By Skye Sherman
April 16, 2019
Josh Wray Photography/Courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism

If you waited too long to head out to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park or Walker Canyon for California’s headline-making super bloom this year before the area shut down to visitors, don’t worry: an imminent wildflower bloom in the California mountains is nature’s antidote to super bloom FOMO.

This summer, when the super bloom blossoms have withered and the havoc-wreaking Instagram posts are buried deep in the feeds of your favorite influencers, California’s lesser-known wildflower bloom will erupt in the state’s higher elevations, with plenty of colorful florals served up as a feast for the eyes. Expect rare plants and wildflowers in sunset colors — yellow, orange, red, purple — to dot the Eastern Sierra hillsides and the hiking trails of Mammoth Lakes.

Josh Wray Photography/Courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Wildflower season is typically springtime, but a winter of heavier-than-normal snowfall means the mountains are taking longer to warm up again this year — and so the flowers are delayed in making their appearance. Some plants are already emerging, but Forest Service botanists say the best is yet to come and could last all summer long.

Josh Wray Photography/Courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism

According to Blake Engelhardt, forest botanist at Inyo National Forest, “Relatively cool temperatures through March seem to be delaying emergence of plants so far, but when it starts to warm, it should green up pretty quickly. With so much snow above 8,000 feet, peak wildflowers at the higher elevations may not be until late July or early August, when they get unburied.”

If spring’s prolific super bloom is any indication, the summer wildflowers will be worth the wait. Further south, the San Bernardino Mountains outside of Los Angeles are also expected to be painted in wildflowers, and the Big Bear Lake region is home to species of rare wildflowers that aren’t found anywhere else in the world, such as pebble plain flowers and belly plants.

Courtesy of Visit Big Bear Lake

“Plenty of winter precipitation and a nice warming spring are a good recipe for showy blooms, just a bit later than down the hill,” says Scott Eliason, botanist at San Bernardino National Forest Mountain Top District. “Wetter areas, shaded north-facing slopes, and higher elevations are expected to continue to bloom well into the summer.”

Courtesy of Visit Big Bear Lake

At nearby Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve, nature lovers who care more about petals than the perfect pose can sign up for guided wildflower hikes led by a botanist and Southern California Mountains Foundation volunteers. But, as always, Eliason reminds visitors, “These are sensitive areas, so please tread lightly and don’t pick the flowers.”

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