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Deserts in California and Arizona are currently carpeted with nearly unprecedented numbers of wildflowers—here’s where to see them

Kendra Poppy and Nicole Clausing  – March 11, 2019 | Updated April 8, 2019

It’s called a once-in-a-decade event, but Southern California and Arizona are experiencing the second so-called super bloom in three years.

Super blooms usually happen when cold winters are followed by heavy spring rains. It’s impossible to predict with certainty when or even if they will happen, but it’s clear that the conditions aligned perfectly this year, as it’s so far shaping up to be the best super bloom in decades—and that’s saying something after the spectacular show the deserts put on in 2017.

Californians are used to fields of wild poppies popping up every year, but the annual orange burst is especially intense leading into this spring.

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The best places to catch the super bloom are, paradoxically, not in rainy and green parts of the West, but the typically arid Southern California deserts. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, for example, is exploding with color right now.

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Joshua Tree National Park, where just a few weeks ago it snowed, is now having another rare occurrence: normally barren fields covered in evening primrose and desert verbena.

The super bloom isn’t limited to the Southern California deserts. Color is erupting in central California, as well. The grasslands of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, east of San Luis Obispo, are awash in yellow mustard and purple lupine.

Arizona’s Peridot Mesa is getting in on the action, too.

Deserts aren’t even the only place to see beautiful floral colors. Now is also a great time to see the striking sight of acres of yellow mustard flowers against bright blue spring skies over vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties.

Wherever you choose to go to experience this year’s super bloom, we recommend that you get there soon. Color will disappear from easily accessible valley floors in just a few weeks, driven off by rising temperatures. Wildflowers will continue to bloom at increasingly higher elevations along mountainsides possibly into May—though it’s impossible to say for sure.

Our advice: Take time to make arrangements for accommodations, because parks are full of visitors right now, but do get there as soon as possible—there’s no telling when we may experience another super bloom. And if you’re thinking of heading out to a particular park or region, check the Desert USA site to find out what’s flowering and where.