The United States has some of the most spectacular wildflower super blooms in the entire world. Spring wildflowers emerge across the coastal valleys of the west, mountainsides and even in the harsh desert environments of some of our National Parks. But, did you know a super bloom does not happen every year?
We’ll share with you all the details of how and why a super bloom takes place. As well, we’ll share amazing super bloom locations and when the time to see them!
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What is a Super Bloom?
A super bloom, also spelled as one word “superbloom”, is a rare desert botanical phenomenon in which an unusually high proportion of wildflowers whose seeds have lain dormant in desert soil germinate and blossom at roughly the same time in the spring and even into the summer.
What dictates whether a Super Bloom will occur
For a wildflower super bloom to occur, weather and environmental conditions have to be just right. A good wildflower bloom depends on at least 3 elements.
First, there must be well-spaced rainfalls throughout the late Fall, Winter to very early Spring seasons. The foliage and flowers in the desert must receive ample water accumulation to penetrate deep into the soil to reach the dormant seeds.
Second, in addition to ample precipitation, there must be warm (not hot) temperatures leading up to the super bloom. The warmth from the sun help germinate the seeds to promote growth
However, that said, too much rain causing flash floods will wash away the seeds before they’re able to take root.
Third, there can’t be any dry winds or hot baking sun to hinder seed sprouts and plant growth.
But, on the opposite spectrum, if the Fall and Winter seasons experience drought, the seeds will perish from dehydration.
One other environmental concern that may hinder a super bloom is if there are too many invasive plants that rob the germinating seeds of their much needed moisture and soil nutrients.
How often does a Super Bloom happen?
As you’ve just read, environmental and weather conditions must be perfectly aligned for a super bloom to occur. That is the reason why they don’t happen for consecutive years.
In California, a wildflower superbloom will only occur once every 10 years. 2019 was the last super bloom in the Golden State.
And, in Death Valley, you’re lucky to see a super bloom anywhere from 10 to even up 15 years.
How long does a superbloom last?
Typically, if the conditions are ideal and depending on elevation, the wildflower super bloom season in the desert southwest region starts around mid February and can last all the way until June to even mid July.
However, peak season of the super bloom usually happens in early spring. Typically in March and April.
Why super blooms are necessary
Super blooms are vital to the balance of nature. With the mounds of flowers come lots of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators that are needed to continue the life cycles of plants and trees.
Where do Super Blooms occur?
Super blooms predominantly take place in the grasslands and deserts of Southern California into Arizona. Larger concentration of blooming flower fields have actually been seen from space! These massive flowering events last up to 2 months.
So, now that we’ve learned how superblooms occur, let’s check out the best places to see the super bloom in the U.S.!
Best Places to See the Super Bloom in the U.S. & When to Visit
Anza Borrego Desert State Park – California
One of the best best places to see the super bloom is Anza Borrego Desert State Park located in southeast California. Having experienced this particular super bloom location in 2019, I have to say, “it’s nothing short of show-stopping!”.
Simply put, the vast beauty of the many different varieties of wildflowers and vivid colors makes us wonder how it happens in the desert and even mountain desert regions.
Flowers are found across most of the Borrego area, all but high mountains, rocky hillsides, badlands and some sandy desert regions. Favored locations include:
- Borrego Palm Canyon – sheltered canyon with palm trees and many other plants.
- Culp Valley – higher elevation area near the eastern park boundary along S22.
- Henderson Canyon Road – highway northeast of Borrego Springs, passing good wildflower terrain close to Coyote Creek, at the foot of Coyote Mountain.
- Plum Canyon – side canyon of San Felipe Creek Valley, south of CA 78.
Amongst the hundreds of blooming wildflowers in Anza Borrego, you’ll see Bluebells, Brittlebush, California Poppy, Desert Lily, Desert Sunflowers, Evening Primrose, Desert Lupine, Popcorn Flowers, Verbena, Wild Mustard.
And the best part is camping at the Anza Borrego Desert State Park’s Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. As well, Anza Borrego has excellent boondocking spots that we found through RV Life’s Trip Wizard trip planner. Both put you front and center of the super bloom!
♦ PRO TIP ♦ To stay up to date with ultimate wildflower locations, check out the Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Bloom Report.
Lake Elsinore – California
California is known for its’ amazing wild poppy superbloom. In fact, in 1903, the California Poppy became the Golden State’s official state flower.
In the Spring season, the mountains and hillsides steal the spotlight with their thick and lush hues of golds and oranges. And for decades, it’s become one of the best places to see the super bloom!
The hillsides east of I-15 in Lake Elsinore exploded with color in late February as a super bloom covered more than 1,600 acres of hillsides in and near the city (and we got to see it!).
The California poppy blooming extravaganza doesn’t happen unless there is ample rainfall preceding the blossom season.
Only then, the golden hues take foothold between starting anywhere from late February all the way into early May; peaking for 3 weeks from about late March to into April.
Since Walkers Canyon and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park border each other, this makes a great super bloom destination to get all the blossoming flowers you wish to see!
FLOWER FUN FACT
The California poppy is believed to promote long, restful sleep. The flower is often used as a treatment for insomnia. Which, explains why Dorothy fell asleep in the poppy field scene in the Wizard of Oz.
Other poppy field locations:
Pacific Grove – California
Oddly though, the Ice Plant is not native to California. In the early 1900’s, because the hearty Ice Plant is such an invasive and aggressive plant, it was brought over from South Africa to be used to prevent erosion along the railroads and highways.
The result, however, was two-fold. It also became a tourist destination.
During the Ice Plant wildflower super bloom, the brilliant magenta pink flowers carpet the region during its’ peak season in May.
Now, over 100 years later, the Ice Plant has become a significant draw to locations where it’s flourished in mass quantity.
While this location is one of the best places to see the super bloom, unfortunately, the Ice Plants is now an invasive species in coastal California from north of Humboldt County to as far south as Baja California.
The coastal invader competes and chokes out many of the native endangered, threatened and rare plants.
Point Mugu State Park
Just off the Pacific Coast Highway in Point Mugu State Park in Malibu, visitors can enjoy the super bloom while taking in a memorable beach sunset. With the park’s 70 miles of hiking trails, you’re bound to enjoy lush blooms along the path and in the distance.
Death Valley National Park – California
If you’ve never been to Death Valley National Park, you’re seriously missing out on an exceptionally extreme experience. As it’s name vividly describes, Death Valley is one of the world’s hottest and most unforgiving place on earth.
But, contrary to what one may think, Death Valley also one of the best places to see the super bloom.
Don’t ever assume everything is dead in this vast desert landscape National Park; especially in the Spring. While it may look like forbidden terrain at Devil’s Golf Course and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, vibrant hues will distract visitors leaving them wonder how can those flowering plants live in such place?
To get the best wildflower super bloom in Death Valley viewing experience, you’ll want to rise early when the temperatures are cooler.
Also keep in mind, the wildflower blooms won’t last but a few days, so stay tuned in to the wildflower superbloom reports for Death Valley.
Other California Super Bloom Locations:
Joshua Tree National Park stands with the other magnificent super blooms.
And although the Joshua Tree itself takes center stage, they seem to step aside and let the wildflowers take the spotlight in the spring; leading it to be one of the best places to see the super bloom.
If the desert gets her share of rain, visitors can look forward to catching views of wildflowers of all types. The magic starts in the lower elevations of Pinto Basin and Joshua Tree’s southern boundaries in late February.
And in March and April, hike up to the higher elevations above 5000 feet to get a picture perfect view even as late as June.
Mojave National Preserve
While the Mojave National Preserve flowering season doesn’t quite measure to other super bloom locations, a few well-timed soaking storms will produce a memorable spring wildflower bloom.
When conditions are right, the sandy foothills near Kelso Dunes will produce carpets of verbenas and evening primrose. But don’t discount looking in the washes where seeds burrowed in the sand and rocks months before.
And if rain has fallen on the cinder cones and lava beds, you’ll be treated to seeing hundreds of tiny Biglow monkey flowers that cast purple hues on the dark volcanic soil. Also called belly flowers, they are best photographed lying down.
To see the snowball-like bouquets of the Joshua tree, try hiking Teutonia Peak Trail where the signature plant of the Mojave Desert grows in profusion.
And, if you are looking for flowers in late April and May, trek your way along the Hole-in-the-Wall trail. A profusion of desert globe mallow and verbena often covers an area that burned in a massive wildfire in 2005.
Find out what’s blooming and where throughout the desert, by checking out the Desert Wildflower Reports.
You can also call thee Theodore Payne Wildflower hotline at 818 768-1802, extension 7. Founded in 1983, the hotline offers free weekly online and recorded super bloom updates and locations posted each Friday from March through May.
Carrizo Plain National Monument
Another of the best places to see the super bloom is Carrizo Plain National Monument.
And of course, when there’s grasslands, there’s bound to be a bounty of wildflowers too.
Only a few hours from Los Angeles, the Carrizo Plain offers visitors a rare chance to be alone with nature and see the 10-year phenomenon when the conditions are just right.
During a super bloom, thousands of visitors flock to the area to take in the vast meadows and hillsides to view the peak wildflower season.
The Carrizo Plain super bloom usually begins in mid-March and peaks sometime in late March or early April.
♦ PRO TIP ♦ Unable to see a super bloom? Check out these 15 Best Botanical Gardens in the United States
Phoenix – Arizona
Phoenix’s outlying areas are great locations to catch the superbloom; predominantly the golden poppies and other wildflowers.
According to Visit Phoenix, the flowering season usually starts in late February and lasts until May.
There are more than 20 wildflowers and flowering plans that are common to see throughout Arizona, including poppies, brittlebush, chuparosa and marigolds.
Best places to see the super bloom near Phoenix Arizona:
Super Bloom Viewing Tips
- Download iNaturalist free smartphone app – You can identify different plants and wildflowers within seconds!
- Make room on your smartphone – You’re going to take lots of photos! You don’t your photo library to be full before taking photos of these once-in-a-lifetime super bloom experiences!
- Bring an extra memory card and batteries – If you’re bringing your DSLR camera or GoPro, you’re going to want plenty of space to take lots of photos.
- Research locations – Tune in to local broadcasts or use links for bloom reports so you can visit during optimal super bloom viewings.
- Leave your pets at home – In most locations, pets and dogs are NOT allowed, with the exception of only trained service animals. (ESA or comfort animals are not permitted). Never leave pets alone in vehicles as there’s typically no shaded parking and vehicles quickly heat to fatal temperatures.
- Leave no trace – Never pick, trample, stand or sit on, or remove plants and seeds. This includes not placing tripods or other gear in the flower beds. Leave the wildflowers and plants undisturbed for nature to take place and for others to enjoy. Also, do not litter or leave belongings behind.
- Stay on the trails and paths – As with any nature outing, stay on the beaten path to prevent damage to the wildflowers and plants.
- Watch for Rattlesnakes – Rattlesnakes are in the fields and are active in the daytime when it’s warm, and in the evenings on hot days. While they may not be aggressive, they are prone to attack when startled or threatened. Their rattle is their way of warning you of their presence and to avoid confrontation.
- No drones – Especially on private property and National Parks, drones are not permitted for use. Also consider how distracting they are to others who want to enjoy the nature aspect of the super bloom.
- Be respectful – Don’t set up your photography studio to dissuade others from taking photos or getting their perfect shot. Also, take turns for photo ops. Don’t walk in front of another taking a photo.
- Bring your Epi-Pen – If you are allergic to bees, it’s a good idea to be prepared.
♦ PRO TIP ♦ Did you know the state of Texas has their own super bloom? Read about where you can seem miles of the Texas Bluebonnets without even leaving your car!
Final thoughts on best places to see the superbloom in United States
As you’ve just read, the wildflower super bloom all hinges on a wet winter and early spring. If the desert southwest and coastal southwest regions have good soaking rains in the winter followed by warm sunny days, you are in for a treat!
So, mark your calendars, stock up on memory cards and extra camera batteries! Because once the superbloom magically appears, you’ll want a front row seat to these most spectacular and colorful views!
♦ PRO TIP ♦ Before heading out, brush up on your photography skills by reading our Smartphone Photography Tips for Beginners!
Wildflower Super Bloom Update Resource Links
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