Arizona / California / Travel

Chasing the Desert Wildflowers


Contrary to the popular saying “April showers bring May flowers“, blooming season starts much earlier in the desert!

Usually beginning in February or March, Arizona and California see an abundance of wildflowers blooming until summer. Golden poppies, desert sunflowers, daisies, and more are sprouting in various parts of these two states!

To hunt down these springtime blooms, Luke and I traveled to three areas: The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, Anza-Borrego State Park, and Joshua Tree National Park! Each boasted their own set of beautiful and colorful flowers. Check out our guide below for traveling to, tips about, and timing of these desert wildflowers!

San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation

Peridot, Arizona

The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation lies about 2 hours east of Phoenix, and is the 10th largest Indian Reservation in land area. Their recreation and wildlife department manages all outdoor activities on their land, whether it be boating, fishing, camping, or wildflower hunting!

To access their property, you’ll need to purchase a permit from any location listed on their website. Unfortunately, it seems their site hasn’t been updated in awhile; Luke and I tried several places and none carried the passes! The best place to purchase the permit is probably their office, but pay attention to the limited office hours.

Luke and I followed this map a couple weeks ago to Peridot Mesa, a volcanic field on the reservation. The dirt road off the US-70 was a little bumpy, but we were able to drive my 2-wheel-drive sedan on it with ease!

Peridot Mesa was carpeted in bright, golden poppies.

We made it to Peridot at the end of the day; the setting sun cast a breath-taking, yellow hue over the flower fields!

The peak blooms in 2016 started in late February, and were around the same time this year. The flowers are still out, so drive out to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation to see the wildflowers while you can!

Anza-Borrego State Park

near Borrego Springs, California

It seemed that every local news station was covering the “super bloom” in Anza-Borrego State Park! Due to the heavy rains in California during the winter, this park is sprouting an abundance of wildflowers unseen in the area since 2005!

This desert state park lies just 5 hours west of Phoenix. Due to the park’s spectacular bloom, Anza-Borrego is extremely crowded this time of year, especially during the weekends. Luke and I got there before sunrise Saturday so we could ensure we found parking. Accommodations and cell service in the park are limited from all the people, so be prepared!

Anza-Borrego State Park had the most variety of wildflowers from all the places we visited.

The concentration of wildflowers this year is along the highlighted portions of the map.

We spotted purple, yellow, white, red, and orange wildflowers during our time there. The park has been in peak bloom all of March, so be sure to drop by soon!

Joshua Tree National Park

near Yucca Valley, California

To top off our wildflower chase, we ended up in Joshua Tree National Park. Luke and I have visited this national park several times (here and here), but have never visited in the spring!

Joshua Tree was covered in wildflowers, leaving traces of pollen on our shoes!

While the Joshua Trees are usually the biggest appeal of this park, the blooming cacti steal the show this time of year! Cacti with gorgeous, pink flowers are in peak bloom all around the park.

We saw a majority of these pink blooms along Pinto Basin Road!

While March is a great time to visit, I’d travel to Joshua Tree quick to catch the wildflowers. Luke and I saw caterpillars everywhere, treating themselves to a wildflower feast!

There are still a few weeks left to check out springtime at these parks! Visit this website for daily updates on desert wildflowers.

It’s been a nice change of pace to see the desert floor covered in wildflowers. Although short lived, it is one of the best times of the year here in the Southwest!

Have you spotted any spring blooms in the desert? Where is your favorite place to catch wildflowers?

As always, Happy Travels, and Happy Spring!


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