California's Largest State Park Has the Best Wildflower Super Blooms in the State

How to see some of the best blooms in California this spring.

Wandering down a trail lined with wildflowers can be reinvigorating. When the pandemic first began, I drove my family to the closest field of California poppies I could find that spring, and the gold blooms brought a sense of brightness and relief during an otherwise dark time. If you live in Southern California (or are headed there for a trip), one of my all-time favorite destinations to see wildflowers is the Anza-Borrego Desert, home of some of the state's most famous super blooms.

At approximately 600,000 acres, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state preserve, stretching north to south from Riverside County to nearly the border of Mexico. It has thousands of protected plants and animals, including the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep.

Desert wildflowers of Anza-Borrego.

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Wildflowers draw travelers here every year, to the point that the Anza-Borrego Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the state park, keeps an ongoing tab of what’s being spotted in the park. In addition to general updates on blooms, there are digital and printable maps with directions and even a wildflower phone hotline to call for weekly updates.

Late February to early April is generally a good time to visit for wildflowers. That said, the timing of blooms and super blooms is hard to predict since it's heavily impacted by rain. For example, a long rainstorm last September kept some flowers blooming for months into winter. Here, your guide to seeing stunning wildflowers in California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Where to See Wildflowers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Wildflowers along Henderson Canyon Road

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Expect a longer drive to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park from major cities nearby – it’s approximately 90 miles from San Diego and 150 miles from Los Angeles.

The first viewing spot is a field alongside Henderson Canyon Road, between Borrego Valley Road and Highway S2. Guests should park their cars and walk toward the field, always being careful to not step on plants and, of course, to never pick the flowers. In this location, blooms of purple, white, and yellow often light up the ground — that’s purple sand verbena (clustered pink-purple blooms on tall, thin stalks), brown-eyed primrose (white-pink petals with a dark brown center), and dune primrose (white petals, yellow center).

Coyote Canyon is another option and it's easily accessed from the town of Borrego Springs — also about 90 miles from San Diego. The flower fields are at the mouth of the canyon, and regular sightings include desert sunflowers (yellow petals and a yellow center on long, dark green stalks), verbena, and primrose. Hike some of the Lower Coyote Canyon trail from here, or drive a bit and try “The Slot,” the park’s most famous hike through a cool narrow canyon.

June Wash, a bit farther afield (about an hour's drive from Borrego Springs) is also a predictable home to wildflowers. Sandy and fun for chill desert exploring, June Wash often shines with the aforementioned flowers, but also the spindly and eye-catching ocotillo plant, which can grow up to 20 feet tall. Translated from Spanish, the name means “little torch,” as the plant’s branches sprout fiery red blooms at their tippy-top every spring.

Guided Excursions to See the Wildflowers

Wildflowers fill the hills of Anza Borrego Desert State Park

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California Overland has been leading tours in Anza-Borrego since 2005. When the season is right, they offer a 2.5-hour, wildflower-specific jaunt in an open-air vehicle. If those aren't available, consider a customizable private tour. These can include daytime excursions, stargazing, some meals, and s’mores by the campfire.

Where to Stay Near the Park

Borrego Springs is a good pick for anyone aiming to stay overnight near the park. Independent hotel options each have their own charm here. La Casa De Zorro sits on 42 acres of desert and offers all kinds of accommodations, including multi-room casitas (some with private pools) ideal for families or groups. Try Palm Canyon Resort for playful Western-themed rooms, Airstreams, and jupe tents. Or for an adult-only escape (think: hot tubs and a clothing-optional pool), consider Borrego Valley Inn

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