Wildflower conditions described on this page are the result of the right combination of weather conditions. Please check the specific locations for current updates before heading out.
Sid Dutcher of the Theodore Payne Foundation advises the wildflower season begins in the lower elevations in February, the mid-elevations (such as the Grapevine and the Poppy Preserve in Lancaster) in mid-March to early April, and finish in the high elevations of California's mountainous regions in May and early June.
If you are planning a wildflower adventure requiring an overnight stay, you should make your reservation early. When the flowers are the most en masse, so are the tourists.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
661-724-1180 Recorded Information Line
The Visitors Center opens in March. When in bloom, the blazing fields will display the California poppy, owl's clover, cream cups and coreopsis among others. Seven miles of trails wind through the preserve, including a paved section for wheelchair access. Be advised that on particularly windy days, the poppy blooms close tightly, minimizing their show.
Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park
The 566-acre Ripley Desert Woodland is located a few miles west of the Poppy Reserve on Lancaster Road at 210th Street West. The park protects and preserves an impressive stand of native Joshuas and junipers which once grew in great abundance throughout the valley. Today, only remnant parcels of this majestic woodland community remain in the valley, the rest having been cleared for farming and housing. In early spring months, creamy white blossoms begin to grow on the ends of the branches of the Joshua. The blooms last for several months, growing larger and larger as the weeks go by. Set in a bed of wildflowers, the Joshua becomes a site of stately beauty. (Excerpted from California State Parks website.)
Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area
Folks come from around the world just to catch a glimpse of the California poppies, goldfields, lupine, and tidy tips in Tejon Pass. There is a self-guided tour route and rangers are on hand weekends during the height of the season to provide two-hour tours.
Where To Stay?
If you're reading this and you are not from the Santa Clarita area, we do have a suggestion for you. The Valencia area, best known for Six Flags Magic Mountain, has become a tourist destination in its own right and is conveniently located near where the highways 5 and 14 split.
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Wildflowers abound throughout the county following plentiful spring rains. You'll find the hillsides of Figueroa Mountain in Los Padres National Forest resplendent with shooting stars, California buttercups, California poppies, lupine, snakeroot, buck brush, milk maids and goldfields. In the spring you'll find wildflowers along the road leading up the mountain and in June and July the higher elevations will sprout. Drive the hillsides on your own, or indulge in a tour through
Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours.
With Cloud Climbers, you choose from several different tours, all which include a gourmet picnic lunch and a knowledgeable tour guide.
Stop in at the Ranger Station on Paradise Road, just off Hwy 154. No doubt you'll find an abundance of wildflowers en route to the station.
Santa Barbara Botanical Garden
The Santa Barbara Botanical Garden is a living museum of 78 acres, dedicated to preserving California's native plants--including our wildflowers. You'll find at least a dozen species, from blue-eyed grass to white sage. The wildflowers will be at their peak through early May. Spend the afternoon visiting the desert, meadow, redwoods and Japanese Teahouse. (805-682-4726)
Where To Stay?
Fess Parker Wine Country Inn & Spa, Los Olivos
If it's just the two of you, consider booking a stay at this opulent inn nestled in the heart of the Santa Ynez wine country. Your stay should include a delectable meal in the award winning Wine Cask restaurant. Nightly turndown service with lavender, down comforters and pillows, luxury linens, an in-room fireplace, and complimentary mountain bike usage for those wildflower excursions are 'standard.' Sore from biking? Then schedule a massage at Spa Vigne. This is the cr'me de la cr'me of country inns. (800-446-2455)
SAN BERNARDINO/RIVERSIDE COUNTY
Joshua Tree National Park
An 800,000-acre preserve located just outside of Palm Springs. Just like Death Valley National Park, as the weeks progress the wildflowers are visible at the higher elevations. The season here is March, April and even May, but the best time to visit is March, for the greatest variety. (760-367-5500)
Where To Stay?
The Desert Lily
For a truly unique desert experience, stay at the inn or one of the cabins at The Desert Lily, formerly the Rosebud Ruby Star. You'll be just two minutes from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park and sleeping out doors and soaking in a cowboy hot tub are options. Recommended by Sunset Magazine, the LA Times, Fodors and the Lonely Planet.
Indian Canyons, Palm Springs
A desert oasis of palm trees, waterfalls, and a flowing stream, offers visitors a choice between a wandering, paved footpath or more rugged foot and equestrian trails. You may be lucky enough to see big horn sheep in their natural habitat, although the wild ponies have been relocated due to a shortage of their water supply. The full wildflower season peaks in the beginning of March. (760-323-6018)
Where To Stay?
The Historic Willows Palm Springs, Palm Springs
With surroundings so authentic and well-designed you may find yourself looking around for Marion Davies, Clark Gable or Carole Lombard, prior guests of the inn. To accomplish the exquisite level of comfort guests appreciate, the owner personally lived in each room while refurbishing the inn to its current state. Cloud-like bedding, sun-filtered flower gardens, and service beyond expectation combine to restore guests to an unprecedented tranquility. The Marion Davies room is a dream come true--spacious and superbly elegant. Sumptuous breakfast delicacies are served each morning against a backdrop of water cascading down a 50' rock wall, the original cooling system of the house. Your visit to this adult property is one not soon forgotten. (800-966-9597)
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Stop in the visitor center before entering Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where you'll find ranger nature tours, a slide presentation, a store and museum. Get a sneak peak of this year's blossoms
Book a desert tour through
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Cuyamaca is at a higher elevation than Anza-Borrego State Park, so the peak of the wildflower season typically runs mid-March to early April, with flowers visible through June. (760-765-3020)
Where To Stay?
Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Mission Valley
Once you've spent some time wandering in the desert, head west toward the ocean and stay in the newly refurbished Sheraton San Diego Hotel, Mission Valley. You'll sleep like an angel on the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed, yet by day you will be just steps from Balboa Park, the Gaslamp Quarter, and the beach. (619-260-0111)
Death Valley National Park
Theodore Payne Foundation
New recorded reports each Friday at 818 768-1802, ext. 7
Or visit the website to listen to the recording.
Updated March 12, 2017