By Skye Sherman
March 12, 2019
Nathaniel Wood

Southern California’s unusually plentiful winter showers have brought spring flowers in abundance, with millions of tiny bright blooms popping up almost overnight and blanketing the area in a rare phenomenon known as a “super bloom.”

Now and for just a short period of time, fields of electric orange poppies cover swaths of southern California, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and around Lake Elsinore (in Riverside County, southeast of Los Angeles and north of San Diego). It’s a good look for the state: The golden poppy is the state flower of California.

Nathaniel Wood

At Walker Canyon in Riverside County, the proliferation of poppies has reached its peak. Hike the 3.5-mile Walker Canyon Trail and instead of the usual dry landscape, you’ll find clouds of springtime color in the form of purple, yellow, and orange wildflowers stretching as far as the eye can see.

Nathaniel Wood

The super bloom isn’t just a beautiful sight to behold, it’s a rare one, too: blooms of this scope typically occur just once every decade or so. However, the last bloom of these proportions took place two years ago, in 2017, so having two super blooms in two years is all the more unusual.

Nathaniel Wood

Accordingly, flower enthusiasts are arriving in droves; in fact, the Walker Canyon super bloom is causing traffic on Interstate 15 to back up almost 20 miles at times, according to the Los Angeles Times. The rush is understandable — the duration of a super bloom is usually short, lasting just a few weeks at maximum, so you either need to drop everything and plan a trip right away or wait for a potential future bloom.

“The length of bloom depends on weather, and of course the hungry caterpillars that are now hatching,” Kathy Dice, former superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, previously explained. “[Caterpillars] can change a field in a day.”

In Anza Borrego, visitors can see purples and yellows covering typically barren (though still beautiful) desert landscapes.

Vince Barnes/Getty Images
Vince Barnes/Getty Images

If you go, make sure to obey any parking signs, stay only on designated trails, and whatever you do, don’t step on, pick, or otherwise destroy the flowers. (That includes sitting or laying among the blooms for a selfie.) Leave no trace and you’ll help preserve the delicate desert ecosystem for all the future super blooms to come.

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