After a year of severe drought, last fall California experienced a much-needed soaking. Unfortunately, in some cases, it has been quite extreme rainfall. On the brighter side, it brings with it the opportunity to witness one of nature’s most spectacular displays of color and life: a superbloom. While experts weren’t expecting it to match the incredible 2019 superbloom, millions of wildflowers are covering the West Coast from Death Valley to Big Sur and beyond—and they’re officially visible from space.
These beautiful swathes of orange, yellow and purple have been captured by Maxar Technologies over Palmdale and Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo. Read on to find out how to prepare for this exciting phenomenon.
NOTE: A few key wildflower zones have been closed in anticipation of superbloom crowds. Find out more here.
What is a superbloom?
A super bloom or “superbloom” is a rare botanical occurrence where an unusually high proportion of flowers sprout all at once from dormant seeds within the earth. It only happens when the conditions are just right. In other words, it requires a high seed bank, just the perfect amount of rain, a dry stretch after that to warm the soil just enough, cloud coverage at night for insulation and no damaging winds or other harsh encounters with the elements.
When can you see these superblooms?
Predicting a superbloom is nearly impossible and knowing the exact dates is really just thumb-sucking. Peak season usually occurs around the beginning of spring, but buds may start to pop up around mid-February and last through June. In some cases, blooms can begin prematurely as we’ve already seen with the winter blooms spotted at Anza Borrego desert.
The reason this doesn’t happen every year is that it takes around a decade for all the right factors to line up. Sadly, climate change has also impacted the frequency of superblooms, bringing about extreme weather. Long-lasting droughts are followed by a year’s worth of rainfall that pours down in the space of a week, destroying the growing blooms-to-be or washing the seeds away completely. Flower tourism has also diminished the chances of wildflower blooms as it plays a role in erosion and the delicate flowers are often trampled.
Where are the best places to see the superbloom in 2023?
The best places to see a superbloom are more often than not, in state parks. Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Mojave, Lake Elsinore, Anza Borrego and Antelope Valley are amongst the top places to see this stunning floral blanketing, but here are more top bloom spots across the state:
Best places to see wildflowers bloom in the Bay Area
Mount Tamalpais State Park‘s Coast View Trail (from Pantoll) is a great place to see Pacific hound’s tongue, common star lily, footsteps of spring and dwarf checkermallow in February and March. Throughout April and May, you’ll see narrow-leaf mule’s ear, lupine, Ithuriel’s spear, blue dicks, California poppy, and Western blue-eyed grass. You’ll find the latest bloom and trail updates on their Instagram.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is another perfect place for flower spotting, especially along Lower Bald Mountain Trail where you’ll find Pacific hound’s tongue, red maids, baby blue eyes, checker lily and other species in early spring. While April and May bring whispering bells, popcorn flowers, Diogenes’ lanterns, blue dicks, lupine, and California poppy.
Best places to see wildflowers bloom in Southern California
Chino Hills State Park is a great place to see arroyo lupine, Canterbury, wild Black mustard flowers and school bells. Just make sure you keep updated with trail closures by checking their Instagram account.
You can also find our guide the best places to see wildflowers in and around L.A.
How to see a superbloom responsibly
Of course, the splendor of these flower-covered landscapes draws in hordes of self-stick-wielding crowds which means the blossoms are often trampled at the cost of a picture. To avoid another “poppy apocalypse,” it’s always best to check out guidance from state park websites for information on responsible visits. If you happen to find unprotected pockets of wildflowers, it’s always best to stick to paths along the rolling hills and never pick any of the flowers.