Spring Wildflower Hikes: Don't Miss this Season's Bloom!
Spring is the time for enjoying wildflowers! LA hasn't had much rain this year (yet—fingers crossed that it's coming), so we're not expecting a hashtag-worthy superbloom. However, even in a dry year, our hills in March and April are carpeted with flowers. There are several locations known for gorgeous annual displays of spring wildflowers (not to mention the famous fields of Carlsbad, which are promising to be extra spectacular this year), and areas recovering from recent fires can surprise us by bouncing back beautifully. Large displays typically last two to six weeks, so you need to make plans quickly when word comes of a good one.
While we are trying to promote safer activities that occur outdoors or with social distancing guidelines in place, please keep your family and others safe by always wearing a mask and maintaining an appropriate distance. If you arrive at an event that appears too crowded try using the “nearby” search feature on our event calendar to find something else to do.
Wildflowers in SoCal: Know Before You Go
Since large-scale wildflower displays typically occur in the high desert, be sure to take 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 also be comfortably cool and very 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 are likely to see some wildflowers on any of your favorite hikes from spring through summer, so even if you miss the year's largest displays, don't let that stop you. And finally—please tread lightly, don't pick the flowers, and leave plenty for the next visitors to enjoy!
What's Blooming This Minute: Wildflower Updates
What's blooming can change pretty fast, so weekend plans made on a Tuesday may not be where the flowers are by Friday. You can get updates on bloom status from the Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline (March thru May) or you can call the Southern California Poppy and Wildflower Hotline at 818.768.3533. There is also the Desert Wildflower Report site. These hotlines maintain general information on what is blooming and where. When interested in a particular location, a direct call is best.
Our state flower in all its glory at the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve. Photo by Mommy Poppins
The 10 Best Places To Find Wildflowers in and around Los Angeles
15101 Lancaster Road
Lancaster, CA 93536
661.946.6092 or 661.724.1180
Have you seen photos of fields covered in orange poppy blooms? Antelope Valley is where many of those photos are actually 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 interpretive center is typically open during wildflower season (typically mid-March through mid-May), but in 2021 the center remains closed. Eight miles of unpaved trails and one paved section are available for strolling. The preserve is located 15 miles west of Lancaster; parking costs $10, or you can park outside the preserve and walk along the road. The sides of the road approaching the preserve are covered in poppies as well during the season—but please don't step on the flowers!
A look at the live camera on the fields early on in the 2021 season is showing dry, brown fields. However, check back often, because all it takes is one good rain for the poppies to start popping up...
Gold Hill Road near N Peace Valley Road
Gorman, CA 93243
The Gorman area's wildflower displays are the closest option for much of greater Los Angeles. Hungry Valley SVRA is open for self-guided tours of the prime viewing areas; both road and hiking options are available. Access to the park is $5. The website and phone number typically have current information on the bloom; because the park was closed for 2020, the information was not updated, and due to the dry weather, it has not been updated yet in 2021. 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.
RELATED: 10 Waterfall Hikes Every LA Family Should Know
Poppies and other wildflowers bloom everywhere, even in a dry season. Photo by Mommy Poppins
East Avenue J and 170th Street East
Lancaster, CA 93535
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. 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 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, too.
After a rainstorm, a typically dry and dusty hike becomes green and carpeted with flowers overnight. Photo by Mommy Poppins
4721 Sapphire Rd.
Chino Hills, CA 91709
This day-use state park 10 miles northwest of Corona offers Angelenos a variety of landscapes without driving too far from home. The park does have a discovery center (closed for spring of 2021), and this season 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.
Includes Malibu State Park, Circle X, and Los Virgenes Canyon Open Space
26876 Mulholland Highway
Calabasas, CA 91302
The Santa Monica Mountains are not known for large fields of colorful blooms. However, if you are looking for a variety of flowers or riparian flowers (creekside), this is the place to come. The bloom is still heavily dependent on winter rains, so be sure to check the link to see what's blooming and where. Recent fires are likely to have an impact, but wildflowers are the first sign of healing. Even without a magnificent bloom, the pockets of green buds and playing "I Spy" with beautiful flowers along the hike makes for a memorable and beautiful outing with kids.
Point Mugu State Park offers wildflowers, mountains, and sea views all in one hike. Photo by Mommy Poppins
9000 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Malibu, CA 90265
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 fire left these slopes charred and blackened, and in many spots impassible for a few seasons, but rain shows us how nature heals after a fire. The wildflower display along the Backbone Trail is absolutely breathtaking.
7001 Smith Rd
Simi Valley CA 93063
Simi's Corriganville Park (which we know and love from its Faery Hunt shows in summer) was hit hard by fires for the past few years, but the springtime silver lining is to hike out and enjoy the fields of California poppies. Once a Western movie set turned amusement park, now it's a lovely spot for a hike with kids.
Off Route 15
Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
If you head down the 15 toward Temecula, you'll notice a spot where people are slowing down to admire multitudes of California poppies. Although some drivers just pull off the highway and park, this regularly causes traffic issues during wildflower season; better to 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.
1500 N. College Ave
Claremont, CA 91711
909.625.8767 ext. 200
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 plant community; there is also a replica Tongva village and marked accessibility routes. Plants bloom as they do in the wild. The gardens are closed on Mondays, and for 2021, non-members must purchase tickets online in advance to visit. Call to find out the bloom status.
Over 50 acres of blooms await in Carlsbad. Photo courtesy of The Flower Fields in Carlsbad
5704 Paseo Del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92008
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 brand new 2-acre u-pick blueberry patch. Advanced reservation tickets are required and available online and are $10 for kids and $20 for adults. The fields are open only from March 1 through May 9. Masks and social distancing are required. Is this stretching the definition of wildflower? Perhaps. But we say surviving the past year gives us all a little leeway. Enjoy these beautiful buds!
Photo by Mommy Poppins
Post originally published March 26, 2014 and updated annually
Places featured in this article:
Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve
Hungry Valley SVRA
Saddleback Butte State Park
Santa Monica Mountains Visitor Center
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
Walker Canyon Ecological Reserve