California has experienced a record-breaking amount of snow and rainfall this season, which has set the stage for an extraordinary display of wildflowers in 2023. This phenomenon, known as a super bloom, is a rare and breathtaking event that attracts visitors from all around the world.
A super bloom occurs when a vast number of wildflowers bloom simultaneously, creating an awe-inspiring sight. In recent years, California’s super blooms have become especially famous, thanks to the explosion of orange poppies and purple lupines in 2017 and 2019. In both years, the phenomenon drew tens of thousands of visitors, sparking conflict between overwhelmed land managers and hikers hungry for Instagram fame.
Some communities have had to close trails during the super bloom season due to the overwhelming crowds. In 2019, visitors to Walker Canyon parked illegally, blocked roads, picked flowers, and trampled hillsides, causing long-lasting damage to the area. As a result, the town of Lake Elsinore and other communities have banned hikers from the entire super bloom season.
However, while some communities are closing trails and bracing for crowds, others are rolling out the welcome mat for visitors – there are still plenty of other trails and locations that welcome respectful visitors.
Finding the right spots locally to witness this stunning natural phenomenon can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best locations to witness the super bloom. Check out these beautiful spots without worrying about overcrowding or missing out on this breathtaking sight.
Ventura County: A super bloom hotspot
- Head along PCH to Lewis Road
- Camarillo Grove Park
- Santa Rosa Valley Park
Pacific Coast Highway
- Sycamore Canyon Trail
- La Jolla Canyon
- Chumash Trail
- Arroyo Verde Park
- Grant Park
- Ventura Botanical Gardens
- Harmon Canyon Preserve
- State Beaches on PCH
Channel Islands National Park (get there via Island Packers Cruises)
- Scorpion Canyon
- Potato Harbor Trail
- Smugglers Cove Trail
- Del Norte Trail
- Anacapa Island’s Inspiration Point
- Santa Cruz Island’s Central Valley and Scorpion Canyon
- Santa Rosa Island’s Lobo Canyon and Beecher’s Bay
Beyond Ventura County: other super bloom locations to explore
North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, Oroville
Flowers should start showing themselves on this elevated basalt mesa around the first week of March. Formed by ancient lava flows, Table Mountain stores rainwater in its porous rock, which results in blankets of flowers, fascinating vernal pools, and ephemeral waterfalls.
Jepson Prairie Preserve, Dixon
From March to May, thousands of tiny wildflowers paint the landscape in ribbons of yellow, purple, and white in one of California’s few remaining native bunchgrass prairies. More than 400 species of plants thrive here, along with vernal pools filled with fairy shrimp and other rare invertebrates.
Russian Ridge Preserve, Redwood City
Flower lovers flock to this ridgetop paradise to see orange poppies and blue lupine painting the grasslands like a Monet masterpiece. When these beauties fade, they’re replaced by mule’s ears, brodiaea, and farewell-to-spring, so you can usually find blossoms well into May.
As you head out to view these colorful floral treasures, help preserve their fragile beauty by following these simple guidelines:
- Take only photographs, not flowers. Don’t pick the flowers. Duh!
- Take photographs OF the flowers, not IN the flowers. Keep your feet on designated trails and paths. Stepping on flowers (or posing, sitting, or picnicing among them) damages existing blooms and prevents the next generation from growing. Trampled flowers can’t reseed themselves for next year.
- Plan ahead. Many wildflower locations are in desert and rural areas with no cell service and limited other services. So, download maps and information before you arrive, and pack your car with water and snacks.
- Pack out what you pack in. Bring a trash bag with you and leave no trace.
- Be considerate of other visitors. Don’t block trails or roads, and be mindful of your noise level.
So, whether you’re a California resident or a visitor, don’t miss out on this amazing natural phenomenon. Just be sure to be respectful of the flowers and the environment. Now, grab your camera and head out to one of these spectacular locations for an unforgettable experience.