Spring Wildflower Hikes near Los Angeles to Catch the 2023 Bloom
Springtime means time for wildflower hikes near Los Angeles! The quantity of blooms in Los Angeles always depends on our always-unpredictable rainy season—the wetter the winter, the more likely we'll get a stunning superbloom. However, our hills are carpeted with flowers in March and April, even in a dry year. Several locations are known for gorgeous annual displays of spring wildflowers (not to mention the famous fields of Carlsbad, which promise to be spectacular year after year), and areas recovering from fires can surprise us by bouncing back beautifully. Large displays typically last two to six weeks, so you'll need to make plans quickly when word comes of a good one.
Don't have time to drive outside the city limits? We know plenty of local hikes worth checking out, plus hikes to a waterfall, stroller-friendly hikes, and plenty more for outdoor enthusiasts in our hiking and camping guide for Los Angeles families.
Wildflower Hikes near Los Angeles: Know Before You Go
Since large-scale wildflower displays typically occur in the high desert, bring sunscreen, hats, water, snacks, good walking or hiking shoes, and of course a camera for your trip. Spring weather in the high desert is not necessarily hot; it can be comfortably cool and breezy. If you are looking for cactus blooms or a weekend away, look into current flower displays at Death Valley, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Irvine Ranch, or Joshua Tree National Park—more than a day trip for most of the LA area but well known for their blooms.
Of course, you'll likely see some wildflowers on any of your favorite hikes from spring through summer, so even if you miss the year's stunning displays, don't let that stop you. And finally—please tread lightly, don't pick the flowers or go off paths, and leave plenty for the next visitors to enjoy!
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What's Blooming This Minute: Wildflower Updates
What's blooming can change pretty fast. You can get updates on bloom status every Friday from the Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline from March through May. There is also the Desert Wildflower Report site, which has daily updates. These hotlines maintain general information on what is blooming and where. When interested in a particular location, a direct call is best.
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Our state flower in all its glory at the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve. Photo courtesy of California State Parks
The 12 Best Places for Wildflower Hikes near Los Angeles
1. Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve
Have you seen photos of fields covered in orange poppy blooms? Antelope Valley is where many of those photos are taken. It's no surprise that the California Poppy is the most widespread wildflower here, turning the landscape into a field of orange in good years, but other flowers are also present. The Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center is open during wildflower season. Eight miles of unpaved trails and one paved section are available for strolling.
The preserve can be found 15 miles west of Lancaster; parking costs $10 (they only take cards or exact cash), or you can park outside the preserve and walk along the road. The sides of the road approaching the preserve are blanketed in poppies, as well, during the season—but please don't step on the flowers! A look at the live camera on the fields is a great way to gauge the bloom before heading out. Don't let a barren landscape get you down—all it takes is one good rain for the poppies to start popping up.
And don't forget about the Annual California Poppy Festival, which moved to its new home at the AV Fair & Events Center and runs for three full days in April.
2. Hungry Valley SVRA
The Gorman area's wildflower displays are the closest option for much of the greater Los Angeles area. Hungry Valley SVRA is open for self-guided tours of the prime viewing areas, with road and hiking options available. Access to the park is $5. Wildflowers on Gorman Hill (the large hill you see from I-5) are best viewed from Gorman Post Road, immediately north of the freeway at the Gorman exit. Gorman Post Road offers no hiking access, and there is no fee here.
3. Saddleback Butte State Park
Located 18 miles east of Lancaster, near the town of Lake Los Angeles, Saddleback Butte has a campground, picnic area, vault toilets, and several miles of hiking trails. A good year brings out fields of sweet-smelling yellow coreopsis, tidy tips, fiddleneck, and desert dandelions among the Joshua trees and creosote bush. Saddleback Butte's wildflower season generally ranges from late February through May.
A 1-mile easy unpaved trail from the picnic area to Little Butte goes through fields of flowers. Older kids can handle the hike to the peak—there are different flowers at that elevation, but no large displays among the rocks. A short paved nature trail leaves from the picnic area but does not make it into the wildflower areas. Check the park's Facebook page for wildflower updates before you go.
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After a rainstorm, a typically dry and dusty hike becomes green and carpeted with flowers overnight. Photo by Mommy Poppins
4. Chino Hills State Park
This day-use state park 10 miles northwest of Corona offers Angelenos a variety of landscapes without driving too far from home. The park has a great Discovery Center, and spring usually brings a colorful variety of plants and flowers, offering a home to plenty of nesting birds (watch for red-winged blackbirds). Also, watch for bobcats and coyotes, both of which have been spotted by hikers along the park's many trails. Be prepared for some steep climbs, but the reward can be a view all the way to Catalina on a clear day. Check the Chino Hills State Park Facebook page to get a sense of current conditions.
5. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
The Santa Monica Mountains are not known for their large fields of colorful blooms. However, if you are looking for a variety of flowers or riparian (creekside) flowers, this is the perfect place to hike. Wildflowers are still heavily dependent on winter rains, so be sure to check the website to see what's blooming and where. Even without a magnificent bloom, the pockets of green buds and playing "I Spy" with beautiful flowers along hikes make for a memorable and beautiful outing with kids.
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Point Mugu State Park offers wildflowers, mountains, and sea views all in one hike. Photo by Mommy Poppins
6. Point Mugu State Park
Don't let the Malibu address confuse you; arriving at this park requires driving up PCH until you cross the county line into Ventura. Point Mugu has lovely beaches and camping, as well as trails up into the mountains above the coast. A few seasons ago these slopes were charred and blackened from fire, and in many spots impassable, but rain shows us how nature heals after a fire. The wildflower display along the Backbone Trail is breathtaking.
7. Corriganville Park
Simi's Corriganville Park (which we know and love from its Faery Hunt shows in summer) was hit hard by fires a few years ago, but the springtime silver lining is to hike out and enjoy the fields of California poppies. Once a Western movie set turned amusement park, it's now a lovely spot for a hike with kids.
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Walker Canyon during a superbloom. Photo courtesy of Western Riverside County RCA, Facebook
8. Walker Canyon Ecological Reserve
2023 Note: Walker Canyon trails and viewpoints are closed to the public this year. There are no parking options and the I-15 off-ramp will be closed, in addition to the entire canyon.
If you head down the 15 toward Temecula, you'll notice a spot where people are slowing down to admire multitudes of California poppies in Lake Elsinore. Exit at Lake Street and then take the trail at the corner of Lake Street and Walker Canyon Road. The gravel trail is wide and goes for a few miles with great views of the blooms.
9. Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Don't want a long drive, or your party can't go hiking on dirt trails? Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont bills itself as California's Native Garden. Native plantings are organized by the plant community; there is also a replica Tongva village and marked accessibility routes. Plants bloom as they do in the wild, just alongside trails that are easy for strollers and little legs. The gardens are closed on Mondays, and non-members are encouraged to purchase tickets online in advance. Call to find out the bloom status.
10. Idyllwild Nature Center
It's a bit of a drive, but Idyllwild Nature Center in the San Jacinto Mountains is another excellent place to view colorful wildflower blooms. This park is one of the more developed places to see the flowers bloom, with restrooms, picnic tables, and even a gift shop! There's a Wildflower Day at the park, usually held in late May. The Nature Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9am-4pm.
11. Carrizo Plain National Monument
It's a bit of a drive for a day trip, but the wildflower fields at Carrizo Plain National Monument make for a great side-trek on a California road trip. Carrizo Plain is located between the 5 and 101 freeways—the fastest way to get there is to head west on 166 after you pass through the Grapevine. That route is about a three-hour drive from LA. However, if you're looking for a more scenic route, take the 101 all the way up past San Luis Obispo and head east on 58. Mid-March to mid-April is the best time to catch the blooms. Call the visitor's center at 805.475.2035 to confirm whether the flowers are blooming before making the drive.
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Over 50 acres of blooms await in Carlsbad. Photo courtesy of The Flower Fields in Carlsbad
12. The Flower Fields in Carlsbad
For guaranteed gorgeous blooms for miles, even in a dry year, visit the famous Flower Fields in Carlsbad. Because the fields are cultivated and watered, they can dazzle even when nature has decided to play coy. With 50 acres of ranunculus flowers overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a sweet pea maze, poinsettia, and orchid displays, there are plenty of flowers to wander through.
Tired tots can also see the flowers from the back of an antique tractor, which provides tours of the fields, and before leaving, families can indulge in a little PYO action at the 2-acre u-pick blueberry patch. Advanced reservation tickets are required and are available online. The fields are open only from March through mid-May.
Is this stretching the definition of a wildflower? Perhaps. But we say that when you've got kids and a state prone to drought, sometimes you just want to know you can tiptoe through the flowers for some guaranteed gorgeousness and be home by bedtime.
Dorothy would love this field of poppies. Photo by Mommy Poppins
Post originally published March 26, 2014, and updated annually