features red paintbrush and island morning glory. Santa Barbara Island blossoms with lavender chicory and pale-yellow cream cups, and the elusive is only found on Santa Rosa Island.
For current wildflower updates and information, visit the Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline
Mojave National Preserve
For a full list of flora that you may be able to witness in the Mojave desert, visit DesertUSA’s desert plant page.
Cima Cinder Cones (Mid to late March) – Purple mat, woolly daisy, Bigelow mimulus, brown-eyed primrose, desert dandelion, fiddleneck, lilac sunbonnet, little gold poppy, desert sunflower, Anderson lycium, ratany, bladderpod, desert mallow, desert trumpet, Mojave aster.
From the NPS: “If rain has fallen on the cinder cones and lava beds, hundreds of tiny Biglow monkeyflowers lend a purple cast to the dark volcanic soil. Locals call these “belly flowers,” as they are best photographed lying down! With a high-clearance vehicle, you can also visit a lava tube cave. Bring a flashlight for this activity.”
Cima Dome and Mid Hills Campground (Mid to late April) – Desert marigold, yellow throats, white tidy tips, groundsel, chia, locoweed, rattlesnake weed, turpentine broom, palmer penstemon, goldenbush, Indian paintbrush, and Mojave sage
High Peaks (Early May) – Hoary aster, groundsel, California chicory, Pringle eriophyllum, golden gilia, Apache plume, serviceberry, heliotrope, long-leaf phlox, piñon aster, yellow cut-leaf, banana yucca, and giant four-o’clock
Hole-in-the-Wall (Late March to early April) – desert tobacco, forget-me-not, Fremont pincushion, white-stemmed stick-leaf, Mojave horsebrush, desert alyssum, windmills, and prince’s plume.
From the NPS: “If you are looking for flowers in late April and May, visit Hole-in-the-Wall. A profusion of desert globemallow and verbena often covers an area that burned in a massive wildfire in 2005. This is the best area for hikers, with trails leading past petroglyphs, through cactus and yucca gardens, and into Banshee Canyon, where you’ll discover the holes of Hole-in-the Wall.”
Kelso Dunes (Late March to early April) – Borrego locoweed, dune primrose, sand verbena, wooly marigold, silk dalea, spectacle pod, dune lily
Von Trigger Hills and Piute Range (Late March to early April) – Canterbury bells, notch-leaved phacelia, stellate gilia, sand blazing star, Mariposa lily, and desert senna
Wildflowers have also been spotted emerging around the Amboy Crater along Route 66. Check here for further information as spring draws near.
Although Joshua Tree is a desert, there are plenty of opportunities to witness gorgeous desert flowers bloom in a year with good rainfall. The National Park Service says this about catching wildflowers in bloom: “Wildflowers may begin blooming in the lower elevations of the Pinto Basin and along the park’s south boundary in February and at higher elevations in March and April. Desert regions above 5,000 feet may have plants blooming as late as June.”
If we continue to receive good rainfall, you may be able to see desert flowers such as brittlebush, dandelions, monkey flowers, and desert Lupine. Visitors have also reported seeing wildflowers growing near Hidden valley, Belle and Ryan campgrounds.
As we get closer to spring, stay up to date on the wildflower status on Joshua Tree’s Wildflower Watch site.
Death Valley National Park
A super bloom in the desert can be a sight to behold, but this year we are most likely in for a sparse wildflower display. Because of the dry conditions this year, your safest bet when searching for wildflowers will be in the higher elevations. Blooming occurs between mid-February to mid-July throughout Death Valley, with lower elevations blooming first (if at all), followed by higher elevation flora later.
Mid-Feb to Mid-April: In the foothills and at lower elevations you may see desert Gold, Phacelia species, Golden Evening Primrose, Gravel Ghost, Bigelow Monkeyflower, and Desert Five-spot.
Early April to Early May: At mid-level elevations (3000 to 5000 ft.) and in canyons, you may find Desert Dandelion, Brittlebush, Desert Paintbrush, Fremont Phacelia, Mojave Aster, Bigelow’s Coreopsis, Indigo Bush, and Desert Globemallow.
Early May to Mid-July: At high elevations (5000 to 11,000 ft.) and on mountain slopes, you may find Desert Mariposa, Purple Sage, Rose Sage, Panamint, Magnificent Lupine, and Inyo Lupine.
Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area
Located in the Los Padres National Forest, and 30 minutes north of Los Olivos, the Figueroa Mountain Recreation Area often puts on a fantastic display of wildflowers. In addition to being able to see the colorful array of flowers, you will be able to see panoramic views of the San Rafael Wilderness and the Santa Ynez Valley.
Blooming occurs on the mountain between mid-February and mid-May. In March, you may see purple shooting stars, followed by chocolate lilies, and scarlet Indian paintbrush. In the grassland areas, you can find goldfields, sky lupine, and California poppy. Other wildflowers present include pitcher sage, blue dicks, wild hyacinth, shooting stars, buttercups, milkmaids, Johnny-jump-ups, purple fiesta flowers, and popcorn flowers.
Shell Creek Road Meadows
Shell Creek Road becomes an important destination for wildflower enthusiasts and photographers alike. There is a stunning mix of goldfields, coastal tidy tip, baby blue eyes, and California poppies that create a beautiful blanket of blooms in a super bloom year. But even in drier years, a trip to the meadow is well worth your time.
The Shell Creek Road Meadows is located in San Luis Obispo County, 130 km northwest of Santa Barbara.
Located just north of Temecula in Western Riverside County, Lake Elsinore has been the site of a magnificent super bloom in the past. It occurred in late February 2019, as the more than 1,600 acres of hillsides east of Interstate 15 in Lake Elsinore exploded with bright orange poppies.
As with most super blooms, this was a rare occurrence. But with a bit of luck and a LOT more rain before the end of winter, you may be able to catch an impressive wildflower bloom come spring. If that happens, hike the trails in Walker Canyon to see the flowers up close. As with any hiking trail, be sure to stay on the designated paths and pick up after yourself.
Carrizo Plain National Monument
An important site to the Chumash and the Yokut Native American tribes, the Carrizo Plain National Monument is now the single largest native grassland remaining in California. This 250,000-acre sprawling plain is a wildflower hotspot in the spring, drawing in thousands of visitors in a good bloom year. So far, there has not been enough rain to constitute a super bloom on the plain.
With enough rain, you will be able to witness vast meadows and hillsides painted in yellow, orange, and purple. The bloom usually begins in mid-March and peaks sometime in late March or early April. By mid-June, most flowers have dried or wilted.
Best viewing locations:
- Soda Lake Road just south of the Visitor Center (Hillside Daisies, Valley Phacillia, Owl’s Clover)
- Near Traver Ranch (Phachillia, Hillside Daisies)
- Simmler Road (Coriposis/Tickseed, Tidy Tips, Hillside Daises, Lemon’s Mustard)
- Temblor Mountain Range (Hillside daises, Phacilla, and Desert Candle)
Note for visitors: High clearance vehicles are recommended for access to the Temblors and be aware that some of the mountain range is private property.
One of the dominant geographic features of the Carrizo Plain is Soda Lake, a salty dry lakebed that occasionally holds water after a big rain. There may not be much water to speak of, but if you walk the boardwalk trail that runs by the shore you can immerse yourself in a sea of wildflowers! For a panoramic view of Soda Lake and Carrizo Plain in bloom, just head across the road from the Soda Lake boardwalk and walk a short trail to the top of Overlook Hill.
You will NOT find food, water, or fuel in the Carrizo Plain National Monument, so plan accordingly and stop by neighboring communities before you visit. Some camping is allowed, but spots tend to fill up very quickly, so plan accordingly. Stop by either Santa Margarita or Taft for more information on the Carrizo Plain National Monument.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will there be a super bloom this year?
The chances of a super bloom depend on rainfall and ideal weather conditions. Super blooms are rare, and only occur when all the right conditions coincide. For example, the last spectacular spring wildflower displays have only been recorded in Death Valley in 2016, 2005, and 1998. With climate change significantly affecting our earth, these rare displays are likely to become even more scarce. Please review the Wildflower Outlook for detailed information, updated at least twice yearly.
How do you identify wildflowers?
My favorite way to identify plants and flowers is to ask a friend. It sometimes comes with a good story! For apps, you can use PlantSnap, PictureThis, PlantNet, or Google Lens. depending on the phone you have.
Where are the best locations to see wildflowers?
The best location to spot a super bloom or admire wildflowers depends on rain, time of year, and what type of flower you want to see. Browse through the many locations listed in this guide and you can quickly narrow down some favorites for yourself.
Map the Super Bloom
For quick access to browse through the many destinations to find super blooms across California, I have saved a list of places on Google Maps.
Click “Follow” on this list and it will save to your account and automatically update as new places are explored and added.
From recipes using locally sourced ingredients and terroir-centric cooking, craft cocktails, to the latest in tech and home DIY projects, Michael yearns to share his learned and found knowledge of the world.