Californians have witnessed a winter full of heavy rain and flooding, which could very well present challenges for the upcoming fire season. However, there’s a silver lining—in recent years (2017 and 2019), super soggy winters ushered in superblooms, the informal name given to springtimes in which the right set of climate conditions result in blazing panoramas of wildflowers painting the hillsides and valleys of roadsides and national parks. Though it’s too early to tell for sure, this spring may well bring one of these bouquet bonanzas—so let this be the year you pre-plan a superbloom getaway that will get you out into nature (and possibly into viral Instagram territory). Just remember to see the blooms responsibly (no walking on the flowers—more on that below).
Rare Superbloom Could be Coming to California This Spring—Here’s Where to See the Spectacular Display
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When Is the Superbloom in Southern California?
Part of the appeal of the superbloom is its mercurial nature—will it happen at all? That all depends on gentle rains recurring throughout winter and above-freezing temperatures plus abundant sunshine. While repeated calls to the Superbloom’s publicist went unreturned, we can tell you that this phenomenon is traditionally believed to occur once every decade, but that rule of thumb is out the window since March 2017 and March 2019. That last superbloom, by the way, was so vivid and widespread that it could be seen from space and was such a popular attraction that the Mayor of Lake Elsinore told Fox11 that the weekend onslaught of 150,000 visitors to his town of 66,000 was a “poppy apocalypse.” Our advice: Set aside a weekday for your trip to see the flowers, head out early in the day and by all means, don’t just pull over along the highway to park and gape at the flowers—instead head to state park parking lots. It's all part of interacting with the phenomena responsibly...which means not walking atop the blossoms (reportedly, footprints can last a decade) to ensure landscape health.
Where Is the Superbloom?
Where the rains fall, so follow the blooms. That means the entirety of California might be blanketed with blossoms. For your lowest-lift, highest reward superbloom getaway, we’re concentrating on three easily drivable locations from Los Angeles. While day trips to the following spots are doable, the possibility of beating the crowds (and maybe even having a view to yourself for a few moments) means staying nearby, rolling out of bed with a coffee, enjoying the vistas then spending the rest of the day having a chill day away. For this purpose, we’ve chosen three locations within a few hours’ drive of L.A., and included options for staying overnight, plus what to do beyond flower gaping. Book now and remember to stay on the path and off the blooms.
1. Anza-Borrego State Park
This park, named for the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word for bighorn sheep, Borrego, is the largest state park in California, with 500 miles of dirt roads and many miles of hiking trails. Located about 120 miles southeast of Los Angeles, in east San Diego County, you’ll find the park’s visitor center at the far west end of Palm Canyon Drive. The lot opens at 7 a.m., so get there early to snag a parking spot and stretch your legs before checking out the visitor center at 9 a.m. Check out the park’s Instagram account that warns you about keeping your eyes peeled for ectotherms (that’s lizards and snakes to you) warming themselves on rocks and highways, and call the wildflower hotline on 760-767-4684 to see what is in bloom at what part of the park. We love this park for allowing dogs on leashes, and for its wide-open vistas, palm groves and a wide range of wildlife, from the endangered bighorn sheep that still hide in the hills to more visible coyotes, kit foxes and the occasional red diamond rattlesnake (so wear those closed shoes). After a day in the park, you can spend the night in the area and drive the next day 30 miles east to the Salton Sea, one of the world’s largest inland seas with a future full of ecological peril but a present rich with migrating birds and artist colonies. Or stay in Borrego Springs and take in an exhibit or a class at the Borrego Art Institute and learn about farm worker/labor organizer Cesar Chavez’s work in the area.
2. Lake Elsinore
Lake Elsinore is a small community located 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles that’s popular year-round for its recreational water sports on the 3,000-acre freshwater lake and wineries in nearby Temecula. But beginning in late February, it becomes glutted with visitors hungry to get up close to the rolling hills of California poppies making an orange smear as far and the eye can see. Seasoned hikers can take a shorter loop trail that is described as moderately hard; it’s 4.6 miles long and takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to complete. Or, and this is the case with most of these popular areas, we recommend taking a more challenging route when possible, because harder trails discourage some of the pilgrims who won’t want to go the extra mile for a bit of privacy. In this case, the Walker Canyon Trail a 9.2-mile out-and-back trail that rises 1,761 feet (so imagine the long-distance views you’ll get from that height). After you’ve recovered from your hikes, catch an even better view with Skydive Elsinore. Or enjoy nature in a glass just 20 minutes south with a tasting tour of the Temecula Wine country.
3. Antelope Valley
It’s not called the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve for nothing. This place, two hours north of Los Angeles, is all about the state flower: Park staff maintains an annual hotline (661-724-1180) from February through mid-May reporting where the flowers are blooming and there’s even a live poppy-cam. The park’s eight miles of trails, including a paved section for wheelchair access, are easy-peasy to navigate thanks to a downloadable map. There are even benches dotting the trails in case you want to meditate on the expanse of checkered color or wait for a bobcat, gopher or kangaroo rat to come hopping by. Dogs are not allowed, and neither are drones, and you’re directed to bring a jacket due to the strong winds that whip up regularly. After enjoying wildflowers, drive seven miles west to see Joshua Trees at the Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park.
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