Southern California Wildflower Guide

Wildflowers are out in Southern California and everyone is out to see the “super bloom” in a variety of different places. The winter rains came down heavily in the southland which brought out more flowers and lots of greenery. Hills that were once dry and barren are now lush and green which has left us with some beautiful scenery. So here I’ll share my Southern California wildflower guide so you can visit the blooms while they’re still out.

Anza-Borrego State Park
Borrego Springs, San Diego County

I recently took a trip to Anza-Borrego State Park in San Diego County to see the flowers before they’re gone again. Anza-Borrego doesn’t usually get this amount of wildflowers in the spring, this is something rare for the state park. In fact, this super bloom is so rare for the area that it’s brought people from all over the states and even across the world. If you visit the park on a weekend, be patient and prepare for traffic jams. I visited during the week and the crowds were still pretty heavy.

Be sure to stop at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association for a free wildflower map. Also please support the ABDNHA if possible by purchasing an item (large or small) from the store. The people working the store are very helpful and recommended a loop for us to drive and see the flowers.

There’s plenty of trails for hiking and if you’re more about the hiking than the wildflowers check out the slots!

Wildflowers or not, I think Anza-Borrego is worth a visit. I visited before and I think I was one of maybe 15 people in the park. It was about an hour before sunset and the sky was beautiful. The sculptures had us in awe!

This is a photo from a visit in August of 2016 at the famous dragon sculpture.

Chino Hills State Park
Chino Hills, San Bernardino County

Chino Hills State Park is a more quiet park in the hills with some nice hiking trails. I visited before the “super bloom” and again just recently. Prior to the bloom, the hills were a rich green color. Now the hills are a bright yellow although you can find some patches of orange poppies and other pretty flowers in the mix.

This was just before the “super bloom.”
The flowers are pretty tall, they’re almost about my height.

The area is pretty quiet during the week and is probably not as busy as some of the other spots on the list on a weekend. So if you’re looking to get away from the crowds, chase the wildflowers at Chino Hills State Park.

Walker Canyon
Lake Elsinore, Riverside County

Walker Canyon has been a popular hiking destination that is blooming with wildflowers, especially poppies. I recently visited Lake Elsinore just before peak bloom season and found a patch of wildflowers. I stopped by Walker Canyon even more recently since there had been a lot of buzz about the poppies. Unfortunately, I visited too early in the morning and the poppies hadn’t opened yet. For those who don’t know, poppies are one of the flowers that close at night. Nonetheless, my visit was still great. The short hike was awesome and I got to see some other wildflowers while I was there.

The poppies were still closed up so there isn’t much color other than green.
Walker Canyon’s hills of purple flowers with some yellow and a bit of white.
Some purple flowers at Walker Canyon.
These poppies were just opening up.



Prior to the super bloom at Walker Canyon, I visited Lake Elsinore and found this patch of poppies.
Beautiful California poppies!

Diamond Valley Lake
Hemet, Riverside County

Diamond Valley Lake’s wildflowers are probably one of the most photo-worthy spots on the list. And this reservoir is probably the most underrated spot on the list as well. Yes, it’s an artificial lake but it’s still gorgeous and it has tons of pretty flowers. So if you’re looking for some wildflower action and aren’t too impressed with everyone’s token California poppy pics then head to Hemet and hang by the lake. 

Photo by Carina Otero, pictured: Ria Otero at Diamond Valley Lake

My beautiful friend Ria visited with her sister recently and shared this photo. I have yet to visit but I’m inspired to after seeing their photos.

Wind Wolves Preserve
Bakersfield, Kern County

Kern County isn’t exactly considered Southern California but it’s a two-hour drive from Los Angeles so I decided to put it on the list. Plus it’s absolutely gorgeous! Want to see hills and hills that have tons of wildflowers? Then Wind Wolves is worth the visit. It’s like Walker Canyon multiplied by a hundred! Okay, maybe not a hundred but it’s a much larger area and it’s absoluetly stunning.

Photo by Stacey Jischke

The Women’s Hiking Society of Kern County had their first group hike there and Stacey Jischke, the founder and my friend who’s practically a sister shared some photos.

Photo by Stacey Jischke

Stacey gave me some tips from her visit. She says it’s super accessible since it’s just off the freeway. And there’s plenty to do at the preserve, “from having a picnic in the visitor’s grounds to easy trails to strenuous hikes. They also have a mountain biking trail,” Stacey says.

She did two trails there, the first was the Wildflower Trail which is just to left after you enter the park, which was the “easy trail.” It was about two miles round trip, flat and covered in flowers. The second trail was the San Emigdio Canyon Trail which is up to the Willows Picnic Group Campground. She explains “There’s a large parking lot, just follow the signs.” She also said, “if you stay on San Emigdio you can take the reflection pond trailhead to the reflection pond.” She then crossed through the campground and came back down the El Camino Viejo Bike Trail to finish the hike.

An awesome tip Stacey gave was that there are shuttles that you can catch that will drop you off at the campground. She says, “get out there now before the heat kicks in, because this is a range just south of Bakersfield and it will be very hot in the summer.” She also reports, “just was on the 5 [freeway] today (March 29, 2017) and there are still a lot of flowers out, poppies are now making an appearance. I think a couple more weeks!!”

Photo by Stacey Jischke
Photo by Stacey Jischke
Photo by Stacey Jischke, Sheep roaming at Wind Wolves Preserve

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
Lancaster, Los Angeles County

The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve has been a popular spot this year. With orange covered hills full of poppies, it’s been one of the more Instagrammed wildflower locations. There are also other wildflowers at the reserve so you’ll get somewhat of a variety.

Since this location has been so popular, the weekends have been extremely busy. If you’re planning a visit, try for a weekday. But even then, don’t be surprised by the number of visitors waiting to drive in. Fellow rambler Terry Goldstein told me about her recent visit. “We got there around 11:30[am], the car line to park was so long so we parked on the side of the road and walked in,” she says. 

She went on to describe her experience: “The poppies were amazing! There were many people there and the [parking] lot was full but we took a trail that did a little loop and suddenly it was only us out there. My friend kept saying she felt as if we were in the Wizard of Oz,” says Terry.

So if you’re looking to get out in the “velvety looking field with bursts of orange” as Terry describes then head out to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.

Photo by Terry Goldstein
Photo by Terry Goldstein
Photo by Terry Goldstein

There’s plenty of other places that are blooming. Some of the other trails I’ve hiked have a good amount of wildflower patches. What are some of your favorite spots? Tell me in the comments below if you know of a spot that was missed.

Oh! And please stay on the trails/dirt pathways and don’t pick the wildflowers. Leave no trace! Xo

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